Sorry, Cupid. And our sincere apologies to chocolate confectioners and romantic Hallmark poets everywhere.
But here’s the truth: It takes more than love to keep a relationship strong.
As America celebrates another Valentine’s Day full of sap and sentiment, we asked readers, couples and experts what makes for a happy and enduring bond.
"If there is a desire to really work things out," says Robin Stilwell, a longtime South Florida licensed marriage and family therapist, "most couples can stay together. The bottom line is being able to tolerate and accept differences. It’s not about being right or wrong because every couple’s comfort level is different."
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Most couples, regardless of age or background, fight over the same three things: finances, communication and in-laws. The successful ones manage to work through those arguments, but how they manage to do this tends to vary from couple to couple.
Nevertheless, good relationships do have one thing in common. "A healthy self-concept allows you to weather differences and not feel so injured," Stilwell says. In other words, it takes two individuals with healthy self-esteem to make a sturdy couple.
Three couples — two in longtime marriages and one just starting out — share how they keep their love — and their relationships — alive.
A workplace romance
It was not love at first sight, no. Brad Horenstein and Daniela Torrealba met when they were taken to lunch by their respective bosses while working as interns at the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office. Their reaction was … well, meh.
"I got a very bad reading," recalls Horenstein, 35. "She was so serious. I didn’t talk to her for a year after that."
From Torrealba, 29: "I didn’t even remember meeting him at the lunch until he reminded me about it. I was in my final semester of law school and I had blinders on."
A few months later the assistant public defenders were singing a different tune — quite literally. On a road trip to Orlando for a legal conference, they realized how much they loved the same music. They sang along to Kavinsky’s Nightcall and Radiohead’s Idioteque and Crystal Castles’ Vanished. They talked. And talked. And talked.
Horenstein was smitten, but it still took him four months to ask her out. Their first date, in February 2013, was at Scarpetta, a high-end Italian restaurant in Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau. They finished the night at The Corner, a hip bar downtown. Soon they became inseparable.
"I knew he was a wonderful guy who was genuinely concerned about his clients and his work, but I had never dated a friend before," Torrealba says. "When he asked me out, it opened my eyes.”
Two years and four months later, Horenstein popped the question. They’re getting married February 2017.
In the meantime the couple has lived together for 16 months in a Brickell area apartment. They spend most of their work hours together, too. They believe the closeness has helped burnish their new love.
He says: "She’s incredibly bright and quick-witted and positive. She’s so much fun to be around."
She says: "He has what people call good moral fiber."
Horenstein and Torrealba come from different backgrounds — the Chilean-American is converting to Judaism — and their love may be untested by the harshness of time and tragedy. But both say they’re learning what it takes to keep a relationship strong.
They don’t get into stupid fights over inconsequential matters.
And they make sure to do fun things together. They love going to the movies, midnight movies especially, and are throwing an Oscar party.
Horenstein also believes a little romance goes a long way. "I buy her flowers," he says. "It makes her happy."
Forget the bad, focus on the good
Stan and Marcia Kolber met in March. About three months later, they were married — the result of a long-distance whirlwind affair that proves love and devotion can, and does, defy the odds. So much so, in fact, that the Coral Gables couple has been married 66 years.
Sixty-six years. They’ve been through war, illness and injury, but the two remain inseparable, demonstrating an enviable joie de vivre. They walk together every morning. They go to plays and art museums. And they meet longtime friends once a week at a local bagel restaurant. They have three children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Who would’ve thought?
"I think it works when you don’t have long memories," jokes Marcia, 87. "You forget what the other one has done."
Says Stan, 92, "You can fight, but you have to get over it."
The Kolbers live at The Palace in Coral Gables. They moved there about three years ago, after living in the same house for 52 years.
"I’ve always felt comfortable with him," Marcia says. "I dated others, but it just wasn’t the same."
It’s easy to understand the attraction. Stan is funny. Stan is charming. Stan is always there.
Marcia met Stan in 1949 when she accompanied her mother and her mother’s friend on a vacation to Miami. Stan, a World War II veteran who owned a venetian blinds company with his brother, was the friend’s cousin. Having been raised here, he was asked to show the 21-year-old Chicagoan a good time. For two weeks, they spend quite a bit of time together.
When she left, they ran up the long-distance bill. He proposed over the phone. They married in June in Chicago. "She was pretty and we got along," he says.
Shortly after they got married, Stan was sent to Korea, where he was injured and spent months recuperating in a hospital. Marcia returned to Chicago with their months-old firstborn. It was a trying time, but when Stan returned, they picked up right where they had left off.
In Miami, they renewed friendships with several other couples that would become lifelong friends. The women collected money every week to fund an annual girls’ trip, including treks to India, Japan and Italy. The husbands, who had all attended Miami High, encouraged them. (The couples also vacationed together.)
“Friendships," says Marcia, "are important for a marriage. It’s nice to have friends both as a couple and individually. They give you occasions to look forward to.”
Stan admits that, after all these years, they still find something to argue about. Marcia’s a neatnik, he’s not. He’s punctual, she isn’t. He’s a huge sports fan, she prefers art.
"I believe that you do unto others as you want them to do unto you," he says. "You learn to compromise."
A memorable meal
In 1957, much to the dismay of his parents, Carroll Davis quit practicing law in Miami Beach and loaded everything he owned into a Ford station wagon, which he drove all the way to Mexico. He settled in Guadalajara, where he pursued his dream: painting. When he wasn’t applying brush to canvas, he ate his meals in a French restaurant.
This is where he met Jacqueline, the Alsace-born proprietor who had headed south from New York, where she had also operated a French eatery.
"She was running the best restaurant in Guadalajara," Carroll says. "So you can say it was hunger at first sight."
Well, not quite. Carroll had been dining at the restaurant for a while before Jackie stopped at his table. "How was your steak?" she asked.
He suggested she sit down. They discovered they had a lot in common — she was an amateur painter — but it wasn’t until weeks later that he invited her over for a meal. He fixed eggs Benedict.
"I was impressed," she recalls. "That takes some effort and skill."
Wed at her restaurant nine months later, the newlyweds moved to France for six months. When they ran out of money, they returned to Guadalajara, where their eldest son was born, and then came to Miami in 1960. Over the course of their 57-year marriage, they would add two more children and build a home in Palmetto Bay, before retiring to East Ridge Senior Living Community.
The Davises attribute their long marriage to several factors.
They enjoy some of the same pastimes — good food and fine wine, for one. "We love to talk and discuss philosophy and current events, too," he says.
She adds, "If possible, marry someone who has the same interests, the same persuasions. If you’re too different, it’s very hard."
Honesty is important, too. "I think that’s essential, even if it’s uncomfortable or bruising to your ego," Carroll says.
But Jacqueline says that honesty must be tempered with compassion. "Words can be very dangerous," she says. "Don’t say anything you’ll regret later."
This article includes comments from the Public Insight Network, an online community of people who have agreed to share their insights with the Miami Herald and WLRN. Become a source at MiamiHerald.com/insight.
How to strengthen your relationship
A good relationship takes work. "You can’t just put a relationship on auto-pilot," therapist Robin Stilwell said. "You have to spend time and effort on it." A few suggestions: date night, weekly flowers, romantic getaways, breakfast in bed.
Keep yourself up. "Feeling fit and sexy helps keep the intimacy in a relationship," reader Kalyn James wrote.
Be nice. "Say please, thank you, I’m sorry, you’re right, I am proud of you, I forgive you, How can I help," Courtenay Carr Russo wrote about her 16-year marriage. "Especially when you don’t feel like it."
Accept your partner. "Do not expect to change anything you dislike," wrote Fred Srebnick, who’s been married 58 years, "but be willing to live the good 98 percent and accept the not-so-good 2 percent."
You can only control your attitude. "If it’s not working, ask yourself, ‘What can I do to make it better?’" Stilwell said. "Pick a little thing and then stick to it."
Talk, talk, talk. Listen, listen, listen. "The key to any good relationship is communication," wrote Amy Nelson of Miami.
Watch what you say. Words can hurt as much as sticks and stones.
Give your partner time and space to do his own thing. Marcia Kolber, 87, has traveled alone with her girlfriends to far-flung places. She’s been married to Stan for 66 years. "We’re together a lot, but he has his interests and I have mine," she said.
Play. Joke. Laugh. "He’s the funniest man I know," said Daniela Torrealba of her fiancé Brad Horenstein. "He’s hilarious."
Fight fair. The kitchen sink isn’t.
Celebrate your relationship. "Love mainly consists of making someone else’s life and comfort more important than your own," wrote Santi Gabino.
Accept that marriage — or coupledom — isn’t always an even split. "Things aren’t always 50/50," wrote reader Jose Gomez, who has been married 46 years. "Sometimes 75/25 either way."
Recognize that no relationship is perfect. "People don’t realize that every relationship has its ups and down," wrote Julie Simon, married 34 years. "There are times when I love my husband so much…then other times…I feel a distance creep in."
R-e-s-p-e-c-t. Singer Aretha Franklin had it right. "Respect is the most important element in a relationship," wrote Rosa Santana of Hallandale Beach.
Oh, did we also mention that saying "I love you" does wonders to cut the tension?