7 couples from around the world share what it takes to develop a strong and healthy relationship

Falling in love is quick but learning to maintain a strong and healthy relationship is a lifelong rewarding pursuit. I asked seven couples from around the world to share what they have learnt about love and relationships.

7 coloured photos of couples in panorama
Couples (L to R): Sarah Williams and Elliot McGrath, Monika Deliova and Michael Bovshow, Eric Kluge and Jan Figura, Jonathan Couch and Brooke Couch, Katerina Stavreva and Yinon Horwitz, Kristen Brillantes and JP Reyes. | Graphic designer: heartechnology

tweet-graphic-transTweet: According to a study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine, people can fall in love in as quickly as a fifth of a second.

That’s almost as quick as it takes to blink. Research suggests that people start to develop traits and qualities for romantic intimacy in early childhood which has implications on how people approach relationships in adulthood.

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Lyrics from ‘Intentions‘ by Justin Bieber feat. Quavo. | via @jaredtalavera

“I love you” has a unique meaning for each person in the relationship.

Terry Hartkoff, sociology professor at California State University, Northridge, created a love scale that identifies how you define love. You can try the love scale quiz here.

Romantic: Sexual attraction and passion
Best friends: Deep affection and tenderness
Logical: Practical shared values and goals
Playful: Flirtatious interaction
Possessive: Obsessive jealousy
Unselfish: Putting the needs of your significant other before your own without wanting anything in return.

When you know how your partner defines love, you can then better navigate any conflict that may arise. Intentions and values thus sustain a relationship long-term.

It is important for partners to be each other’s cheerleader when the going gets tough. However, research shows that how you respond to your partner’s good news is more important for relationship quality.

In 2006, psychology researcher Shelly Gable and her colleagues from the University of California, Santa Barbara asked young adult couples to discuss positive events from their lives. There were four ways in which they reacted to each other’s good news:

1) Passive destructive
2) Active destructive
3) Passive constructive
4) Active constructive

As an example, one partner might say, “I got accepted to play a lead role in a major Hollywood film!”

Her partner could respond in a passive destructive way by saying, “I just won a gym membership for a year.” If he responded in a passive constructive way, he would show some acknowledgement of the good news by saying, “That’s cool.” An active destructive response would disregard how much the achievement means to the other person. A response might be, “Are you sure about that? You already seemed so happy with your current career.” Lastly, there is active constructive response. Her partner would listen to her wholeheartedly and give a meaningful reposne. An example might be, “Woah! Congratulations!!! When do you start filming? Let’s go out and celebrate tonight!”

Active constructive is the best type of responding for a strong and healthy relationship.

This year for Valentine’s Day seven couples share what it takes to maintain a healthy and strong relationship.

Sarah Williams and Elliot McGrath

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Photo credit: Sarah Williams and Elliot McGrath

How did you first meet?

We first met several years ago in 2011 through our mutual best friend. On this occasion he had flown back into the state and organised a catch up at a local pub. We were both single at the time and we were told that we are very similar, which we would discover over the course of the day, after a few too many drinks Elliot said to me in cheek and with his big grin and wink “we will be together one day” and this stuck with me for the next few years of friendship. 

What attracted you most to each other?

Sarah: Elliot felt so familiar to me the moment I met him, as if we known each other in a past lifetime. I can’t help getting lost in his beautiful Sinatra crystal blue eyes. When we would speak, or laugh see each other he would give me butterflies in my stomach. He completely redefined my idea of what love is and should be. He’s strong, selfless, caring and family orientated, but most importantly he treats everyone and especially me with the utmost respect. 

Elliot: she is confident in who she is, it doesn’t matter if she is talking to Brad Pitt or just an average Joe, she is completely the same person and unapologetically herself. The initial attraction was there in a shallow looks based way, but the attraction grows each and every day, she’s unique and makes everybody she encounters feel a million dollars.

What did you do for your first date?

Elliot & Sarah: First Date Elliot: Out first official date was the opposite of organised, it was completely spur of the moment. It wasn’t till half way through the night that we both realised we were on a date. We had both been giving each other reasons for hanging out each day and Elliot suggested we go for drive.

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Photo credit: Sarah Williams and Elliot McGrath

We sat in Elliot’s car at (what is now) our favourite beach to visit – parked by the shore at Barwon Heads and ate fish and chips, listened to music and spoke about things that made us both realise this was more than just 2 friends catching up.

Do you have any other memorable and significant stories you would like to share?

