A WOMAN who married a man she had met on ZOOM officially has their marriage annulled – and says it is "a weight lifted".
Ayse Reeves, 27, still hasn't met Darrin Martin, then 24, who she met on a Facebook group in lockdown.
They became a couple in November 2020 and Ayse tried to visit him in Michigan, US, but said she was turned away by US immigration.
That didn't stop Darrin proposing in May 2012 via FaceTime, and they married in August 2021 via a ZOOM call in a legal ceremony officiated in Utah, US.
But Ayse claims their relationship quickly fell apart and in December 2021, and she filed for an annulment.
The decree absolute finally came through in April this year.
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She claims the marriage broke down after he cheated on her – an infidelity he admits – but he claims he only did it because she was unfaithful.
Ayse, a full-time student, from Lancaster, Lancs., said: "When the letter came through to tell me I was no longer married, it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders.
"It felt like I couldn't move on because I was still tied to him.
"Looking back, it feels like it wasn’t real because I didn’t meet him.
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"I was in a little bubble, I got so swept up in getting married that I didn't think about how it was a crazy thing to do.
"I've definitely learnt not to rush into things – I would not get into something serious without meeting them now."
When the UK went into lockdown, Ayse joined a Facebook group to find an overseas pen pal, and found Darrin.
They began speaking daily on the phone despite the five-hour time difference – and Ayse completely altered her sleep pattern so she could sleep at the same time as him.
Ayse was turned away at US immigration on what would be their first meeting, because the immigration office claimed she ‘didn’t have enough money in her bank to support herself during her stay’ and ‘didn’t have strong enough ties to the UK’, she said.
Ayse claims the couple’s engagement was supported by both of their families – and Darrin had asked permission from her dad in advance.
The couple initially planned to tie the knot when they finally got the chance to meet for the first time.
But, after reading about a new law passed that made international virtual wedding ceremonies legal in the state of Utah, US, they decided to go ahead straight away.
Ayse and Darrin tied the knot on August 19, 2021, in an online ceremony, while their parents watched.
Cracks started to show when Ayse became suspicious Darrin might be seeing someone else a month after the wedding – when she says he became "distant", she claims.
Ayse ended the relationship in December and filed for an annulment citing "non-consummation” as the reason for the marriage ending.
However, due to Darrin being in the States and Ayse in the UK, it took over 15 months for the annulment to be finalised.
It felt like I couldn't move on because I was still tied to him
In November 2022, Ayse blocked Darrin on everything and claims she has heard nothing from him since.
Finally, after a painful wait, Ayse received the decree absolute in the post on April 19.
She said: "My sister rang me when the letter arrived and when she read it out, it was a weight lifted off my shoulders.
"It felt like it was never going to come – it was almost like there was still a tie to him.
"My feelings for him were 100 per cent real though – I wouldn't have gone through it if they weren't.
"Looking back, I wish we had kept it as a friendship like at the start. Sometimes I wonder if we still would have been friends if we kept it as that.
"One positive thing is it has made me stronger, dealing with it all.
"I was in a rubbish place when it all happened, and being able to get through that has made me a lot stronger."
When approached for comment, Darrin agreed that it was good to finally have the marriage annulled.
He claims he told Ayse about his infidelity before she spotted photos on Facebook – although she says this was not the case.
Darrin claimed he tried to maintain a friendship with her and says "we'd still be friends now" if she hadn't blocked him.
He claimed she cheated on him first, on a family holiday shortly before their marriage – which made the foundations "unstable" so he cheated on her "out of spite".
Ayse claims the holiday took place before they were even officially together.
Darrin said: "I definitely did cheat, I have no problems admitting I did, but two wrongs don't make a right."
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Ayse responded: "I met him in July and went on holiday that August. Darrin and I hadn't even spoken about whether we would become anything.
"He just likes to throw that in my face whenever his affair gets brought up to him to try and justify it."
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