Happily ever afters really exist

What makes love a success? We talk to three couples, working in similar fields, to find out the secrets behind their love.

Avi Kewalramani and his wife Mel Hurst have been together for 18 years. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Avi Kewalramani and his wife Mel Hurst have been together for 18 years. Photo / Sarah Ivey

NGAHUIA AND MARC

Ngahuia Williams, a model and director of agency N Model Management, and Marc Moore, creative director of Stolen Girlfriends Club, have known each other for nine years, and have been together for 11 months.

How did you meet?

Ngahuia: The first time we met was on a photo shoot over seven years ago at Piha for an American T-shirt brand. Marc drove me home from the shoot (just friendly); I thought he was a nice guy.

Marc: We were both "the talent". Ngahuia was the hot smokin' babe and I was the surfer guy.

What did you think of your partner before you got together?

Ngahuia: He was someone I happened to know but not that well - I thought he was great at his job, and the times that we had chatted, I thought he was a nice, funny guy.

Marc: I thought she was super hot but a little staunch and a bit scary. I'd always see her at Fashion Week, in shows, at parties and stuff and would always say hey, but nothing more than that. It wasn't until we bumped into each other one night at a bar a few months before we started dating, that I got to know her better. We just had a really good chat and I came away thinking she was pretty cool.

What do you love or admire most about your partner?

Ngahuia: He is very good at staying calm in stressful situations, also I love that he can talk to anyone no matter who or where he is and people are always attracted to his topics of conversation. I also love his generosity.

Marc: She never nags me, she always just lets me do my thing and she is so down to earth. She is very independent and has her own thing going on which I find super-attractive. Oh, and she has a secret obsession with cocktail sausages which is kinda cute.

What annoys or irritates you about them?

Ngahuia: That his memory is really awesome, it's too awesome.

Marc: She can be indecisive, but then so can I - so I guess we are both annoying sometimes.

What is your earliest memory of your partner?

Ngahuia: I had a really cool time on our first date. We ran around the city from place to place and spent the whole night talking about so many different topics that interested us both. I can't really explain it but it was super-cool.

Marc: Our first date was so cool. We went for a drink at a bar and I remember being so nervous. We talked for hours and ended up bar-hopping around town until the early hours of the morning. When I got home I couldn't sleep because I was super- excited and practically buzzing.

Tell us about your courtship. Was it all romance and sparks, or something more charmingly awkward?

Ngahuia: I thought it was a bit of both. It was romance and sparks ... Marc????

Marc: There were sparks, or lightning bolts as I like to put it. We went on quite a few dates and each date was better than the last. It was really cool to get to know each other before becoming too serious, I think it set a good foundation for our relationship.

What is the secret or key to your togetherness?

Ngahuia: I think we balance each other out, we talk about everything and we also have independence which I think is important.

Marc: We are both pretty relaxed people, and we talk a lot. I think the honest communication is the key to our relationship. I also like how we can do absolutely nothing together and still enjoy our time with each other.

What is the biggest thing that you have learnt from your partner?

Ngahuia: That asking for help is something I needed to do more of. Rolling solo for everything is not always the best way to do things.

Marc: Material things don't matter so much.

What is the best advice you have ever been given or you have read when it comes to having a healthy relationship?

Ngahuia: "Stick to one person at a time." I'm pretty sure anyone would tell anyone that good piece of advice.

Marc: The purpose of a relationship is to magnify the human experience. I think that is a real basic and logical way to look at a relationship. In a way your partner should make the sky a little bluer, the coffee a little sweeter if you know what I mean? If you are not being "elevated" in the relationship you're in then maybe it's time to re-evaluate. It's pretty embarrassing but I got that little bit of advice from Tony Robbins. Don't tell anyone ...

What has been the greatest challenge that you've faced as a couple and how did you get through it?

Marc: Before I met Ngahuia I had been on a "big year" (that's when people go bird-watching for a year and try to count as many birds as possible - except my "birds" were human). I had been single and taken advantage of it - it was fun and I don't regret it. But needless to say I had a bad rep around town at that time. So naturally, Ngahuia was very wary and hesitant. It took me quite a few days to prove to her that I was genuinely into her and wanted something more than just a fling.

