“The trip was a wash—but we still had an incredible time!”
Case history: “I was on vacation in Bermuda with my girlfriend. Terrible weather kept us stuck inside nearly the whole time. But somewhere between ordering pizza and watching movies, I realized that I was having a phenomenal time anyway. It didn’t matter what we were doing, I just loved being with her. I knew after that trip that I was going to propose.”
—Doug Schulein, Newport Beach, CA
Love lesson: When you’ve met your match, everything’s a blast! “The best way to tell if you’re compatible is to be somewhere alone without people or distractions,” says Sam R. Hamburg, Ph.D., author of Will Our Love Last? “If you’re having a great time just with each other’s company, that’s a very good sign.” Hamburg warns that couples who spend most of their courtship around other people may find that they have very little to talk about when they’re away from a group. Make sure you can exist “alone” as a couple.
“It was love at first fight”
Case history: “Ironically, it was our first argument that made me realize we clicked as a couple. One night when my boyfriend and I were newly dating, we had a dilly of a disagreement on the phone. But instead of hanging up, my boyfriend made me stay on the line for four hours until we’d worked through it and communicated our sides fairly. His rule was ‘never go to sleep angry’ and by sticking to that we were able to move forward rather than break up. Now we’re engaged.”
—Regina Petruzzi, Reston, VA
Love lesson: How you deal during your low points means a lot. “The key to dealing with the lows is riding them out with your partner, as Regina’s boyfriend insisted on doing, rather than running away from them,” says Hamburg. “The main reason couples’ fights don’t resolve is because they can’t stand the anxiety that comes from finding themselves in conflict with the person they love.” That’s why couples who can deal with tiffs without losing their heads have it made.
“We needed to break up to realize we were right for each other”
Case history: “Kerry and I had dated on and off for a while before breaking up for nine months. One day during that time, I happened to read an article in the New York Times about Einstein’s brain. In an instant, I thought: 1) She must have read the article because she always read the paper, and 2) If we were together right now we would have had an interesting conversation about it. In that moment, I missed her intensely and thought maybe I’d made a mistake letting her go. That was the beginning of my journey back to the woman who’s now my wife.”
—Adam Heller, New York, NY
Love lesson: Absence can make the heart grow fonder. Breaking up with someone doesn’t always mean it’s over. After a hiatus, many couples reunite and are stronger than ever, having gained a newfound perspective on their relationship and appreciation for its strengths, says Hamburg. So if an ex you haven’t talked to or even thought about in months or years suddenly enters your mind, don’t discount it as a fluke. Fate could be trying to tell you something. Maybe it’s time to make that call or compose that email.
“Wow, she actually liked my odd sense of humor!”
Case history: “Not long after we met, Molly and I were on a drive and spotted a huge pond. Molly commented that for the frogs who lived there it must feel like the Great Lakes. So doing my best Gordon Lightfoot I sang — to the tune of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald — ‘The legend lives on from the bullfrogs on down, of the big lake they call Ribbit-goomie.’ We laughed until we were crying. At that moment, I knew that someone who likes my humor and doesn’t think it’s completely dorky is the person I had to marry.”
—Winfield Cline, Spokane, WA
Love lesson: Those who laugh together, last together. Sure, we all know that someone who makes us giggle is gold. But it’s not just because it’s fun to have our own personal Seinfeld. “It means you ‘get’ each other,” says Hamburg. “That means that when you hit a rough spot—and all relationships do from time to time—you can laugh about that together as well, and strengthen your bond.”
“I was terrified—and my thoughts turned to her”
Case history: “I knew that Heidi was The One after I ended up in the ER with horrible pains in my abdomen that led to surgery. When I woke up after the operation, I realized the person I wanted to see more than anyone was my girl! Realizing that the face I wanted to see was Heidi’s definitely sealed the deal.” —Scott McLeod, Costa Mesa, CA
Love lesson: A crisis can be a big wake-up call. Traumatic experiences, big or small, can often snap people from casual relationship status into true love mode. If no one — not even your friends or family — can offer you solace like the person you’re seeing, that’s a clear sign your relationship has legs. “Sometimes the most important reason we click with a person is that we feel a sense of safety with that person,” says Hamburg. “While we may not be compatible with them in some ways, we have a deep certainty that they want to make sure we always have the emotional supplies we most need.”
Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a New York City-based writer and performer whose work has appeared in such publications as Marie Claire, Fitness, and Prevention.