I first saw Steve by the pool at my friend’s apartment complex on a lazy August afternoon.
Fit and tan, he was hanging out with his pack of equally gorgeous friends. We officially met the following week on another sunny afternoon by the pool. I watched him dive into the water and as he emerged, he flashed a huge smile and I was overcome by how handsome he was.
I knew I had to talk to him and, despite how nervous I was, I managed to muster up the courage to walk over to him and offer him a beer. He gladly accepted and we introduced ourselves. That was 15 years ago, and we’ve spent every single day since then together.
During the days that directly followed our chance meeting, our lives seemed a lot like a dating montage in a romantic comedy. We talked and laughed for hours. We walked our neighbourhood holding hands.
We rode the Hollywood and Mulholland hills on his Vespa. We saw a burlesque show at the House of Blues and went on a Hollywood Forever Cemetery tour. And we went to a ton of social gatherings and dinners with my friends and his friends — and they all said they thought we were a perfect match. We couldn’t get enough of one another. We were literally inseparable; it was as if we were trying to catch up on all the time we had spent apart before that fateful Sunday afternoon.
Needless to say, we fell in love almost immediately. After a string of failed relationships and crazy dates with men that were either codependent or emotionally unavailable, I had finally found my soulmate — someone who was fun, loving, attentive and romantic. With Steve, everything was new and exciting, but also incredibly — and strangely — comfortable. So, when he proposed to me just 10 days after we met, I wasn’t completely shocked — it actually made sense.
We had been watching ”Casablanca” at my apartment when Steve suddenly got down on one knee and presented me with a plastic ring. He hadn’t had time to get a real engagement ring, but I couldn’t have cared less. Steve was my diamond, and I said “Yes!” without hesitation. I was in love and didn’t think twice about giving any other answer. We were constantly asking each other “Where have you been all my life?” and we didn’t want to waste any more time.
I said “Yes!” without hesitation. I was in love and didn’t think twice about giving any other answer. We were constantly asking each other “Where have you been all my life?” and we didn’t want to waste any more time.
Photo: Arianna and Steve with their son, Theo, in Paris, spring 2018.
When we told our best friends, they were amused and fairly nonchalant about it, which maybe isn’t all that surprising considering we lived in Hollywood and spur-of-the-moment engagements aren’t exactly rare even now (Hello, Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson). But, we weren’t movie stars or models — I was a twenty-something aspiring musician and writer and he was mostly a writer, and we easily could have been perceived as delusional for deciding to get engaged so quickly.
However, because we were clearly made for each other — and because we were so obviously in love — no one thought we were crazy. Our family and friends were genuinely happy for us and they gave us their blessings to move forward with our plan to spend our lives together.
So, with no one trying to foil our wedding plans, we charged ahead. We decided to tie the knot in Las Vegas because we had coincidentally won a free two-night stay at the Hard Rock Hotel during a celebrity poker tournament. We booked the Chapel of the Bells, and two months later, on Halloween, we were married in a ceremony officiated by an Elvis impersonator in front of our closest friends.
I wore a white lace gown with embroidered flowers and pearls, which I found at a vintage store in Studio City a couple of weeks before the wedding. It fit me so well, it was like it had been custom-made for me and, miraculously, it had never been worn before. Steve looked as handsome as ever in a sharp gray suit and wore dark sunglasses most of the day. I could tell he was a little nervous, but I didn’t read too much into it — I was nervous, too. I thought it was cute because we were just as anxious as any other normal couple on their big day, and that assured me that we had made the right choice.
Looking back, Vegas was an absolutely perfect setting for our wedding. Where else but the gambling capital of the world to make our union official? After all, we were betting big on our future. Our marriage could have continued as sweetly as our courtship had, or it could have ended up miserably. Sure, we had spent pretty much every day together up until that moment, but was that enough? Could we confidently say that we knew each other on the incredibly deep level it takes to combine two separate lives into one?
We certainly thought we did. As cliché as it might sound, it really felt like we were under some kind of spell — our minds were foggy and our hearts ruled over reason, but that’s what being in love is all about, isn’t it?