What do you love to do together - your "couple signature"?

Ngahuia: We like getting to know people as a couple. We have a dog and we love spending time with her. Listening to music is another one.

Marc: Eat cocktail sausages at the supermarket! We both love music, we are fanatical about it. She actually schools me on DJing.

Does having a common profession help or hinder your relationship?

Ngahuia: I would say it wouldn't be important either way.

Marc: It can mean that you talk about your work problems a little more because you understand each other's industry that little bit more. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. But it also means we get to work together sometimes, we help each other out, and we also work with mutual friends all the time which is cool too.

What factors are essential for a healthy relationship? What makes love work?

Ngahuia: Talking.

Marc: Being thoughtful is an important one. You need to put your partner first, make them feel loved and special like they're the only one in the room. Communication - I cannot stress how important that is. Activity, you need to do things together that you both enjoy. Otherwise you will end up living quite separate lives.

Anything else to add?

Ngahuia: Mr Marc Moore is an amazing human being and I'm glad I know him the way I do!

Marc: I'm happy and fulfilled, and truly lucky that I have a girl who makes me feel the way I do. I love you Ngahuia Williams.

MEL AND AVI

Melissa Hurst and Avi Kewalramani, owners of Mel's a ready to use curry sauce range, have been together for 18 years. They moved to New Zealand from India in 2000 and have two children together.

How did you meet?

Mel: We met when we worked together at a premier hotel in Mumbai.

How long had you known each other before getting together?

Mel: We knew of each other only for about one month before we started dating and then three years before we got married.

What did you think of your partner before you got together?

Mel: I thought he was rather handsome - a very quiet kinda guy (or so I thought!).

Avi: Witty, intelligent, gorgeous looking, focused, genuine, and on the same wavelength as myself.

What do you love or admire most about your partner?

Mel: I love his moral strength, his principles, the way he loves me and our babies - he's a great father. He's my best friend who I can talk to and is usually the target of my frustrations too! He's a good man with a good heart. The past 18 years have been the best of my life. My nana always told me I was a princess and I would marry a handsome prince and live happily ever after - she was right.

Avi: I couldn't ask for a better mother for our children. I give her most of the credit for keeping us so close-knit as a family (it's the little things she does for the three of us that makes her extra special). Also her passion and drive for our business sometimes blows me away.

What annoys or irritates you about them?

Mel: There have been times when we have fought like cats and dogs, and usually for silly reasons, but I love him so much and can't imagine a life without him.

Avi: Ha ha, where do I start. Nah, kidding. I guess a big one would be wanting most tasks completed yesterday. I'm sure you've guessed by now who the boss of our household is? I'm a fast learner and accepted that very early on in our relationship; hence we've lasted the distance and are happy. I reckon any man who claims he's the boss at home is just lying!

What is your earliest memory of your partner?

Avi: I must admit for me it was a bit of the old "love at first sight". I clearly remember making my way to the coffee shop in the hotel when I first laid eyes on her and cheekily mentioning to a colleague - she's mine, don't bother even looking at her. She did play quite hard to get, I must admit. I'm sure she'll have her version of the story.

Tell us about your courtship. Was it all romance and sparks, or something more charmingly awkward?

Mel: Avi says I was playing hard to get but really I just didn't get it. I was just out of a relationship at the time and was still hurting and I wasn't ready to jump into another one just yet. Then one day he took me for coffee and said he wanted to talk about something important. He said that he wanted to marry me and had decided this from the first day he laid eyes on me, so would I be willing to marry him? I just laughed and said "no way!" I was too cautious. So I told him he was on a trial basis before I would make my final decision. Yes, now I was playing hard to get, but only because I wanted to be so sure. We talked and talked about everything ... sometimes all night sitting in a park. But three days later I knew I had come across the recipe for love; he was the one and I said yes. I have got to add though that Avi's mum and dad are the most amazing in-laws, as they supported and helped bring us together.

Avi: Our courtship was full of fun and excitement. I remember, we both worked such long hours and still somehow found ways to spend quality time together - like riding home on my push bike at midnight after our shifts. We have done some crazy, fun, stupid things together. Sometimes out of the blue, I just burst into laughter when I remember certain things we did back then and have to look around to see that no one's watching.

