How one married couple keeps the flame burning.
Marco and Danielle met eight years ago, and they finally tied the knot a year ago. They’ve both been through the wringer of dating the wrong people, going down the wrong roads, and now, anyone that knows this couple, knows that they are very close and very much in love, and after eight years, there is no loss in passion.
We wanted to interview the couple to see what their secret is. They were kind enough to share with us what works for them. As you read their interview, notice how they are similar in many respects, yet different in others, but find a middle ground to communicate through. This is one of the keys to their relationship, as you will read below. We hope this inspires you to never give up in finding that right person for you, or if you are already in a relationship, we hope you find this inspires you to make your relationship even better…
So Marco and Danielle, let’s go back to the beginning. How did you meet?
Danielle: Marco and I met on August 8, 2008, at a speed-dating event hosted by “Date and Dash,” which was being held at Duvet, a trendy bar that was previously featured on Sex and the City. I had read about speed-dating in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, two years prior. The book featured speed-dating as a more efficient way of dating because, according to a study done by Columbia University, you only need about five minutes to gauge whether or not there’s an attraction, so why waste an entire evening on a date with someone if you could tell within a few minutes that you don’t have any chemistry.
I had read the book in 2006, but this sentiment really stuck with me! Though my friends had expressed interest in passing, no one ever came through in the end, so I decided on that day that I would go alone to check it out. Eight happened to be my lucky number, and this event was scheduled for 8/8/08 at 8:00 p.m.! I had to go!
Having arrived at the event early, I had two shots of whiskey and sat down at one of the little two-top tables the organizers had set up. Every five minutes, a bell would ring, and the next guy would sit down across from me. Most of the five-minute “speed dates” were unremarkable. When Marco came over and sat down, we introduced ourselves, and he asked me what I’m most passionate about, or something like that. When I said, “I’m into art,” and shared that I was teaching art to middle school students at the time, Marco told me that he was into art, too! He insisted that he wanted to do a quick portrait of me right then and there.
On the back of my little “Date and Dash” report card (where you check yes or no for each person you’re meeting), he went to work on my portrait, looking very focused and keeping it hidden so that he could surprise me at the end. After a couple of minutes, he unveiled his work. It was a badly drawn stick figure (sorry to say, being a former art teacher and all!). He looked so serious that I wasn’t sure if this was for real. I looked at it and said, “Why do I only have one leg?” To which he replied, “Because I’m planning on drawing in the other leg the next time I see you!” It was hilarious, and we laughed a lot over the remaining couple of minutes, which went by way too quickly! Time flies when you’re having fun, right?
And what made each of you stand out to one another? What made him/her different? And how did you know that he/she was the one?
Danielle: The first thing that stood out was his laid-back personality and his ability to make me laugh. I soon discovered his quiet thoughtfulness, his incredible listening skills that seem to take all of me in…and his affectionate nature (Being from an Italian family, I’m also very sensual and passionate, so that last part made me feel right at home). Also, it was (and still is) extra sexy to see how brilliant and well-read he is… and we never run out of things to talk about!
The test of time passing, with Marco remaining in my corner, always seeing and inspiring the best in me, confirmed that we could grow in the same direction and build a future together. Marriage was never something we needed, but it was something I realized I wanted, so Marco indulged me and proposed to me.
Marco: Danielle had the biggest smile in the room, by far. Maybe it was just the whiskey talking, but it radiated from across the room, and as soon as I sat down, I felt it overwhelm me…like a punch in the chest. After she laughed at all my high school jokes, I knew she was special. I was feeling a little under the weather that night, so I didn’t stick around. But the feeling I got when I first sat down with her made a big impression on me, and I had to follow that powerful feeling and get to know her better.
Can you please tell us about your love life before meeting each other? What challenges did you face in finding the right person to be your lifelong love?
Marco: My previous relationships were mostly short-term. But, at the same time, I wasn’t really looking for anything long-term. At a certain point, I became more open to long-term relationships, but that still didn’t lead to any long-term relationships. The challenge for me was that I always believed in taking the dating process one day at a time, because expectation is the biggest relationship killer.
