Valentine’s Day is definitely one of the most romantic days of the year, if not the most romantic, and this year holds special significance to our community. In 2015, we will be celebrating Valentine’s Day for the very first time with marriage equality on the books in our state.

I took the time to find seven different couples from across the state and I talked to them about how they fell in love and what they would say to people who are looking for that special someone to enter their lives.

Couples-Love_1Julian Marsh, Fort Lauderdale DJ, and Traian Popov

How long have the two of you been together?

Since March 2011.

Tell us the story of how you met. Was it love at first sight?

Julian: We met at a friend’s party and all we did was say hello to each other and shake hands.  The next week, by coincidence, we were both invited to a pool party.  We sat with our feet in the pool and had an amazing conversation about life, politics and everything else we could think of to talk about.  We’ve been together ever since. We fell in love that day.

What’s the one thing you appreciate and treasure the most about your partner?

Julian: “Traian’s ability to forgive and move on.” Traian: “Julian’s generosity.”

What advice would you give to singles who are looking for their special someone?

Julian: “Stop looking so hard. When the right one is there, it will just happen.” Traian: “If you really want it, you’ll get it sooner or later.”

Cheryl Grieb, Osceola County Commissioner, and Patti Daugherty

How long have the two of you been together?

We have been together for over 22 years.

Tell us the story of how you met. Was it love at first sight?

Cheryl: We met at a dance club in downtown Orlando on a Saturday night. I had just asked this friend to dance as she was down in the dumps but she did not like the current song and said to wait for the next song.  Just then, Patti came up to me and asks me to dance.  I thought she was cute and so we go out on the dance floor.  Once the song was finished, I excused myself, not wanting to leave my friend who I just committed to dance with for the next song.  Patti thought I was blowing her off.  I later found her in the club and we exchanged phone numbers. That Wednesday, we went to dinner and talked a lot.  The more we talked, the more I found myself drawn to her and knew she was the one.

What’s the one thing you appreciate and treasure the most about your partner?

Patti: “That no matter what is going on with us in our lives, I know that I am the most important person in Cheryl’s life and that she loves me with all her heart.” Cheryl: “There are many things I treasure about Patti.  I love how she wakes up in the morning happy (I am NOT a morning person).  I love her thoughtfulness of others.  I love her playful side.  I love how she makes me laugh.  I treasure the fact that I can look over at her even now after 22 years and my heart still skips a beat.”

What advice would you give to singles who are looking for their special someone?

Patti: “Take a chance. Cheryl was the first person I even asked to dance and even though I was scared to death, I took the chance and this one worked out.” Cheryl: “Before you even go out and try to find someone, be secure with yourself and who you are and what you want out of life.  Don’t change because someone thinks that you should.  That is not being true to yourself.  You will find that special someone when the time is right for both of you.”

Don Price Johnston, Miami law firm office manager, and Jorge Diaz, paralegal

How long have the two of you been together?

We met five years ago through mutual friends. But we started dating two years ago and got engaged three weeks before the lawsuit started. That was a real whirlwind. When trying to decide where to get married, Jorge said, “We should get married in Florida. Between the two of us, it’s not like we don’t know enough lawyers.” [Jorge’s brother has his own firm and Don’s father is a former judge in north Florida.]

Tell us the story of how you met. Was it love at first sight?

Don: We were serving on a non-profit board together as president and vice president before we started dating. While there was an attraction, neither of us said anything about it. Then I got a message from a dating website (match.com) that said we were a 94% match for each other. We actually had a board meeting that night. I showed him the e-mail and said, “Wanna go for it?” Jorge just laughed out loud. When he regained his composure, he just smiled and said, “Well, are you going to actually ask me out on a date or just stand there?”

What’s the one thing you appreciate and treasure the most about your partner?

Don: “Jorge is an incurable romantic. He dreams up fantastic date ideas, surprises me with all kinds of romantic gestures, and makes it a point for me to know that I come first in his life. I guess that’s always what I wanted, someone to make me feel special.” Jorge: “Definitely his ass. But on a more serious note, I treasure his energy and enthusiasm.  It’s so hard to have a bad day when you’re married to Happy Feet.”