Sarah: Christmas 2017 – Although we had only been officially dating for a few months on Christmas morning Elliot completely blew me away. In a passing conversation we had had weeks earlier I mentioned a ring that I had always desired, it was my dream ring. Little did I know that Elliot was taking mental notes and arranged to have the ring made for me to perfection. When I opened the present I burst into tears, it was exactly what I had described. 

Elliot: 28th September 2018 After years of ironically having the same dream dog, our bundle of joy arrived on a plane and has made our perfect pairing a family and getting us prepared for when we finally have little ones of our own.

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Photo credit: Sarah Williams and Elliot McGrath

What are your non-negotiables for a strong and healthy relationship?

  • Love without hesitation
  • Honesty and trust in each other
  • Communication
  • Respect
  • No judgement of each other’s past because it brought us to where we are today
  • Never go to bed angry or without saying I love you

 

Monika Deliova and Michael Bovshow

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Photo credit: Monika Deliova and Michael Bovshow

How did you first meet?

Michael interviewed me for a restaurant job in Sydney, Australia.

What attracted you most to each other?

We got attracted to each other’s style of work ethic and how we just “get” hospitality. Later on, when we went out, we discovered our passion for drinks, wine and food.

What did you do for your first date?

Went out for a beer after a long shift. We ended up at Michael’s house eating Indian food because all the places to eat were already closed.

Do you have any other memorable and significant stories you would like to share?

I think the most significant one was when we moved in together. After a while of dating, Michael moved from Sydney to Melbourne. I visited him, and when I was leaving, we said each other goodbye forever. I had my things going on in Sydney, he just got his dream job in Melbourne and needed to leave Australia soon because his visa was finishing in a couple of months from that time. I was so heartbroken but… we both knew it’s the best for us.

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Photo credit: Monika Deliova and Michael Bovshow

Three days after I came back from my trip, he called me and asked me the craziest question: If I come back to Sydney are you gonna live with me? Of course I said yes. We moved in together a week after this phone call.

What are your non-negotiables for a strong and healthy relationship?

Trust and open communication about everything.

Follow them on Instagram: Monika Deliova and Michael Bovshow

 

Monica Gartner and Sam Patterson

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Photo credit: Sam Patterson and Monica Gartner

How did you first meet?

One of my close friends was going to school in Edinburgh, Scotland – which is only a couple hours away from London! London was always my dream destination, so we decided that I should book a flight to visit her, and meet her in London. So, I did just that.

However, as the trip got closer, my friend realized that she had finals and couldn’t meet me in London. So, her handsome friend, Sam, said he would go to meet me and show me around! We officially met in person at a train station in London. Then we few to the south of France, then to Amsterdam, then I went to meet his parents!

What attracted you most to each other?

What most attracted me to Sam was his personality. Don’t get me wrong—he’s a 1000/10 looks-wise! He’s so incredibly handsome both inside and out. He’s the funniest guy I’ve ever met (and I know a lot of funny people!) He is so intelligent, kind, and loving. Honestly, he’s just the full package! 

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Photo credit: Sam Patterson and Monica Gartner 

What did you do for your first date?

Our first date was spent in London exploring the town. Then the next day, we spontaneously flew to Nice, France, where we stayed for 10 days.

Five days into my trip, he asked me to be his girlfriend while walking alongside the beach!

Of course, I said yes!

Do you have any other memorable and significant stories you would like to share?

We’ve been in a long-distance relationship for over 4 years, and weirdly enough, Sam is my first boyfriend! Well, now he’s my fiancé!

He proposed on top of a cliff overlooking Monaco this past October. Since 2015, we have traveled all over the world. We’ve been to Paris twice, Monaco twice, Nice three times, Greece, Prague, Milan, Amsterdam, all over England, traveled around the US and more!

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Photo credit: Monica Gartner and Sam Patterson

We’ve also started an award-winning social media management company called Infinite Management. This has allowed us to travel, and spend longer periods of time with each other since we can work online… It’s saved our relationship! We also started a YouTube channel together. In a year, we’ve gained over 80,000 subscribers, and have millions of video views. We vlog the ups and downs of our long-distance relationship (LDR) – it’s definitely an emotional channel as I cry in so many videos, haha! (Our channel is Sam and Monica).

What are your non-negotiables for a strong and healthy relationship?

Trust and communication are our top non-negotiables. When being in a LDR (long distance relationship), you have to learn to trust your partner. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you don’t! Also, if you don’t communicate, the love will start to fade. You want to be with someone who puts in just as much effort as you do!

Follow them on Instagram: Monica Gartner and Sam Patterson
Subscribe to them on YouTube: Sam and Monica

 

Eric Kluge and Jan Figura

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Photo credit: Eric Kluge and Jan Figura

How did you first meet?

We first “met” on a platform for gay people. It was kinda like Grindr, but only available in Germany. Jan is truly convinced that he texted me first, but I’m not sure about that. We talked a lot online about our daily struggles, our coming-out-stories and what we want to achieve in the future. After a few weeks we had our first real date, cause we really wanted to see each other. We shared so many stories and feelings online and still didn’t know the other one in person.

What attracted you most to each other?

Eric: I really like Jan’s calm site, cause it sometimes helps me to come down. I’m a loud and talkable person, so it’s always good to have someone around who’s the complete opposite. I’m really in love with Jan’s crafty side too. It’s so impressive what things he built for our apartment. It makes our home more cozy and exciting to live in. And it’s so nice that you can talk to him about almost everything, cause he’s pretty clever and knows a lot. We had so many interesting conversations and I’m really grateful for that.

Jan: I just really love to be around Eric. I love his smile, I love his laugh. I even love his sad face, but only because I can make him happy again. But most of the time I love his positive attitude and that he is full of energy. I love that he brings so much color and ideas into my, and therefor our life. I love that he is always on my side no matter how grumpy I am or how many stupid ideas I have.

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Photo credit: Eric Kluge and Jan Figura

What did you do for your first date?

It was right after New Year’s Eve, when we had our first date. I visited Jan at his first apartment which he shared with a friend. It was so nice to finally see, hear and feel each other (not in a sexual way). We had pizza and watched “Black Swan” together.

I even stayed overnight but without sleeping, because we talked through the whole night.

I remember I took the first bus in the morning and was still so excited that I couldn’t sleep, when I was finally at home.

Do you have any other memorable and significant stories you would like to share?

We both were really excited when we first met each other’s family. They’re both very supportive and accept us 100 percent. We’re really lucky because we didn’t have to face any problems with our families after our coming-out. We even go on vacation with our families – it feels pretty normal. But we also travel a lot with just the two of us.

So, two very memorable moments were our proposals to each other.

Jan asked me first in our summer vacation on Corfu, Greece. It was pretty romantic. We had an amazing view over the ocean. The sun went down and Jan asked me if I want to marry him. Almost 7 months later I asked Jan the same question when we were in Denmark. We were at the beach and I sneaked some champagne in my backpack, so we could celebrate this moment. Eventually we both said ‘yes’ and now we’re planning our wedding in September. Exciting days are about to come.

What are your non-negotiables for a strong and healthy relationship?

You need to be honest with each other about everything, cause if there’s no trust it’s hopeless. It’s really important that you can talk about everything. There shouldn’t be any taboo or embarrassing things you don’t want to talk about. So honesty and openness are pretty non-negotiable for a strong and healthy relationship.

Follow them on Instagram: Couple Miles to Go
Learn more about their story: www.couplemilestogo.com

 

Jonathan Couch and Brooke Couch

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Photo credit: Brooke Couch and Jonathan Couch

How did you first meet?

We were both walking down the street in a part of Atlanta that neither of us lived near. So, instead of walking past silently, Brooke cups her hands around her mouth as if to make herself a tiny mega-phone and yells, “SOO HOT!”

So, Jonathan responded naturally to his behavior and kept on walking (but smiling silently to himself). This kind of interaction of walking past each other or running into each other became abnormally normal for us. After a couple months of “Hey, how are you? Good? Well, see you until I see you weirdly again.” I asked Jonathan out on our first date.

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Photo credit: Brooke Couch and Jonathan Couch

What attracted you most to each other?

Jonathan: Brooke was outspoken, said what she wanted to say (and I think at the time was smart enough to know what I wanted to hear. In a sweet way lol). I liked that she seemed to be on her own more so than most people. I never stayed close with people over the years. She seemed to have friends when we firrst met, but she talked in a way that I had lived my life up to that point. Not that she didn’t keep people close on purpose, but she was very cautious about who she let into her life, and more so I could relate to her and I loved our connection.

Brooke: It felt as if my soul had known his for years, and there was this connection and pull to Jonathan that I had never felt before. But overall what attracted me most is Jonathan is so kind and witty.

What did you do for your first date?

We went to Mellow Mushroom! Ya know because a pizza order can tell a lot about someone (jokes on me—Jonathan ended up ordering a sandwich). Like, does pineapple belong on pizza? Jonathan doesn’t judge me for loving pineapple on pizza.

What are your non-negotiables for a strong and healthy relationship?

Being able to be tell your person what’s going on for you, and be heard. In terms of why we see something, or feel something the way that we do. 

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Photo credit: Brooke Couch and Jonathan Couch

If there is a disconnect, we argue. Simple as that. And we do not always agree in any sense, which is okay! But being able to understand and listen to each other when we might see things differently is important.