What changed for me was that I also got really clear on what I was looking for, and then I stopped dating any girls that didn’t meet those qualities, whether it was for only three dates or one date. I decided I only wanted to date girls that had long-term potential, because the dating game was getting repetitive, and I felt too busy to play “Groundhog Day” every time I went out with a girl. If a girl was positive, open minded, spiritual, affectionate, and had a good sense of humor, then I knew there was long-term potential. I had some other specific criteria, but my focus was on the quality of values rather than the résumé criteria like height, weight, ethnicity, age, etc. This left me more flexibility in the types I usually dated and also kept me focused on the inner qualities that make a healthy, sustainable relationship.
Once I did that, I met Danielle right away.
Danielle: My first relationship was amazing…It took place during high school and lasted almost two years. What made it great was that we focused on the good in one another, inspired each other to be our best selves, and we even were mature enough to give one another space to grow. There was so much respect, trust and love there that we are friends to this day!
Few relationships after this measured up to my first experience (with the exception of Marco, of course). It took a lot of failed relationships to come back around. I hit rock bottom in my 20s, when I had dated an emotionally abusive, narcissistic type for several years. This experience left me with a very clear picture of what I didn’t want in a relationship. Afterwards, I took a couple of years to just enjoy being single. Going forward, I knew I’d be able to spot someone like my ex a mile away! With that, I cautiously started dating again.
In 2007, at 29 years old, I experienced three failed relationships that were all about three to four months long. I realized later that I had gotten emotionally attached to each of these guys way too quickly, falling in love with who I thought the guy was, as opposed to who the guy actually was. Once too many emotions are involved, it creates a rose-colored filter over everything that person says or does, and this makes it more difficult to see things as they truly are.
I learned through experience that it takes time for people to show themselves to you, so it behooves you to proceed slowly until a clearer picture of who they really are can develop. Everyone is on their best behavior at first, so be careful about letting your guard down too soon. I met Marco a year later, and I can say for sure that taking things slowly in the relationship department helped us to build a strong, long-lasting bond.
What was it like in the beginning? What made this relationship different than the previous relationships you’ve had?
Danielle: We took things really slowly at first, though the time we spent together was always very passionate and real. In between our date nights, we let enough time pass so that we missed each other and looked forward to the next time we’d get to see each other. We texted a lot in between, though, and occasionally talked on the phone. The frequency of our visits increased after the first six months of dating, after which we spent every weekend together. It was different with Marco because he was very compassionate, respectful of my time and space, and extremely trusting…not to mention how passionate our connection was. Bonus points for how sweet he was to his mother.
Marco: As we dated more, her positive energy and fun personality only got better and better. I quickly fell in love with her adorable smile, her warm heart, her affectionate touch, and spiritual strength. Most women in New York were jaded or already judgmental of me based on men they dated before me. They had too many expectations, for better or for worse. But we always gave each other lots of space to be ourselves and got to know each other without any of that. We always took it one day at a time.
She also made me happy to be around her, and it was easy to make her happy. I’m a sucker for a pretty smile, and her smile always melts my heart. I think it’s important for a partner to feel like they can make the other happy. At least for men, I know it’s especially true.
For both of you, did either of you have any role models for your relationship?
Danielle: My parents don’t have the best relationship, but they’ve stuck it out through thick and thin for 48 years (52 if you count the four years they dated before getting married). One thing my parents do well is work together (in real estate) and socialize together, as well. They have a few great friends who they’ve known since the 60s and they still get together regularly for dinners and dances. They also host a lot of dinner parties and they LOVE cooking together.
What’s amazing, though, is how there’s always more to learn, even after that much time. There’s still jealousy sometimes,and they still argue, though they’ve recently learned how to communicate better with each other.
Everyone likes a little variety every now and then; it’s natural. You just have to be honest about it so that everyone is on the same page and both people could work together to spice things up.
Marco: My dad was always extremely giving, generous, and forgiving, and I definitely try to remember that and honor that part of him in our relationship. But on the opposite side of that relationship, there were many relationship boundary issues my parents had, and I think I try to be mindful about that, too. It’s important to know what’s worth fighting for and what needs to be minimized for the sake of harmony and peace. Compromise on the things that don’t matter, but be very clear on what really matters.
For both again, what do you think the keys are to your successful relationship?
Danielle: A relationship requires work…time and attention. If you go to work and you don’t do your job, you’ll get fired, or your business will lose money. It’s sort of like that with relationships, too. If you don’t make quality time for it, it will start to die or become dysfunctional. A mutual spirit of giving (without expecting anything in return) is also crucial.
The following things work for us, which is not to say that they’ll work for everyone, but I hope you’ll find some of these points helpful:
- Open communication (There’s more on this below).