What is the secret to your togetherness?

Mel: Balance. Life is not always easy, people are not perfect and marriage is certainly a work in progress. But when you have deep love and respect for each other, and are willing to go through anything by each other's side, always supporting and working things out together - you can't go wrong. I think that's the magic. Beauty and youth don't last, only true love does. I look forward to growing old with Avi, watching our babies grow up and finding their own love too.

Avi: I have to say, we've had our fair share of arguments and challenges over the years. For me, not being together has always just not been an option. I think, once you've accepted that, you can work through almost anything to ensure you stay together.

What is the biggest thing that you have learnt from your partner?

Mel: To think and evaluate things before doing them. I think it's a Libra thing. I'm more of a "jump on instinct" kind of person.

Avi: As they say, "Your goals should scare you a little and excite you a lot". Mel has practised this ever since I met her and it is something I have learnt over the years and it is the most amazing feeling when you see your dreams unfold before your eyes. Day by day I can see things panning out just as we planned it and I can't thank her enough for setting our goals so high. I love my life and I owe so much of it to my lovely wife.

What is the best advice you have ever been given or you have read when it comes to having a healthy relationship?

Mel: I read this somewhere: "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift, that's why it's called the present". Treat every day as a gift. Enjoy every minute.

Avi: My dad once said to me a few days before we got married, "Son, the key to a healthy relationship is giving 100 per cent without expecting anything in return". I have to say, that was the best marital advice I have ever had. Over the years, we've been through quite a few relationship challenges, but whenever I've been down, I've gone back to those words and I've come up with a way to work out things and move forward on a positive note. Today my father and mother are still so much in love, 43 years later.

What is the best advice you would give?

Mel: Live and let live. We are all different and unique and have different opinions. What we think is just our opinion and doesn't make us right or wrong - and we must learn to accept that in each other. Couples often fight for the stupidest reasons - it's not worth holding on to anger; let it go and you will feel a burden lift and be much happier.

Avi: Learn how to agree to disagree. No two people agree on everything, and that's okay, but it's important to be okay with each other's differences. Never go to bed angry, even if you are not happy with the conditions.

For men, it's important to understand that women want to be listened to. Men don't need to solve or fix everything; listening itself is an exceptional gift.

What has been the greatest challenge that you've faced as a couple and how did you get through it?

Mel: Moving countries and setting up the business. Working with each other's strengths and lovingly supporting each other through the hard times.

Avi: I think the greatest challenge would be the decision to move countries and start a new life. We only had very limited money and didn't really know anyone when we got here. Obviously, it was a bit of a culture shock as well and it was hard. Love and support for each other, determination and setting some concrete goals together have helped us get where we are today, 11 years later. Speaking for myself, I would never have been able to do it without Mel, my true love and inspiration.

What do you love to do together?

Mel: Besides cooking for our friends, we love music. And we both play instruments - I play guitar and keyboard, and Avi plays the guitar, so we love to do the odd jam session.

Does having a common profession help or hinder your relationship?

Mel: I think it does help. I have always loved working with Avi. Our lives are so busy and I always missed him when I was not with him, so when we could work together, that meant we could see more of each other.

Avi: I actually think it works really well. Mel is the more flamboyant, people's person and really stands out in a crowd. She is an excellent communicator and hence is the face of the Mel's brand. I, on the other hand, prefer working back of the house. Finance, planning and strategy are my strengths.

What factors are essential for a healthy relationship?

Mel: There is no fixed recipe. I think to have a healthy relationship is a lot like prayer - giving of yourself, without expecting in return. Forgiving all. Praise - always - even for the little things. Ask (communicate). Mix this all up with LOVE and you have got a recipe for soul food.

Avi: The following attributes are what I believe are essential for any healthy relationship: Honesty and trust. Respect for each other. Good communication. Ability to compromise. Shared philosophy of life; including values and priorities. Valuing time spent together. Doing things to make each other happy. Last but not least, a satisfying sexual relationship.

