Real-life love story: Jen’s 22-year marriage started with a grade school ‘love letter’ – 9Honey


Jen Seyderhelm was just nine years old when a boy in her class at Thornleigh Public School passed her a note asking her to be his girlfriend. More than a decade later, he would be her husband.

The note was written by a little boy named Andrew Seyderhelm, who had drawn two boxes marked “yes” and “no” so that Jen could write down her answer.

It might not have been the most elaborate or original love note, but it certainly had an effect on the nine-year-old.

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Jen and Andrew went to elementary school together, but fell apart. (Supplied)

“The first thing you get always sticks in your head,” Jen tells 9Honey. “But he actually left school about a year later… I didn’t see him again until I was 21.”

Andrew had gone to a different school and Jen hadn’t thought much of him until years later when she saw him across the room in a “dingy nightclub” in Sydney’s north.

She was casually seeing someone else at the time, but figured there was no harm in reconnecting with an old friend from elementary school.

“I walked up to him and he said, ‘Do you remember me?'” she says of that night.

“And I said, ‘yeah, you’re Andrew Seyderhelm … I can even spell that,’ not realizing I’d have to spell it for the rest of my life.”

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At first, Jen swore there was nothing romantic, but the next day Andrew called her and asked her out on a coffee date where sparks flew.

When he touched her hand in front of the cafe, it was electric and she realized “this is how it should be”. Likewise, she was enchanted.

The only problem was that Jen was supposed to be leaving on a six-week trip to Contiki just 10 days later, so she and Andrew spent every second together until she flew overseas.

She also broke up with the other guy she was seeing and when she returned to Australia, she and Andrew picked up right where they left off.

Andrew and Jen reconnected and fell in love in their 20s.Andrew and Jen reconnected and fell in love in their 20s. (Supplied)

It was bliss for three months, but Andrew had big plans to move to the UK to break into the video game industry and Jen wasn’t about to stand in the way of his career.

The couple agreed to give long distance a shot and “basically said goodbye.” It was the 90s, so communication was going to be slow and sparse, but they were engaged.

“It lasted four months in the UK before I flew home,” Jen says with a laugh. “I didn’t know he was going to do it, but he knocked on my front door and said, ‘I want to be with you.’

After this romantic gesture, the pair were almost inseparable and wherever one went, the other eventually followed.

“We spent the first six months of our married life in different countries.”

Jen eventually got a radio job in Canada and she and Andrew agreed to go long distance again, but it only took a few months for him to get sick of the distance and pursue her.

He moved to the small “country traffic light town” where Jen lived in Canada and in April 2001, the elementary school sweethearts finally tied the knot.

In what was becoming a pattern for their relationship, Andrew planned to move back to the UK for his gaming career within days of the couple tying the knot, but this time they weren’t worried the distance

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“We got married, spent one night together and the next day he left for the UK,” Jen says with a laugh. “We spent the first six months of our married life in different countries.”

“We wrote a lot of letters, I have a lot of letters that I’ll give my kids one day just planning our dreams. It was a really beautiful way to really get to know each other.”

Andrew and Jen have been married for almost 22 years.Andrew and Jen have been married for almost 22 years. (Supplied)

After months of love letters sent back and forth around the world, Jen was preparing her life in Canada to join Andrew in the UK when tragedy struck in the form of the 9/11 terrorist attacks of September

He had booked tickets for a Swissair flight that was due to leave a few weeks later, and although he managed to get on the plane, the flight was not easy.

“Maybe we overshot Singapore and they said the airline had collapsed, they’d take us as far as the gas would last,” he says. The plane reached Switzerland.

“This was before mobile phones, so here I am stuck in Switzerland, I haven’t seen my husband in six months, I have no idea how I’m going to get to the UK.”

He eventually managed to board a charter plane from Switzerland to the UK, but the friend he was traveling with lost his luggage, causing further delays.

“When I came out, not having seen Andrew in six months, I had no idea if he was actually going to be there. But he was there, waiting for me at the door,” she says.

Andrew poses in a classic car that Jen gave him for their 20th wedding anniversary.Andrew poses in a classic car that Jen gave him for their 20th wedding anniversary. (Supplied)

In the more than 20 years since then, the Seyderhelms have moved 15 times, each taking turns pursuing their career goals with the other’s support.

“We’ve both packed up at times and gone somewhere for the other person. And man, it feels so good in a relationship when you feel like you’ve had your turn,” says Jen.

She and Andrew welcomed two children together, sons who are now teenagers and who know all about how their parents fell in love and chased each other around the world.

“You never know who you will be with in this classroom.”

Although, sometimes the boys think their parents are “kind of dirty”, especially when Andrew does a dance of joy every day when Jen gets home from work.

Now the couple are approaching their 22nd wedding anniversary and Jen is just as in love as she was when they first fell in love all those years ago.

But if she could go back in time to that day when Andrew passed her a note in elementary school, she wouldn’t tell her young self that one day he would be her husband.

Jen and Andrew as kids in elementary school.Jen and Andrew as kids in elementary school. (Supplied)

“I wouldn’t want to because there are so many little moments along the way that if you had known about it in advance, it would have ruined things. All those first ones would never have been so intense,” he admits.

“And I always tell my kids, you never know who you’re going to be in that classroom with.”

As for her advice for a long and happy romance, the secret is to never stop “dreaming big” together.

“I love the fact that I can go to Andrew and say, ‘I’ve had this idea,’ and he can vet it and support it,” he says.

“I love having someone I can dream big with and show my kids that we can achieve things together.”

Happy couple, couple in love

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