What advice would you give to singles who are looking for their special someone?

Jorge: “I didn’t think it was going to happen for me again. I was 45 and had serious relationships before that lasted many years that eventually didn’t work out. I dated a lot but just didn’t find love.  But my secret was never to give up no matter what.” Don: “Jorge and I never thought we would see marriage equality in our lifetime. And now we have won that right. If that is possible, then anything is. For all you know, the man of your dreams may be sitting next to you right now. Take a risk, ask him out.”

Don and Susan Granatstein, owners of Orlando’s Parliament House Resort

How long have the two of you been together?

We’ve been together for 29 years.

Tell us the story of how you met. Was it love at first sight?

Don: It wasn’t love at first sight.  We were just business partners [at first], then friends, then love came. [The process] took years.

What’s the one thing you appreciate and treasure the most about your partner?

Susan: “He has made my coffee every morning for 29 years.” Don: “She has been there through thick and thin.”

What advice would you give to singles who are looking for their special someone?

Susan: “Be friends first.” Don: “There has to be 100% trust before making a commitment.”

Couples-Love_5Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, Key West bartenders

How long have the two of you been together?

We have been together since June 10, 2003. Eleven years and eight months. We are about to celebrate our twelfth year.

Tell us the story of how you met. Was it love at first sight?

Aaron: We met at Bourbon Street Pub in Key West. Both of us were too shy to speak to each other. Our friend Donnie introduced us and we hit it off immediately. We moved in together our second week knowing each other.

What’s the one thing you appreciate and treasure the most about your partner?

Aaron: “What I appreciate and treasure the most about Lee is his honesty and openness to spiritual knowledge. Lee: “Aaron has always been there for me in good times and bad times, when I’ve been sick or sad.”

What advice would you give to singles who are looking for their special someone?

Love will come to you when you’re least expecting it.

Couples-Love_6Chuck Hunziker and Bob Collier, Fort Lauderdale

How long have the two of you been together?

We’ve been together now for 52 years.  We had the good fortune of meeting each other in NYC on the 4th of July, 1963, and have been living happily together as a “married couple” ever since. We were legally married in New York City on July 15, 2013, our 50th anniversary!

Tell us the story of how you met. Was it love at first sight?

Bob: It was love at first sight. We met at Jacob Riis Park, a gay beach in New York, and we spent the entire day together, ending our first day with a very romantic dinner that evening at the Finale Restaurant in Greenwich Village. Two weeks later, I moved into Chuck’s apartment on New York City’s East Side. We resided in Manhattan for the next 22 years.

What’s the one thing you appreciate and treasure the most about your partner?

Chuck: “Bob is truly the love of my life — my soulmate. I am still in love with the man I met 52 happy years ago. He is honest, sincere, and always happy to help someone in need. I am so fortunate to have such a brilliant, handsome, kindhearted man as my partner for the past 52 years!”  Bob: “Chuck has been always there to nurture me, not only in being able to provide wonderful food for my body, but more importantly, his compassionate love and understanding provides sustenance to my soul. Chuck brings to our relationship his wonderful sense of of humor and his sense of style, from his skills in design to his love of art and music. He has and continues to open my eyes and my heart to ever-expanding vistas that continue to make our love and respect for each other stronger each day of our lives.”

What advice would you give to singles who are looking for their special someone?

Bob: “We both believe that anything truly worthwhile in life is well worth the effort. It involves respect for each other, as well as a sense of humor, and sometimes forgiveness. Love is like an investment. Both require careful planning, attention, and thoughtful contribution. In the end, the rewards are immeasurable!”

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Mike Halterman
Mike Halterman has been the editor of Hotspots Central since its launch in July 2016. He joined the Hotspots Media Group family as editor of Hotspots' South Florida magazine in June 2013. A former "40 Under 40" honoree in The Advocate magazine, Mike lives in the Tampa Bay area.