BETH AND SAM

Beth Ellery, a fashion designer, and Sam Hartnett, a photographer, have been together for just over a year, and married for eight months. Beth is pregnant with their first child.

How did you meet?

Beth: We met when I moved into a flat with some good friends of Sam's. We had been kicking around the same social scene for a few years.

What did you think of your partner before you got together?

Beth: I can't really recall, though I was always pleased to see him and I knew that I always had fun when he was around.

Sam: I admired Beth a lot, she was fun company, good to party with, a great conversationalist, comic and stylish, very warm and genuine and was good to her friends. She would always say yes to any hare-brained adventure that was thrown her way.

What do you love or admire most about your partner?

Beth: Sam is really charming and fun, he loves his friends and he works hard. He is also very calm and patient, which I find relaxing, and he doesn't seem to get rattled easily. Those are just a few things; I could go on and on but it would just get embarrassing.

Sam: It's really a combination of all of her qualities, and there are many, there is nothing not to like, she can do no wrong.

What annoys or irritates you about them?

Beth: I don't really feel annoyed with Sam, though I wonder if my lateness might be trying for him as he always arrives everywhere 10 minutes early. He is punctual and I am tardy.

Sam: We have not been together long enough to start getting annoyed, I'm not sure I can see it happening.

Tell us about your courtship. Was it all romance and sparks, or something more charmingly awkward?

Beth: A bit of both. There was some awkwardness before we started seeing each other, but after a few dates we started having a lot of fun and it was very exciting. We got married quickly and I find that very romantic.

Sam: Sparks were flying all over the place, lasers.

What is the secret or key to your togetherness?

Beth: I don't really know, I find the whole thing rather mysterious. Our relationship hasn't been very turbulent, but I couldn't tell you why. It could be anything from the little daily courtesies to big gestures like getting married, it's probably both and everything in between, a confluence of factors. Whoever figures out the "key to togetherness" will really have cracked the code.

Sam: Well, we like each other, this makes being together pretty easy. Plus there is a legally binding contract and I knocked her up.

What is the biggest thing that you have learned from your partner?

Beth: Sam is generally a more calm and methodical person than me, and he is very efficient at work. I wouldn't say I've exactly picked up any of these traits - I know some would say that I definitely haven't - but it's something that I admire in him and aspire to.

Sam: I am a bit of planner in my day to day life, Beth is a lot breezier in this department, I could learn a lot from this I think.

What is the best advice you would give?

Beth: Gosh. Mostly I think that finding a good relationship comes down to luck. Looking back I would tell myself to be kinder in romantic relationships, I used to think that a good relationship is quite robust but now I think romantic relationships are quite fragile and you really have to look after them with care. But advice is so easy to give, and much harder to follow, and I do feel sheepish giving any advice at all, what would I know?

Sam: I'm not qualified.

What has been the greatest challenge that you've faced as a couple and how did you get through it?

Beth: We've only been married for eight months and I don't feel that we've faced any challenges yet. We are going to have a son in May, perhaps that will be a challenge, or maybe it will be easy and fun; it's hard to say.

Sam: We have been together such a short time that there has not been a really challenging situation yet, although with impending parenthood I'm sure something will be thrown our way.

What do you love to do together - your "couple signature"?

Beth: I like having coffee with Sam in the mornings, and babbling at him while he cooks in the evening. We like going tramping and swimming too, or seeing friends. I just like hanging around with him.

Sam: We do almost everything together, joined at the hip.

Does having a common profession help or hinder your relationship?

Beth: I enjoy talking about photography with Sam and I love his work. Because he works with galleries I've seen a lot of contemporary art that I might not have otherwise. But I don't think our work plays a very important part of our relationship.

Sam: We support each other in our projects, we both work hard and know we have to. I like hanging out in Beth's workroom and seeing her range come together, she makes beautiful things.

What factors are essential for a healthy relationship?

Beth: I think finding someone you actually like is important. It sounds obvious but sometimes couples seem to almost be locked in a kind of battle, like adversaries. So you have to like them, and you have to trust them and be as kind as possible.

Sam: Let each other be.

Modern romance is ...

Sam: Not as good as old-fashioned.

- NZ Herald

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