Getting married so quickly definitely came with its fair share of risks. For instance, who knew how many things Steve might have been consciously or unconsciously hiding from me? But I honestly didn’t care. I believed in love at first sight and I trusted my gut. The only time I remember feeling even the slightest sensation of doubt was in our limo right after the ceremony. We were on our way to celebrate at a nearby Mexican restaurant and I was staring at our intertwined fingers and our shiny new wedding bands when, for a few seconds, voices, music, traffic noises and everything else around me seemed to float away. What if it doesn’t work? I wondered, but that worry disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.
When we arrived home from Vegas, we started our new life as husband and wife — which really wasn’t much different than the one we shared in the weeks leading up to our wedding day. I had moved into Steve’s apartment the month before, so we already knew each other’s routines, tastes and dislikes. We often compared being married to having a soft pillow to hug — it was like a comfortable and tender support system on hand whenever we needed it.
Still, being married and living with someone was a totally new experience — not only because I had never lived with a partner before, but also because I had never achieved the level of intimacy that I felt with Steve. Even my previous longest relationship with my former Italian fiance (I found out he’d cheated on me shortly after we got engaged and I dumped him) didn’t come close to comparing to what I felt in the early days of my marriage.
As months passed, our bond and love grew stronger and so did our commitment to our future together. We soon began making plans to buy a house, and a year and a half later, we were the proud owners of a Spanish-style bungalow. Throughout the years, we made other investments, and in 2016, 13 years into our marriage, we welcomed our son, Theodore.
Our old friends call us the poster couple for true romance, and when we meet new people and they hear our story, they often look at us like we’re aliens. They usually ask us the same things: “How did you make it happen?” and “How are you still together?”
Those are fair questions, and we’re the first to admit that we don’t know how it happened or exactly how we’ve managed to stay together for this long. Sure, we’ve had moments when we butted heads or disagreed — just like any other couple — but we’ve honestly never experienced any major incompatibilities.
There is no magic formula to finding love or falling in love, but there are definitely things one can do to keep a relationship strong. For Steve and me, maintaining our independence within our marriage — including cultivating separate interests and friendships — has been key. For instance, I practice y. and chant, and volunteer whenever I can, while Steve loves making and editing videos. By nature, we’re both free spirits, so having our own time and space helped us focus on ourselves and not lose our identities as individuals and artists. By committing ourselves to keeping our personal hobbies, passions and friendships, we have kept our relationship thriving.
In many ways, I value friendship as much as romantic love, so I’ve always made a point of nurturing my friends and making new ones even after being married. Finding the time to see them, go to dinner and a show with them, or travel with them has never been an issue because there’s always been mutual trust and respect between Steve and me.
Of course, even though it might sound like we’re two characters out of a fairytale, that doesn’t mean that we’re perfect. Steve has some habits that drive me nuts (he smokes too much, just to mention one), and I know that he dislikes some of mine, too (my obsession with cleaning, for instance), but that’s fine. It’d be weird if we didn’t. I’ve learned that loving someone is about accepting them unconditionally and working on your differences with an open heart and open communication. We’ve discovered that talking about our feelings and emotions is vital to being understood and keeping our relationship healthy, and it’s worked for us.
The other question we get is, “Would you recommend getting married so soon after meeting?” It obviously was the right move for us but I can’t guarantee it would work for anyone else. Tying the knot semi-impulsively is exciting, but it’s important to have realistic expectations, and you must be honest with one another to make it last. Waiting longer can certainly help to discover potential pitfalls, but if a couple is incompatible, even waiting for 30 years won’t save a relationship that is most likely destined to fail. Steve and I believe that if we waited, we still would have got hitched a year or two after meeting because we get along so well.
I should also note that we didn’t really have anything major to lose by getting married so quickly. We were young, wild, passionate and fearless. In a way, that made our choice easier. But those aren’t necessarily the ingredients for building a lasting romance, and I’d suggest that other couples take stock of where they are, what they want, and what the consequences of getting married could be — especially if they are at a different place in their lives. For example, I imagine that two divorcees with kids might want to think twice before getting engaged 10 days after meeting.
Every situation is different; every couple is different — but it’s always best to be cautious when it comes to your heart, your finances and your future when you’ve just met someone. Steve and I were extremely lucky in that regard. We gambled, and so far, our winning streak is still going strong.
Arianna Menon is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles.