How do you define everlasting love? For some, it depends on how long they’ve been together.
We wanted to know how some couples are able to keep the passion fires burning, so the community publications department asked its readers to share stories of how they keep the love for their significant other strong.
We received several submissions and we picked out our favorites. They are being printed this Valentine’s Day weekend in The Banner, Marco Eagle and Collier Citizen.
The grand prize winner received a Marco Island getaway that includes a 2-night stay in a deluxe guest room, along with a $100 per day resort credit, at the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort.
Here are the winning entries:
First place — submitted by Mike Gaffney of Naples
‘Happy Valentine’s Day, honey!’
I was nodding off in my favorite chair, assisted by an old rerun of “Law and Order.” It was approaching midnight on Valentine’s Day and my wife had gone to bed several hours earlier. Although the day wasn’t officially over, I began to wonder if this would be the first time. Maybe she had forgotten; maybe she had fallen asleep; maybe this was the year the pattern would be broken. But she had fooled me before, so I kept the volume low and vowed not to move until the program had ended.
I was startled by a light, trepid knocking. Who could be calling at this time of night? I briefly considered the possibility of an intruder, but the knock had been gentle, the sound a small child might make. Still, I took a moment to fasten the chain lock and turn on the outside light before cracking the door. It wasn’t bitterly cold, but the temperature was much too low to be standing there clad only in a pair of men’s boxer shorts. “Happy Valentine’s Day, honey!” she said with that infectious smile I could never resist.
The boxers are huge, red with white hearts, and big enough for Santa and his toys. Neither of us can remember the first time she gave them to me, or the point at which they became a tradition in our marriage. At first she would simply fool me with the packaging: a 78-rpm record album one year; a candy box with an old girlfriend’s return address another time. But even though the shorts always appeared on February 14, she somehow managed to surprise me. I began to watch for little hints, alert to anything that might reveal her latest method, but every Valentine’s Day she could honestly say, “I gotcha again, didn’t I?”
She never repeated herself and I assumed that eventually she would either tire of the prank or run out of ideas. But instead, she began to employ more sophisticated and devious schemes. On one occasion the shorts appeared when our waiter lifted the silver dome from my dinner plate. On another I discovered that my hairdresser had quietly tugged them on while my back was to the mirror. Last year I drove 60 miles to an all-male sporting event to find, to a cacophony of hollering from all the guys, that the shorts had been tied to the passenger-side door handle. My wife, in collaboration with my friends and business associates, has become very accomplished at crafting embarrassing moments.
In the beginning I would struggle to guess the surprise, like a small child shaking a birthday present. But over the years the tradition of the red boxer shorts has taken on a subtler, deeper meaning. In addition to reminding us of our first date at a high school Valentine’s dance, they have shown that laughing over small things is often better than worrying over large ones. Receiving the same gaudy underwear every single year may not seem particularly significant, but traditions in a marriage, no matter how small, can be powerful bonding agents.
So, as my emotions vacillate between anticipation and trepidation, I can only wonder where I will be when once again I hear her say, “Happy Valentine’s Day, honey!”
Second place — submitted by Elizabeth Molina of Naples
Making love last
To me, the secret to making love last is simply laughter. As Agnes Repplier once said, “We cannot really love anybody with whom we never laugh.”
I met the love of my life at a time in my life when love was the furthest thing from my mind. I worked at a local jewelry kiosk selling primarily cubic zirconium and gold-by-the-inch, and he worked at the neighboring kiosk, as an AT&T salesman.
Each and every day he seemed to find a way to push my buttons, always discovering some new way to grab my attention, making it a mission to make me laugh out loud or in the very least make me crack a smile.
Fresh out of high school and fresh out of a long term relationship, I was not out looking for love but nevertheless, it sure did find me. Close to four years later, that same button pusher and smile seeking man is now my fiancé, and more importantly my best friend.
My fiancé Michael and I met at a time in my life when things seemed to be falling apart. My father passed away three years prior after a long battle with stage four lung cancer and the house my father built, the one that I called home for the first 17 years of my life, had just fallen into foreclosure. I was now working to help support my mother and myself as we did our best to move on with our lives. Little did Michael know, the quiet girl in the kiosk next door was never more in need of his smile starting, laughter inducing, one of a kind personality.
Among his many endearing qualities, I’ve always admired Michael’s incredible ability to make even the most stoic of faces crack a smile. From spot on impressions to his original jokes, he could leave anyone and everyone with stitches in their sides (me included).
The past four years have been without a doubt the most joyous of my life. Through the good times and the bad, the two of us have survived. We’ve come out stronger and looked back on past difficulties and laughed, priding ourselves on finding the humor and the positives in even the darkest of situations.
If you were to ask either of us why we love each other, at the top of both of our lists would be that we make each other happy and we make one another laugh, both of which are synonymous in our book. I could describe Michael in many ways: he’s my rock, my confidant, my closest friend as well as my escape. When life gets too much, he’s the first person by my side cracking a joke or simply being his sweet, goofy self. Over the years the incredible numbers of smiles, laughs and inside jokes have transformed themselves into an infinite number of wonderful memories for us.
Sharing a sense of humor has brought the two of us closer than I could have ever imagined being with another person. It’s the moments where it feels like nothing else could go wrong, when it feels like I might as well call it a day and hope for a better day tomorrow but then I get to come home to a man who would do everything in his power to put a smile on my face.
It’s the moments where life feels so stressful that smiles feel foreign yet as soon as I have him on the phone he has me laughing so hard that tears stream down my face. It’s the moments where an inside joke leaves us cracking up to the point that we’re practically rolling around on the ground laughing while others around us stand stoic wondering what on earth could be so funny.