- Shared visions, values and goals. It’s a good idea to find these things out fairly early! For example, it can be frustrating to find that, after five dates, the other person isn’t actually looking for a relationship, if that’s something you’re after (and yes, this happened to me once). Or, to find out after a month that the other person is looking for someone in the same religion or culture, or maybe it’s someone who wants kids when you don’t, etc. Finding these things out sooner than later has proven to work best for me, personally, when it comes to building long-term relationships.
- Individual goals, to which each person holds the other accountable.
- Laughing together – at ourselves and each other; finding the humor in things, even during difficult moments.
- Scheduling quality time together every week. Marco and I vow to never stop dating each other, and we do well at planning our dates. This week, we’re doing a wine tasting event at our local art museum on Thursday night, and then we’re going on a double date to a Korean BBQ cooking class on Saturday afternoon. We’re also looking forward to a yacht party for my birthday at the end of the month.
- Scheduling alone time every week. I’ve found that if I’m not fulfilling myself first, there isn’t much left over to bring to my relationship. Scheduling this time is important…If it’s not scheduled, it will likely not happen as planned.
- Maintaining relationships with friends and family outside the relationship with your partner.
Marco: Everything above is what really matters to us. And everything outside of that is an exercise in letting go of those things. Many times, learning to let go of the little things is the hardest thing to do for me. Part of the reason I don’t like the whole marriage institution is because it brings people to overgeneralize. If he’s this bad with X, how’s it going to be when we’re married for 20 years? No. X is just bad for that one moment in time and it does not equal the entire relationship. I always try to remember: “Don’t make this mean the entire relationship.” Keeping those little things in perspective is how we handle 80 percent of our problems.
One thing we always do is affectionate touching. I’m always stroking her, holding her hand, petting her leg, squeezing her or have a hand on her somehow. It maintains our connection and many people comment on that. When people say we still act like newlyweds after eight years, that’s what it seems like they’re keyed into the most.
How do you both handle disagreements?
Especially if it’s something small, we do our best to laugh it off. We have a lot of inside jokes that keep the little things from getting bigger. If we can make each other laugh, it helps put things in perspective. Aside from laughing through our issues, open communication is number one in handling disagreements for us. If it’s more serious, one of us will go into another room to cool off, and then we’ll reconvene later on to talk about it. This keeps us from saying anything that we’ll later regret. We have never resorted to nasty name-calling in the eight years we’ve been together. Also, we try to never go to bed angry. I think that’s happened maybe twice since we’ve known each other.
Now that you have found each other, what is the key for both of you to maintaining this relationship long-term?
In our experience, the “master key” to maintaining a long-term relationship is strong communication and making your partner your best friend. In the spirit of keeping an honest and open communication, we recently brought back our “weekly meetings,” in which we create a safe space to talk about anything on our minds and sort of debrief on the previous week. This is more of a preventative measure so that we get things out in the open before they ever get the chance to fester. We do our best to divvy up day-to-day domestic responsibilities clearly so that we avoid silly household-related spats as much as possible. We also use this time to plan our menu and social calendar for the upcoming week. Every month, we revisit our goals (both relationship goals and individual goals) in order to stay on track and keep each other accountable. Every few years, we also revisit our relationship vision and values, which are currently as follows:
RELATIONSHIP VISION – Our relationship Vvsion is to inspire one another to become our best selves, enjoy deep and strong intimacy, grow together, have fun, and nurture each other on a regular basis.
– To meet weekly, on Sundays
– To create closeness
– To create a safe space for open communication
– To track progress: successes, and challenges in meeting each other’s needs, values, visions, and/or goals; [to] address what’s working and what isn’t working
– Revisit goals on the first Sunday of each month.
– Schedule time together: dates and/or special events
– Discuss menu options for the week (at least three)
- Spirituality, gratitude, and joy
- Commitment, integrity, and honesty
- Optimal health and wellness
- Love, respect, and compassion
- Intimacy and openness
- Sex and sensuality
- Fun, adventure, and learning
Any last words?
This was fun and enlightening! Thank you for including us.
Well, we hope you found this interview as enlightening as Marco and Danielle did! It occurs to us that this interview “exercise” in itself can build closeness, so you may want to interview your loved one in the same way. Who knows? You might find out something interesting about them that you didn’t know, or better yet, something you didn’t know about yourself! Have fun with it and let us know how it works for you.
Like this story? Tell us what you think below.