Valentine's Special | Love me, love me not

Do you believe in happily ever after or are you a bit more cynical? For Valentine's Day, MaltaToday looked at both sides of love, speaking to couples about how they fell and love and to counsellor Matthew Bartolo about the most common causes of relationship break-ups

LOVE ME: Couples tell us their stories 

Do you believe in love at first sight and the great happily ever after? Four couples of different ages share the story of how they fell in love and how they're planning on spending Valentine's day.

From writing each other letters to meeting on Tinder, the four pairs reveal how finding love has changed from one generation to the next. 

Victor and Cettina Gauci

Victor and Cettina Cauci will soon celebrate their 65th anniversary
Victor and Cettina Cauci will soon celebrate their 65th anniversary

Mr and Mrs Gauci will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary next August.

The two grew up in the same hometown, but had never met until Cettina was 19 and Victor was 20 years old.

Cettina described how she used to go to Church every evening, and although she never noticed, her future husband used to see her on her way to Mass everyday. One time, he waited for her with a friend and approached her when she was leaving Mass.

Victor was quite shy and after a month or two, his friend told Cettina that Victor liked her. Cettina told him she’d think about it and immediately ran to her mother for help.

“Victor was still starting out at work but my mother told me that it didn’t matter. I remember her telling me, ‘It’s not the money that matters but that he’s a good man’,” Cettina said.

“So, I accepted to go out with him. After that, we used to meet every evening. He was quiet and we got along very well. We never had any trouble, just some small fights and a bit of normal jealousy. Even up until today, we still never had any trouble.”

The pair agreed to get married three years later. They talked about the idea, bought each other rings and had a small party with family and a priest. The two got married a year later, and had their first child after just nine months.

“On the whole, raising our children were the best moments of our lives. Now we have five children, eight grandchildren and three greatgrandchildren.”

Their children plan an anniversary party for the couple every year, surrounding the couple by family members and friends. However, Cettina admitted that the two aren’t very romantic.

“We’re not very romantic, we don’t give each other gifts on Valentine’s and on our anniversary. However, every night before we go to bed we hold each other’s hand.”

Claire and Stephen Apap

Claire and Stephen met on the social media platform Hi-5
Claire and Stephen met on the social media platform Hi-5

Claire met her husband Stephen Apap ten years ago when she was just 16 years old.

Meeting through ‘Hi5’, a popular social media platform in 2007, Claire first met Stephen in front of the Msida police station, assuming it was a safe place to meet an internet stranger who was four years older than her.

“I had a diary at the time, and on that day I wrote “I hope this is the one” even though, being 16, I didn’t have any interest in being in a long term relationship.”

After about a year, Stephen planned a whole day in London for Claire’s birthday, but little did she know he was about to propose. Unfortunately, it didn’t go entirely as planned. Claire said that they had to have her sevenyearold sister with them all day, who kept asking Stephen if he was going to do it.  Although his plan was to propose to her on the London Eye, he ended up popping the question in the queue to go up.

“He couldn’t wait any longer, so he started singing one of my favourite songs, changing the lyrics to turn it into a proposal. Midproposal a homeless man came asking for a pound, which Stephen quickly gave! However, the experience didn’t ruin the moment, but rather made for a funny story.”

Unlike most people, the couple celebrates three different anniversaries every year.

“People sometimes find it funny. We celebrate the day we started dating, the date of our civil wedding and the date of our Catholic wedding.”

On those days, the two have dinner, and sometimes write each other heartfelt poems.

Even though they’ve been together for ten years, the two still like to show each other they care.

The two plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day by having dinner together and opening a nice bottle of wine.

Edwin and Juliette Pace

Edwin and Juliette have been happily married since 1968
Edwin and Juliette have been happily married since 1968

81-year-old Juliette Pace has been happily married to 84-year-old Edwin Pace since 1968.

“I worked in a bank and he worked in England, and he came for this brother’s wedding – his brother also worked at the bank. He asked him about me and asked me for a date there and then,” she said, explaining that the meeting was a mixture of chance and confidence.

“I thought he was very forward,” she said, describing how the couple hit it off at a party on her mother’s roof. “We got very close at the party, as we were speaking all the while.”

But Mr Pace was only here for 12 days, as he had to return home. “So we continued to write to each other for the next six months, after which his father found him a very good job in Malta.”

Very shortly after, Mr Pace got on his knees in a garden in Valletta. “My husband is very romantic, and the proposal was very romantic, and entirely unexpected,”

“We made arrangements to get married and have been happy ever since.”