The culmination of all these moments and many others confirm to me every single day that I’ve met the man for me, and I wholeheartedly believe that the laughter we share is our secret to making love last, and a successful one at that.
Third place — submitted by Kelly Davis of Naples
I tell everyone I have four boys. Three are the sons I birthed — Cody is 5, Ryan is 4 and Kyle is 2 (yes, it’s a crazy busy time for our family). The fourth is my husband — that man I fell in love with after he failed to catch me cheating during a drinking game in college but couldn’t quite figure out why I was always winning. He’s wonderful, but sometimes I wonder if his maturity will ever catch up to his age — I’m certain he’s a 12-year-old trapped in a man’s body.
We met in 1998 during a collegiate racquetball tournament (well, actually during the post-tournament party, which may have involved a drinking game or two). We fell in love. But it took until 2006 for us to figure out how to live in the same state. Once we got over that small hurdle (and stopped spending so much money flying between Connecticut and Florida), we were married within a year and started having our (noisy) children the following year.
As anyone who has ever been around three young boys (or sat near us at a restaurant, or, God forbid, near us on an airplane) can attest, our life is loud and hectic. I’ll be honest, the constant noise stresses me out. Then add a silly husband into the mix. You get the picture.
Nearly every night, when the commotion dies down (i.e. the kids finally go to bed), I slump down next to my husband on the couch. Even though he still hasn’t fully adjusted to the Florida heat (he hails from Connecticut and Massachusetts), he lets me cuddle up against him, usually under a blanket even in the warmest months of the year. Even if it only lasts for 10 minutes (you didn’t actually think all three kids go right to sleep every night, did you?), that time is peaceful and allows me to de-stress. I can’t say that a 10-minute cuddle session is the secret, but I sure do enjoy it. And if my husband doesn’t feel the same way, he smartly keeps his mouth shut about it.
The other key to lasting love is to find a way to laugh, even when what you really want to do is cry. It’s a lesson I learned on our wedding day. We had a beautiful beach ceremony here in Florida. But I got crapped on during the ceremony. Literally crapped on. Yes, a bird dive bombed me and left a long line of greenish poo down the front of my white wedding gown. My almost-husband burst out laughing. I wanted to cry. The officiant insisted it’s good luck to get pooed on by a bird in the middle of your wedding ceremony. Sure it is... I’m convinced that anything bad that happens during your wedding people try to convince you is actually good luck to avoid the inevitable tears of a nervous bride (and yes, we had some rain on our wedding day as well).
So maybe the secret to lasting love is to fill your wedding day with good luck — rain, bird poo and anything else you can think of that would actually be terrible if some calmer person didn’t assure you that “it’s good luck!” (apparently, a spider on (or in?) my wedding dress would have been an additional source of good luck, according to Martha Stewart).
Fill your life with laughter. Find time to cuddle. Take selfies. And most importantly, make sure the one you’re laughing with can also handle being laughed at!
Honorable mention — submitted by Colleen Micieli of Naples
My husband, AJ, and I will have been married for two whole years on April 28, 2014. We are celebrating our eight-year dating anniversary this Valentine’s Day. Meeting and dating halfway through our sophomore year at Naples High School, we can say we married our high school sweetheart.
We got engaged on our five-year dating anniversary right under the beautiful Naples Pier — where he first asked me out. We married in our church surrounded by an abundance of love and promises in 2012 — double the date he asked me out (2-14-06/4-28-12). What would I know about keeping a relationship strong? Hang on — I’m getting there. Let me give you my credentials.
Our first year of marriage was far from the expected “happily ever after.” We were definitely thrown a few curveballs. We felt that we almost couldn’t catch much of a break — between suffering from the unexpected death of my sister-in-law from breast cancer and just trying to tolerate living with each other for the first time, we were struggling.
After moving between two rental apartments within six months, we found (and lost) the house of our dreams. Long story short, we got a second chance with that same house and, after piles upon piles of paperwork, we bought our new home in March 2013. We finally caught a break and something was going “our way!” We all know the excitement of owning your first home and switching everything over to your name. It’s a “new beginning.”
On Thursday, March 21 — less than five days of signing and moving in to our new home — AJ was on his way home from the utilities department when he got into a terrible car accident turning into our neighborhood (where he also happened to grow up). My new husband, of less than a year, suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Being a then 23-year-old caretaker of my new husband was no walk in the park, to say the least — making all his doctor appointments, sending things in through insurance, driving him everywhere. My life revolved completely around aiding him so I could have the AJ I once knew back. While my husband was recovering from a mild TBI, he received months of physical, speech and occupational therapy to get the hang of what you and I may have once taken for granted.
My secret? While things may still not be absolutely perfect, perfection takes a lot of time and effort. I chose to love my husband. “Until death do us part” had a completely new meaning for me after his accident. You see, only one person can control your feelings and actions — you.
AJ and I weren’t able to celebrate our one-year anniversary for obvious reasons, but I chose to still love him and care for him like there was no tomorrow. I endured pain I would wish on nobody, but I loved AJ when I felt like he deserved it the least. After all, that is what God called us to do.
Today, I am beyond grateful for my wonderful husband. He is definitely my miracle man. “Blessed” doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt with all the outpouring of support we got. We continue to work on our relationship one day at a time. We try and start each day with new thoughts and we love each other when we don’t feel the other deserves it. Love is a choice. I learned, through AJ’s accident, that I had to make myself happy before I could make anyone else happy. I’ve explained it to AJ and that is what we try to practice every single day. Yes, some days are much easier than others, but we make choices every second of every day. That, my friends, is my secret. I wish nothing but a happy, healthy and long marriage to everyone!