It’s okay that the other person might feel differently than you do, but it’s important to be heard, listen, and give/get respect too.

Honesty, respect, vulnerability, and trust all go hand in hand with one another to us. We are each other’s best friends, and we want to encourage and celebrate each other!

Follow them on Instagram: Brooke Couch and Jonathan Couch
Hire Brook Couch for your wedding photography: www.brookemillerphotography.net

 

Katerina Stavreva and Yinon Horwitz

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Photo credit: Yinon and Katerina

How did you first meet?

We met while standing in line to get our salad on a lunch break in NYC about 3 years ago. I usually order my salad and come to pick it up, but that day my order didn’t go through and when I got there, I had to stand in line which was 20 minutes long. Luckily, Katerina was the one standing in front of me and I was not shy to talk to her.

What attracted you most to each other?

It’s that Stay Close Travel Far idea that we have about going far to meet and learn about other cultures and ideas while staying close to home, family, friends. Those are values we grew up and developed over the years that we both share. 

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Photo credit: Yinon and Katerina

What did you do for your first date?

Ohh, it took some time to convince Katerina to go out with me but when she agreed we went to a Mexican bar in the East Village in NYC. We both don’t drink a lot so after one cocktail we just took a walk to Washington Square Park and talked for hours.

Do you have any other memorable and significant stories you would like to share?

Wow we have so many! We traveled to 32 countries over the 33 months since we met each other. 

Leaving our high paying jobs to travel the world is definitely the best thing we ever did, we have memories for a lifetime.

Our most memorable trip would be the month we had in Australia in a van. Waking up everyday in a different place, on the beach, with Kangaroo’s, next to some really cool 80-year-old hippies. All was just incredible.

What are your non- negotiables for a strong and healthy relationship?

We believe that for a strong and healthy relationship you need to build strong foundations of 4 main legs—trust, communication, values and shared passions. This helps us every single day while traveling, and building our business together. 

Follow them on Instagram: Katerina and Yinon
Blog: Stay Close Travel Far

 

Kristen Brillantes and JP Reyes

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JP Reyes and Kristen Brillantes | Photo credit: Melissa de Mata

How did you first meet?

We met while being members of the same dance company. We were on separate teams — JP was on the mens team, Project EM, while Kristen was on the professional showcase team, Funkanometry. But the exact night we met was on a party bus, celebrating the birthday of one of the principal dancers.

What attracted you most to each other?

Definitely personality and sense of humor because we were friends first for a few years! But ultimately, we think it’s because we discovered we were compatible in a number of other ways like our love languages!

What did you do for your first date?

Originally Kristen didn’t know it was a date since we had been hanging out as friends for a while. I took her out for lunch at a lunch popup spot called Little Skillet. We had chicken and waffles.

Do you have any other memorable and significant stories you would like to share?

We’ve always tried to develop and nurture a relationship in a way that was authentic to us. We grew up with many people around us laying out rules that pre-determined what the dynamics of our relationship would be from start ’til death do us part. We knew it the advice (and warnings!) were always out of their own love, but they never quite felt right to us so we respectfully listened but then did what we felt was right.

A perfect example of this was how we decided to buy a food truck instead of getting married. We were getting a little bit of pressure to get married a few years ago. JP is more traditional and was eager to get to it, but as we did a bit of the forecasting of what a wedding would entail, Kristen decided to flip it and she bought a food truck instead! She jokes that she wanted to enter a business partner agreement before a life partner agreement. You can read more on that specific story on our food business blog: thesarapshop.com/journal.

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JP Reyes and Kristen Brillantes | Photo credit: Brooke Couch

What are your non-negotiables for a strong and healthy relationship?

  • Radical transparency in communication.
  • Commitment to intentional practices in relationship design FUN FUN FUN FUN FUN.

Follow them on Instagram: Kristen Brillantes and JP Reyes
Follow Kristen on Twitter: @by_knb
Kristen’s blog: By Knb
Find out where they will be serving delicious authentic Filipino food: The Sarap Shop

As the seven couples have shown, without a doubt, it is important to be each other’s cheerleader in life. Relationships are not necessarily about striving for perfection but knowing how to jump over puddles and cross oceans for each other no matter what life throws at you.

Afterthoughts

What is one lesson that you learnt from this article that you will apply into your own relationship?

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2 thoughts on “7 couples from around the world share what it takes to develop a strong and healthy relationship

  1. Hi Janet. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. You are absolutely right — all of the couples shared some incredible relationship advice that young and even older couples can benefit from.

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