Cute Couple Confessions
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Cute Couple Confessions

Do happy couples have the secret to successful relationships? Here are 10 joyfully married and partnered pairs and the rituals that keep their bonds strong.

Creating Bonds

They finish each other's sentences at cocktail parties, bicker good-naturedly in the supermarket, and discuss travel plans quietly on the airplane. But have you ever wondered how these couples found each other -- and what keeps them together? Below, 10 couples discuss the many ways that they maintain their bond, whether it's by kayaking, writing mystery novels, playing with the kids, or just sharing a good cup of coffee in bed.

Jennifer Altman, 21, and Adam Clarin, 23, Plantation, Florida. How We Met: "We met while we were at the University of Florida. I was interning at the housing office and he was working there as a computer tech. The minute I saw him, I had a crush on him. I would always purposefully bump into him at work so I could chat with him. Finally, one day our coworkers said we needed to go on a date, so he drove me home from work. We've been together ever since." How Long We've Been Together: 2 years, with plans to get married next year We Confess: "We try to sit down once a week and watch a movie while rubbing the other's feet. Our foot massages are our secret -- his buddies would definitely give him a hard time about this if they found out! But it's the trade-off we make: he picks the movie and I get the foot rub. If he wasn't rubbing my feet during some of these movies, I'd fall fast asleep. The worst movie he made me watch was Tim Allen's Joe Somebody. I got a really great massage that night!"

Melissa Rubenstein, 31, and Daniel Levin, 32, Houston, Texas. How We Met: "We re-met at a wedding in California after attending the same Houston high school almost a decade earlier." How Long We've Been Together: Three and a half years. We Confess: "Each morning, my husband and I wake up at 5:30 a.m. even though we don't have to be at work until after 8. We use that time to sit in our matching pink pajamas and drink coffee and listen to Cat Stevens. By the time we start our workday, we are relaxed and wide awake."

Shana Peterson, 26, and Scott Keith, 28, Atlanta, Georgia. How We Met: "At a Super Bowl party." How Long We've Been Together: Three years. "He proposed to me this past February, and we plan to marry on May 1, 2004." We Confess: "Our big ritual is Sunday morning coffee. If one of us wakes up first, we dart to Dunkin Donuts, and bring back coffee for the other. This is actually how he proposed! He just got back from Dunkin Donuts and got down on his knee!"

Rituals That Bond

Robert Hornsby, 43, and Lisa Pines, 43, Brooklyn, New York. How We Met: "I met my wife when we were in art school. We met on the street outside a gallery opening reception." How Long We've Been Together: 20 years. "We just celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary." We Confess: "We have two sons, ages 9 and 5, and we are very involved in their lives. One important ritual is the family dinner together. However, it's also important that my wife and I have alone time. So once a week, after the kids got to bed, we cook a simple but elegant meal. The setting is important. Candles and flowers, nice tableware and silver, wine or fancy cocktails are a must. When the meal is ready, we change into sexy outfits for each other, which match the theme. For our Latin night, I wear what she calls my 'Ricky Martin' shirt -- a shiny burgundy number, plus sunglasses, just for the look. She puts on sexy flamenco shoes, plus a wrap skirt with matching undergarments, lots of makeup, hair done, the whole thing. We dress as if it's 1 a.m. in Miami and we're about to go out, but we never leave the house. Then dinner proceeds in this romantic atmosphere and leads to after-dinner dancing and fun."

Suzi Prokell, 32, and Joe Prokell, 32, Aledo, Texas. How We Met: "Joe and I met when we were in college. I was on a date with one of his fraternity brothers who had to make a stop at the fraternity house for something. When my [future] husband saw me, he claims he made immediate plans to 'steal me away from him.' Three days later we showed up to our summer jobs and found out we'd be working together at a summer camp!" How Long We've Been Together: 12 years. "We met in 1991 and married in 1994. We now have four children." We Confess: "We do the typical date night twice a month -- once with our friends and once by ourselves. We also take one trip a year without the kids (our 'honeymoon'). Our kids have bonded us tremendously. With four of them (the oldest of whom is 7), we must be a united front!"

Lora Schwenk, 31, and Chris Quinn, 32, Atlanta, Georgia. How We Met: "We met at a leadership/volunteer group." How Long We've Been Together: 1 year, with plans to marry in January. We Confess: "On Saturday mornings we take a weight-training class -- it's very motivating to do this together. Then we go home and bake chocolate chip cookie sandwiches with icing in the middle to negate all that weight training!"