Mrs Pace admits that it took a lot of patience to get through nearly 60 years of marriage. “We’ve had our ups and downs and we do fight a lot,” she said, but also added that they’ve made a lot of happy memories together.

“We used to travel a lot together when we were younger. Nowadays, we normally just sit next to each other,” she said. However, Mrs Pace insists that this is due to old age and not a matter of two growing apart. Their relationship has changed, but not because their affection for each other has dwindled.

“My father used to say that I change my boyfriends like other people change their socks. But we left an impact on each other, and stuck together.”

Geo Debono and Debbie

Geo and Debbie both share a love for music
Geo and Debbie both share a love for music

Singers Geo Debono, 28, and Debbie, 25 first met on Tinder. After both swiping right, they decided to meet very informally at a fast food venue, where the two hit it off. besides both having been through tough relationships, they consider their relationship to be an ideal one.

“We immediately hit it off, but our shared love for music is what brought us together. We consider music as the main chain of our relationship.”

The two are both very romantic, and sometimes leave notes and goodies for each other around the house. Geo proposed to Debbie on the Virtu Ferries, and are planning on getting married in July 2019.

The two will be spending Valentine’s performing together at a dinner.

READ MORE: Three recipes to woo your loved one on Valentine’s Day

Love me not: Sometimes it just doesn't last
Love me not: Sometimes it just doesn't last

LOVE ME NOT: Why some relationships just don't last

Valentine’s Day is an occasion to celebrate the love and affection between couples, but it is a sad reality that relationship issues are very common.

We spoke with Matthew Bartolo, a counsellor specialising in relationships and sex, to understand the major factors behind relationship difficulties.

Bartolo told us that an average of 25 couples a week saw him at his practice because they were experiencing issues between them.

“There are a mixture of issues behind separations and divorce,” he said, “But the main cause is lifestyle, which can lead to a lack of communication, resulting in sex and sexuality problems, and resentment.”

“Lifestyle is a result of unhealthy priorities,” Bartolo highlighted, “And sometimes we choose a certain lifestyle over our relationship.”

“For instance, the importance you give to a career or job over spending time with your family, affects a relationship.”

Jealousy and infidelity are two other major issues, Bartolo said, explaining that cheating was something both men and women were guilty of.

“It could be that women are more likely to look for professional advice in cases of infidelity,” he noted.

Social media: friend or foe?

Asked whether the advent of social media was a factor in causing relationship issues, Bartolo said that he didn’t believe it caused infidelity in itself, but it could facilitate it and increase the chances of being caught.

Social media is a factor in relationship issues
Social media is a factor in relationship issues

“Things like Facebook can make it easier to have contact with certain people, such as an ex-partner. Moreover, it is easy to turn to social media for someone to speak to – such as a work colleague you have a romantic interest in – if your partner is not listening to you,” he highlighted.

At the same time, social media could help couples stay more connected, he pointed out, remarking that it was a tool which could be used according to what the person wanted to achieve.

Separation and divorce

Malta’s courts approved 1,864 cases of divorce in Malta and 72 in Gozo, between October 2011 and December 2016. Moreover, 4,174 separation cases in Malta and 320 in Gozo were finalised in the same period.

A failed relationship did not always involve a separation or divorce, however, Bartolo told us.

There were 1,936 divorces between October 2011 and December 2016
There were 1,936 divorces between October 2011 and December 2016

“Couples sometimes stay together for decades although one or both of them are miserable,” he said.

Boredom in a relationship was not necessarily the result of having been together for many years he maintained.

When it came to children, these could bring couples together or else make them drift apart – the latter if the children make it harder for the partners to spend time together.

Loyalty behind a happy relationship

Loyalty was probably the most essential thing if a couple wanted to be happy, Bartolo said, elaborating that he did mean loyalty only in the sense of not cheating, but also in terms of considering what the other person in the relationship would feel knowing you were going to act in a certain way or take a particular decision.

“While some couples don’t survive infidelity, in other cases it makes them strong. Some move away from each other, while others decide to start investing more in the relationship and making it work.”

“The same obstacle could make or break a relationship, depending on the investment of the couple”, he added.

Single? 15 February is your day

The day after Valentine’s Day is popularly known as Singles Awareness Day, bringing attention to the fact that many people are single – out of choice or circumstance – and still able to live a full life.

Those who prefer to celebrate their single status on 14 February can also attend a party aptly named “Fu*k Roses, Get Me Drunk”, starting at 9pm at Kuromi Malta, St Julian’s.

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, falls on 14 February this year, perhaps giving a somewhat ironic tinge to some of the celebratory activities of Valentine’s Day.