Love is

Local couple and love experts share advice for lasting relationships

Written by Julie Schillings | Photoraphy by Tobie Andrews Photography

According to the love experts those who research love and those who are living examples of enduring relationships successful marriages have a few common threads running throughout: respect, kindness and generosity.

Fawn Weaver, bestselling author of "Happy Wives Club," traveled to 12 countries interviewing happily married couples about their secrets to success. After interviewing 10,000 couples, Weaver's research identifies six practices that happy partners have in common, and the number one key to lasting relationships across the globe is mutual respect.

Marriage therapist and author David Hawkins agrees. "Mutual respect is a foundation for any relationship," he said. "While infusing our relationships with respect may be challenging, and at times hard to define, it is critical for any healthy relationship"

In addition to the research from respected professionals, one local couple shares their personal love story, proving that "happily ever after" does exist in real life.

Teri and Michael Monteferrante

When Teri and Michael met at a wedding in 1988, little did they know that more than a decade later they would reconnect and eventually fall in love.

Teri was married at the time, and Michael was living on the east coast. Years later, while visiting his parents in Boise, Michael learned that Teri had been widowed. He was recently divorced, but had no interest in contacting Teri, despite encouragement from their mutual friend who had slipped Teri's telephone number into Michael's pocket. Plus, Teri lived in San Francisco and Michael lived in New Jersey. Crazy right? Maybe not.

The Monteferrante's love story wouldn't exist if Michael hadn't decided to unfold the paper in his pocket and dial Teri's number. "I called and left her a message on her machine," Michael says, "but she never called me back." Teri grins. "Eventually I reached her, and we talked for hours," explains Michael. A bi-coastal relationship had sprouted. "For the next six weeks, we talked on the phone, almost daily," says Teri. Conversation came easily, and the two quickly began developing feelings for one another.

"Love, support and respect" Teri & Michael Monteferrante

"His sense of humor, and he has a big heart," Teri shares as the things that most attracted her to Michael. "We really got to know each other before we spent much time together. We were uninterrupted and focused."

All of that intimacybuilding phone time eventually led to a cross country flight. As Teri's airplane taxied to the gate, Michael anticipated seeing the woman he met at a wedding many years ago and for whom he had recently developed strong feelings.

"She's just a wonderful person, and I knew from the first time she visited me in New Jersey, that I wanted to marry her," admits Michael. "You did?" asks Teri. Michael nods with a smile.

Over the years and from across the country, Teri and Michael's relationship strengthened. And the couple decided to introduce their young children Teri's two sons, Gianni and Vincent, and Michael's daughter, Lia to one another. "The kids were great together," says Michael, "and I really respected what a great mom Teri was to her boys."

The perfect proposal, fireworks and broken ribs

In July 2002, the couple planned a family vacation to Ft. Lauderdale. Michael had designed an engagement ring for Teri, and when the time was right, he planned to propose. Teri had injured her ribs in a parasailing accident and was relaxing in their condo, when Michael, Lia, Gianni and Vincent approached. "It was important that I got the kids blessing before proposing," explains Michael. The children were ecstatic, but no-one was happier than Teri.

Less than a year later, Teri and Michael exchanged their vows in Niagara Falls. The intimate ceremony was witnessed by their children, and the Monteferrantes became a party of five.

A career opportunity brought the family from their home in upstate New York to Wichita in 2003, and after a few relocations, Michael and Teri are here to stay. "Wichita is where we raised our family," Teri says that she will always consider it her home.

Secrets to success

It shouldn't be any secret, explains Michael, who is the president and CEO of Envision, that good communication is important in any relationship in business, and especially in marriage.

Supporting each other's individual interests is something Teri and Michael value. And their time together is filled with laughter and adventure. "We love to travel and entertain," says Teri. "She's a great cook," adds Michael, "and I'm great at eating."

The children have grown and moved from home to pursue their careers and advance their education, but when they return to visit, they enjoy spending time with Teri and Michael. "They like hanging out with us," says Michael. And that says a lot about the loving, welcoming atmosphere in the Monteferrante home.

In May, Teri and Michael will celebrate their 14th anniversary and when asked what is their secret to a strong marriage, the couple quickly agrees. "Love, support and respect," according to the Monteferrantes are the keys to a successful marriage.

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