Meet 10 incredible couples and hear the fascinating stories behind the start of their relationships. (McKenna Ewen/The Washington Post)

Each couple had it when they sat down on the sofa at Room & Board to tell us their love story. The glow, the smile, the adoring look on their faces. Some held hands, most sat close together, all of them kissed.

On two evenings in January, the Post Magazine set up a video camera at the furniture store on 14th Street in Northwest Washington and asked people to tell us the story of the love of their lives.

Paul and Sabrina had dated only six months but shared the same passionate look as Kathy and Tom, married 44 years, and Alan and Carol, married 36 years. Julu’s love, Raphael, is thousands of miles away, and they share a long-distance romance. What makes their story the same as the older couples’? They share respect, trust and companionship.

Some stories weren’t so traditional, like that of Meg and the love she has for her dog, Arlo. Seems as if they are always together, she says, and that makes her happy. Therrell, 98, says her children and young relatives are her greatest loves.

Love can be anything. But it’s wonderful when you can share it with someone.

— Suzette Moyer


(Matt McClain/For The Washington Post)

Salima and John Appiah-Duffell

Rockville, Md.

They met as volunteer workers in Malawi and have been married three years. They are expecting their first child.

Salima: We met at a Peace Corps Halloween party.

John: I was a priest and she was a Freudian slip. She came up and said to me, “I haven’t laid eyes on you before.” ... We had our first kiss that night. We did not ease into a friendship.

Salima: [The wedding] was September of 2012. Perfect weather. We had crystal blue sky. Our families were happy.

John: Our love works because we both have a very odd sense of humor.

Salima: Yes, because we’re both
weird. We go with each other on flights of fancy. If I invent a backstory for our cabdriver, like he’s actually a spy, he’ll talk about who he’s going to take out and how.

John: We do a thing almost every night, it’s just a nice way to wrap up the day. We’ll ask each other, “What did you like today?”

Salima: It’s just a way of checking in and always listening. ... The last thing you do before you go to sleep is something positive.

John: It’s the little mundane things that make the days count. ... She’s one of the most true-hearted people I know. Just the way she approaches everything completely genuinely.

Salima: I love John because he is more than I ever knew I wanted. I got super lucky with this one, and I feel it every day.


Sarah Burghart and Josh Weiss

Washington

The two lawyers are getting married July 3.

Josh: We met in the security line at the federal courthouse in Detroit. We were working for different judges. She thought I might be gay; I thought she was too cool for school because she wouldn’t return any of my flirty text messages.

Sarah: I was working.

Josh: Without her knowing, I had purchased a ring and started making arrangements. I wanted to do it at the cherry blossoms last year. With flying family members out, I had to pick a date and hope the blossoms would cooperate. I picked a day in March. Around January winter got real cold. That slowed down the cherry blossoms. When it gets to March there were no cherry blossoms. I found a blog that identified three cherry blossom trees that had blossomed. I worked it with my brother to strategize where he’d be with the camera, where we’d stand. Sarah was getting ready to go to trial. I convinced her to get up at the crack of dawn and go down there.

Sarah: I was really just humoring him. I thought, I’ll throw him a bone — he really wants these pictures.

Josh: Out of nowhere I dropped to one knee and proposed.

Sarah: He is not mentioning, though, that his favorite game for about a year and a half was to fake-out propose. We’d be in a semi-romantic setting and he’d start to get on one knee and then say, “Just kidding!”

Josh: The first few frames are of her pulling her hand back. I said, no, actually this is the real one. Starting the day the ring arrived and ending the day I proposed, I wrote her a little letter each day and tied them up with a ribbon and gave them to her to take with to trial so she could read them.

Sarah: It’s like 45 letters. ... It’s really, really sweet to look back on. ... I love Josh because I’ve never not laughed one day since I’ve been with him.

Josh: I love Sarah because she laughs at my jokes.


(Screen grab by McKenna Ewen)

Tom and Kathy Price

Washington

They met on the school bus when he was 16 and she was 14. They married in 1972 after college. Their wedding day:

Kathy: It was Hurricane Agnes. ... Friends didn’t make it, even the photographer didn’t make it because of the flooding. It was an auspicious beginning to a great marriage. ... I love that he has a lot of courage and he’s strong. And we’re so happy. We have three wonderful adult children and lots and lots of great times.

Tom: The amount of dedication and support in bringing together the two of us first, and then our three children and the rest of the family. She has been the rock we have built this relationship on.

Kathy: Play together, talk together, be each other’s very best friend.

Tom: It’s not a forever thing that you can measure and hold in your hand. It grows with you, it changes you. It changes into the way of life you want to be.

Kathy: What helps our relationship is to be part of the vibrance of the current world and to take on challenges and adventures with our children, with each other and to hold to our deep-down values.


Carol and Alan Binstock

Mount Rainier, Md.

They have been married 36 years and knew each other six.

Carol: We met at Satchidananda’s Ashram in Pomfret Center, Connecticut.

Alan: We were children of the ’60s and ... became yogis. We were friends in that I had come there and was in the process of separating from my current wife, and we had a child. She was my son’s preschool teacher. I know that sounds tawdry, but we were good friends at first and there was a moment we knew we’d be together.

Carol: We took a walk down a country road. That was our first date, getting to know each other differently from just living in an ashram with 60 people.

Alan: Fresh-mown hay, a big moon, a farmyard.

Carol: And lots of cows. [First kiss?] I kissed him. It was the first time I ever got struck with Cupid’s arrow in my life.

Alan: A hint for all you kids out there: Daily showers work. [Laughs.]

Carol: We got married in the meditation room.

Alan: Everybody was there. Our families came up from New York. Cream on the cake was made from a Jersey cow. Carol: All the children in the grade school — 25 strong — made up the aisle that I walked down.

