LOVE ACROSS THE MILES, By Emma Pomfret - REAL LIFE

From emotional phone calls at 3am to countless nights at home alone, keeping a romantic relationship alive when you’re thousands of miles apart is no easy task. But the inevitable ups and downs are often worth every moment of heartbreak because, as these three inspirational women prove, even long-distance love affairs can lead to fairy tale endings.

ROBERT AND MARTINA After more than a year of flying halfway across Europe to visit her English sweetheart, Martina Bund packed her bags and moved from Germany to the Yorkshire Dales to marry him. “We met on the dating website PARSHIP in February 2007 and it still seems like a miracle to me! I mean, I was in Berlin and Robert lived in Leeds but we found each other with the help of a computer!” smiles Martina, 42. Over the next few months Martina and Robert Hammond, 51, stayed in touch every day on the phone and over email, until Martina excitedly agreed to fly to England and meet Robert in person. “Once we’d met we both realised that the powerful connection we’d felt over the phone was real and so it was very difficult to be apart after that. Sometimes five or six weeks could go by without seeing each other. We called and texted every single day, and each month he sent my favourite flowers, but it felt like such a long time and I missed him very much. “That October Robert proposed to me and I was absolutely delighted. Of course it was vitally important that my seven-year-old son Ben Lewis liked Robert, but I already knew that everything was meant to be when he let Robert play with his electric train set soon after they met. That was his absolute treasure and he would never, ever let anyone else near it! “We’re getting married in May and I suppose that there are small cultural differences between us because the German mentality is sometimes a bit more direct than the English way, but the great thing is that we can laugh always about it! “Once or twice a week we have wonderful family telephone calls to Germany but I don’t miss home and I know that we’re both strong enough to overcome whatever life throws at us.” ANNE-MARIE AND MILES Anne-Marie Davies never dreamt that researching her family tree would lead to true love, but her life changed forever when a handsome Australian sent her a letter out of the blue. “Miles wrote to me in 2007 when he realised that we were both busily studying distant strands of the Greenway family tree and, after exchanging letters for a while, he started sending huge bunches of flowers to me at work,” recalls Anne-Marie, 45. “We began confiding in each other more regularly, and that year he visited me twice in Surrey. It was then that we realised we were perfect together.” In a strange twist of fate, before Anne-Marie had even met Miles Greenway, 57, she had already a booked an exciting year-long trip around the world, which included a three-month stint in Australia. “I was travelling with a company called Gap Year for Grown Ups, and I was so in love with Miles by then that I decided to take the plunge and spend the Australian part of my adventure with him at his 65-acre farm in the outback. “We had the time of our lives and when I moved on to New Zealand and the Cook Islands we kept in touch daily, although I missed him like mad and couldn’t wait to see him again. “Finally we met up again in Los Angeles where he proposed, but soon after that we were living worlds apart again which was heart-breaking. Luckily I got my Fiancée Visa after two months and arrived back in Australia, broke but ecstatic to be home. “We’re tying the knot in a few weeks and I know we'll be together forever after everything we’ve been through!” VAL AND FRANCIS Val Knight was living in County Durham when she fell in love with her future husband Francis on the over-50’s social networking site sagazone.co.uk. The only problem was that ex-pat Francis lived over a thousand miles away in sunny Spain... “I emailed Francis last January to welcome him to the website, but after only a few weeks of being in touch I was so besotted that I’d make terrible excuses when I was out with my friends just to get home early and chat with Francis on the phone. We hit it off immediately and were often nattering away until three or four in the morning!” laughs Val, 56. “Francis was living abroad at the time, which was tough for us both, but the big distance between us actually turned out to be a bonus because we got to know each other really well as friends first. After four months of increasingly emotional late-night phone calls, Francis, 59, finally plucked up the courage to fly to England to meet Val for the first time. “It was love at first sight and we’ve been inseparable ever since, so one day last July we were wandering around Durham Cathedral and I just blurted out ‘Will you marry me?’ “Francis agreed on the spot so we went straight out to choose our engagement rings and literally ran back to the Cathedral to exchange them there and then. “We secretly got married in the Caribbean a few months later and when we got back everyone was absolutely delighted. My 13-year-old grandson Josh gets on particularly well with Francis, who is over the moon to have him around. “Since meeting Francis everyone says I’ve got a new spring in my step! I never thought I’d marry again but I’ve been lucky enough to meet the love of my life from afar.” SIDEBARS: LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIPS PROS • You really get to know someone at a deep, meaningful level. • You learn to really appreciate the precious moments you spend together. • You build a strong foundation of trust. CONS • You frequently feel lonely during long periods apart. • Misunderstandings are often more challenging when you can’t resolve issues face to face. • High phone bills and transport costs. FIVE TOP TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL LONG-DISTANCE LOVE, by life coach Lynda Field, author of Fast Track to Happiness (Vermilion). • Don’t spend too long apart – even true love will wither on the vine if you don’t meet up regularly. • Build on shared goals - make lots of joint plans for the future because these are what hold any relationship together. • Keep your families in the loop – if there are cultural differences between you, your children and grandchildren may need to get used to your other half gradually, so fill them in on your partner’s background to ensure there’s some common ground when you all meet up. • Don’t neglect the relationship – both you and your partner will need lots of reassurance so keep working at it. • Get creative – as well as modern communications, old-fashioned methods are often very romantic, such as sending a hand-written love letter or surprise parcel through snail mail. (Ends)