More Cute Confessions

Jane Watkins, 32, and Darrin Dingman, 35, Miami, Florida. How We Met: "My husband was the tennis pro at my apartment complex. I had a crush on him, so I signed up for lessons. Then I found out he refused to date students." She dropped out so she could date him. How Long We've Been Together: Eight years. "We got married two years after we started dating, and just celebrated our sixth anniversary." We Confess: "We go kayaking once a month. We point out manatees, sharks, and pelicans, and then drop our little anchors and enjoy the sights while eating the lunch we brought. It is amazing how we both open up. For some reason, being on the water allows us to relax and let down our guards."

Amy Kowal, 29, and Paul Kowal, 32, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. How We Met: "A friend insisted on us meeting, and we've been together ever since." How Long We've Been Together: Nine years. "This September, we'll celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary." We Confess: "We hardly ever call each other by our given names. We have various nicknames -- Big H and Little H (Big Honey and Little Honey) are favorites. Another special thing we do is our 'pillow talk' time. When we crawl into bed after an exhausting day, we spend quiet time and simply chat about anything -- work, something that's bothering us. It might be 10 minutes or an hour -- and whoever nods off first, the other person doesn't get offended. Those minutes alone are cherished -- no phones, no puppy wanting to play -- just us."

Jody Jaffe, 50, and John Muncie, 56, Silver Spring, Maryland. How We Met: "We were fixed up by a friend. We clicked right away, and John started wooing me with e-mails since we lived in different cities (he Baltimore, me DC)." How Long We've Been Together: Five years, married last October. We Confess: "Since we've met we've written two mystery novels together -- Thief of Words and Ragspring Summer, [Spring 2004, Warner Books]. Our fun ritual is taking a 4-mile walk at a nearby park each morning when we discuss what's going to happen next in the book. Then we go home sweaty, relaxed and ready to write."

Arlison Hall, 37, and Patrick Hall, 32, Stafford, Virginia. How We Met: "When I turned 35, I decided that I was never going to meet Mr. Right, so I made plans to purchase a condo and adopt a child. It was a miserable day with movers, furniture delivery people, and phone workers in and out all day. I was exhausted. I was hot. I had no makeup on and my hair was piled on top of my head. Knock-knock at 3:35 p.m. I opened the door and there stood a vivacious, red-headed Irish guy ready to install my cable. Within five minutes, he asked me out. We went out two nights later." How Long We've Been Together: Two years. "We married this past August." We Confess: "Patrick had not had much of an opportunity to travel, and I worked for the Peace Corps for four years, so I have been all over the world. One of our rituals has been for him to join me on work trips at my current job [as public relations director for Share Our Strength] and [for us to] explore the cities together -- Las Vegas, New York, New Orleans, to name a few. We have also taken weekend trips to explore the local area. When it's just the two of us, the quiet time in the car is priceless. When Patrick's kids are with us, the loud time in the car is just as good."

Create Your Own Rituals

  • Carve out the time. Set aside a certain time of the week or day to spend with each other. And be sure to pick a time that works for both of you. Don't expect him to bounce out of bed with you for a crack-of-dawn run if he generally likes to sleep until noon. Having a set time to connect is a great boost to a relationship, says Dr. Lonnie Barbach, coauthor with David Geisinger of Going the Distance: Finding and Keeping Lifelong Love (Plume, 1993).

"Some couples even make a regular time to make love. That sounds boring to a lot of people, but the couples I counsel who do this find that they really look forward to it. You know it's going to happen and you can count on it. You're not thinking, well, maybe he'll be working late, maybe she's planning to go out with her friends."

  • Find something you can explore together, at relatively similar paces. If you're a championship squash player and he's a novice, sure, you could give him pointers and help him improve his game. But you'll probably find that bonding will come more naturally if you chose an activity where you both start out on roughly the same footing. Make a "wish list" of sports or other activities that you enjoy or have been curious about trying -- rock-climbing, photography, or gourmet cooking. You could brainstorm together, and see which ideas excite you both. Or write your individual ideas separately, and see which pastimes made both lists.

"Think about the things that you really love. It could be something that you already do, and now you're deciding that you're going to go fishing every Saturday. That's what makes it a ritual," says Barbach.

  • Turn everyday chores into rituals. Cooking dinner, walking the dog, even the weekly run to the town dump can be transformed into rituals simply by setting the intention to connect with each other at that time. Make the decision that you won't discuss the surprise tax bill or the furnace that needs to be replaced. Instead, you'll use that time to talk about your dreams, and connect with each other emotionally.
  • Create a ritual that's pure gift. Barbach knows a man who always puts a sweet note in his wife's lunch box, because he knows it how happy it makes her. "You need to think about what would give your partner pleasure," she says. "What would they like and what would make them feel cared for? That's what builds strength in a relationship."