Alan: My son was the ring bearer, the little pillow boy. She made my wedding shirt, sort of a peasant shirt, a silk shirt. A friend, one of the parents made her dress. At the time we were living like monks — we were getting $20 a month. The parents of one of the children wrote a chamber piece and performed it for us. It was an enchanted event, very special.

Carol: We finally came to the conclusion that there’s no right and there’s no wrong. There just is. What we brought to the marriage is what we brought to the marriage and had nothing to do with us. There has to be clarity about who you are and who your partner is in that marriage, not what you brought to the marriage.

Alan: Karma yoga is a big part of it, which is service. The purpose of being together was also to serve each other, to really be there for each other. If you’re not ready to put aside your needs first, you’re not ready to be married.

Carol: Both of us meet in the heart — him with his art and me with my heart. ... Be yourself as much as you can. Don’t ever give yourself over, even for love. Stay true to yourself.

Alan: It’s an organism you birth, the marriage. You have to kind of recognize that there’s a bit of a surrender to this other entity which you become ... giving it what it needs. ... Part of the problem [today] is that we don’t enter marriage for higher reasons. We just think there’s a connection and we sort of just roll into it. ... It takes a lot more.


Sabrina Gillman-Basave

Alexandria

Paul Christian Brown

Takoma Park

They have been dating five months .

Paul: I actually met her online. We had a lot in common. On our first date we went to several different places — I met her at 8, and we probably hung out until 2 in the morning, just going from place to
place, we were having so much fun together.

Sabrina: Our communication back and forth online was really good. He had really thoughtful things to ask. My area I work in is kind of complicated, and I always thought he’d researched it before. He asked really good questions.

Paul: We always start our days telling each other how we care for each other and what we mean to each other. ... We’ve been thinking about getting a place together.

Sabrina: What are your nonnegotiables?

Paul: I need a parking space. Whether we’re going to have pets? I have a dog now, full of hair.

Sabrina: It’s a very cute dog. We’ll need to brush him more.

Paul: She’s very PDA focused, constantly holding hands. I’m more reserved. I find myself pecking, kissing all the time. We actually sit on the same side when we go to restaurants.

Sabrina: Definitely challenge yourself to go out with people you might not normally choose or go out with. Online dating is like shoe-shopping, so you can put in everything you want — how much money, what kind of work — and that’s all fine and great, but try someone you think you might not have that much connection with. The more I kept talking to you the more I thought this is something I have to have.

Paul: Step out of your comfort zone. Be honest with yourself. Be thoughtful with whom you’re talking to as well. It may seem like a game, but these are people’s lives that you’re dealing with. Make sure you have an honest connection. It was boom, boom, boom, and we found things to do in the middle of the night.


(Screengrab by McKenna Ewen)

Sara Vaughn and Chris Blankenship

Washington

They met four years ago through a mutual friend in high school.

Sara: Our first date was we went to the movies. Our first kiss was at school. Best date, at the Screeching Weasel show we went to at the Howard Theatre.

Chris: We ended up waltzing in the mosh pit. ... [The relationship] started because of music and just kind of blew up from there. We like the same TV shows, movies, art.

Sara: We were both big into the German program in high school. He had got me a promise ring, a silver promise ring with my name and his name engraved into it, and it had both of our birthstones.

Chris: I like numbers, and we started dating on the 14th day of the second month, so 7 — 14 divided by 2 — and I did a week where each day I gave her a different gift, and on the seventh day I gave her her promise ring. ... [Advice:] You’re going to fight. Stuff’s going to happen. You just have to work through it. Be honest.

Sara: We’re always there for each other.


Emily McDonald and Ben Kline

Seniors at Penn State

They are high school sweethearts who have been dating seven years.

Ben: We have a lot of shared interests, and that’s what’s kept us going. Like she’s really into music, and I like to sing.

Emily: We’ve gotten a chance to grow together, and I can’t imagine not being together.

Ben: I love Emily because she’s got this wonderful ability to go with the flow and doesn’t take anything super seriously.

Emily: I love Ben because he’s really funny. I feel like even if I’m having the worst day ever, I can count on him always to make me laugh. ... You just work at [relationships] and you learn what makes you guys great and try to always put the emphasis on that.

Ben: I couldn’t agree more.

Julu Katticaran, Washington: She met her boyfriend at Princeton University, and they’ve had a long-distance relationship for three years. They Skype every weekend and meet every three or four months.

Julu: When you don’t have the person present with you physically, that’s you when you realize the value of the relationship. I would say the best thing is you learn to value that person and your time with that person. The best thing about Rafael is the fact that he’s always been supportive. I read a lot of Sheryl Sandberg, and I read about women who’ve made it right at the top of their careers, and they say half of your success is having a partner who is supportive. He is phenomenal at it. He’s told me a couple of times I add spice to his life. You need to learn how to trust each other.


Meg Taylor and dog Arlo

Washington

We’ve been together seven years. Our kids left home and went to college and off to work, and my husband works late — and Arlo’s my buddy. We’ve spent a lot of time together, walking D.C. This love story is an unlikely one. Arlo is everything I did not want in a male: big, hairy, white hair. He has been an awesome companion to everyone. If someone is sick, Arlo’s there. If someone needs to walk off some frustration, Arlo’s the guy. We all love him. Your dog loves you unconditionally.

Therrell Smith, age 98

Washington

The greatest love? What’s made my life such a happy one is working with children. I am a ballet teacher. I’ve been teaching for 67 years. I am still teaching and still enjoying it. I think part of my long life has been working with children. That’s my passion. They are the love of my life, and my family. ... The most important word in my vocabulary is “love.”

E-mail us at wpmagazine@washpost.com.

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