A Brit who moved to the US to get over her childhood sweetheart has revealed her plan didn’t work – after they reunited 24 years later and got married.
Amanda Piper, 49, split from first love, Jonathan, 52, when she was 18, after two years of dating.
The pair had grown up together as Jonathan and his family lived next door to Amanda’s grandparents in Middlesborough and she was best friends with his four sisters.
But after the young couple broke up, Amanda relocated to Arizona, US, in 1991, to move on from the relationship and ‘try something different’.
Amanda got married in America and had three sons, and although she stayed in touch with Jonathan’s mum and sisters, she lost contact with her ex.
When her marriage broke down, her thoughts returned to her first love, Jonathan, and a realisation dawned on her – that in fact, she ‘needed a man like him who could make her laugh’.
Jonathan – who was by then divorced and had a daughter – added Amanda as a friend on Facebook out of the blue in October 2015. The pair began talking and all their old feelings came flooding back. They rekindled their love, before tying the knot in Las Vegas when he flew over to visit the following August.
After eight years of marriage, the pair couldn’t be happier and believe they were ‘always meant to be’.
“I don’t think you ever forget your first love – at least I didn’t," says Amanda, now a supervisor, from Arizona, US.
“Sometimes I look at him and think, ‘I can’t believe it’s you.' We were always meant to be.”
Jonathan, now a butcher, adds, “We’d wasted enough time apart – when I flew over to the States, I knew I wanted to marry her.
“It was now or never.”
As a child Amanda used to spend every weekend with her grandparents, Dorothy and Edward Coulthard, at their home in Middlesbrough.
She was best friends with Jayne Piper, now 48, who lived next door, and knew her family well – including her brother Jonathan.
Thinking of him only as ‘Jayne’s older brother’, the pair never spoke, until Amanda was around 15 and she ‘properly noticed him for the first time’.
“We started dating when I was about 16 – he was my first love,” Amanda said.
“I would see him every weekend when I was with my nana and grandad, and I’d pop into his stepdad's butchers' shop after school to see him.
“He made me laugh so much.”
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After two years together, the young couple split when Amanda was 18, and Jonathan met someone else and ‘moved on’.
Deciding she wanted a change, Amanda decided to make the huge move to America, and flew to Arizona in 1991 at the age of 19.
“I went to get over him and do something new,” says Amanda.
“I just needed a change.”
Amanda stayed with her auntie and uncle, Marilyn and Steven Tullock, now 70, and two cousins, Clare, now 42, and Stacey, now 44, who already lived in the US, before meeting a man and getting married just a year later.
The pair went on to have three sons – Marcos, 29, Alex, 28, and Adam, 26 – and Amanda felt a huge sense of pride at taking control of her life and following her American dream.
Sadly, her relationship began to break down, and she split from her then-husband in early 2000s whilst their sons were still young but remained living together in order to co-parent their children.
“It was hard, but we did it for the boys,” Amanda said. “I was waiting for a sign that told me it was time to move out – and that’s when Jonathan messaged me.”
Amanda received a friend request from Jonathan Piper in October 2015 – 24 years after the pair had last spoken.
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Amanda flew back to the UK to see Jonathan in January 2016, before he then came to visit her in Arizona in May.
He stayed for as long as his tourist visa would allow – three months – before the pair decided they had ‘wasted enough time apart’ and got married on 13th August 2016.
“I just knew I couldn’t let him go this time,” Amanda said. “Our families flew over to celebrate and we went to Vegas to get married. It felt surreal, but like the stars had finally aligned.”
With the help of lawyers, Jonathan was approved for a green card to stay in the United States, where the two still live happily eight years later.
“Sometimes he’ll be sat there watching TV and I just say, ‘I can’t believe it’s you'," Amanda says.
“He laughs, but it still feels special after all this time.
“You’ve got to trust your heart.”
“I never pictured myself living in America, but it’s what you do for love,” Jonathan adds. “I took a gamble when I messaged her after all that time – but luckily it paid off and we happened to still feel the same way.
“I never forgot about her.”
Additional reporting SWNS