Feature Story

Valentine’s Special: Local couples on life and love, by Emily Kluver

We have heard the statistics—a shocking 50% of marriages end in divorce  (though recent numbers suggest the statistic is falling).  We see it in our own lives. On television. It has become commonplace to turn on a sitcom and watch as men and women complain about their long-time spouses, panic about their impending marriages, or get tangled up in messy break-ups. The media tells us that men can’t remain faithful. Women look for richer spouses. No one can stay happy for long.  In the hope of disproving these TV myths, I sat down with a few local couples to talk to them about their time-tested relationships to find out just how they managed to find someone that they love and stick with them for so many years.

Lizzette & Luis

Luis and Lizzette.

Lizzette Muniz, an attorney and President of the Brooklyn Bridge Rotary Club, and her husband, Luis, a Nuclear Medicine Technologist, have been married for 15 years, together for 20, and friends for 25.

Sitting in D’Amico Coffee, the dynamic duo thought back to the early days of their relationship. They had become friends back while attending Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx.

After high school, she went to Fordham and he attended Manhattan College. Of the time, Luis says simply, “We stayed behind and stayed in touch.” Expanding, Lizzette notes that they “were some of the few commuters from our group.”

Naturally, they grew closer, but they didn’t start dating right away. Lizzette recalls that it was while she watched Luis give a toast as the best man at a wedding that she began to see him in a different light.

“I realized how charming he was,” she explains.

The rest, as they say, is history. Luis proposed to Lizzette while they were vacationing in Mexico.

Teasingly, Luis points out that the first thing she said when he proposed was, “You didn’t get a haircut.”

“I didn’t want to remember that,” Lizzette replies sheepishly.

Eight years ago, their relationship hit another major milestone when the couple welcomed their daughter, Lila, into the world.

How did having a child change their lifestyle?

“[It changed] everything,” Luis replies without missing a beat.

“How didn’t it change?” Lizzette adds, laughing. “After having a baby, we realized we were never going anywhere ever again.”

But despite the changes to their lifestyle, Lizzette and Luis have remained strong as a couple and a family.

How do they make relationships look easy?

“Don’t go to bed angry,” Luis advises. Lizzette thinks for a moment, “And keep your fights between yourselves. You’ll forgive each other, but others might not forgive and forget so easily.”

As for relationship role models, Lizzette and Luis haven’t really had any. They smile at the idea and Luis shakes his head, “No, no one”.

“Recently, Barack and Michelle,” Lizzette notes with tones of admiration

In the end, what matters the most to this dynamic couple is their friendship.

Lizzette explains that the other day on Facebook, she read a post asking people to come up with the name of someone they would most like to sit next to on a park bench for two hours, just talking.

“I thought it was so easy—Luis.” Lizzette explains.

Then, after reading other people’s responses of important historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi, Lizzette says she thought for a moment about whether she should have chosen someone famous and dead.

“I’d still choose Luis,” she says without hesitation. “I think it’s good I can spend time with someone I want to be with more than anyone else.”

Lorraine & Ralphie

Ralphie and Lorraine.

Lorraine Barnett, who bartends at the VFW in Red Hook every other Saturday and Ralph Balzano, the late Sunny Balzano’s brother, have been together for 17 years.

Though they have known each other since the 80’s, Ralph came into the VFW and asked Lorraine to go out with him about 17 years ago. Then, after dating for about a year, Lorraine moved in. From there, everything more or less fell into place.

Sitting on the living room couch beside Lorraine, they discuss the lack of drama in their relationship.

Lorraine thinks on it, explaining, “We don’t have children together, so we don’t have a lot to worry about.” Ralph adds, “My kids love her. I love her, too.”

Ralph’s six children are all grown up, so with two independent incomes, the two have found little to argue about.

“[Our relationship is] very good. We don’t have any problems. No fighting,” Ralph notes, adding, “We did years ago, everyone does. But it was nothing serious. We have trust.”

Lorraine chimes in, advising that people should “be independent” within their relationships and she implores women, “Don’t rely on a man.”

“A relationship is 50-50. If you have a problem, talk it out. Come to an understanding,” Ralph adds.

“He looks at the world with rose-colored glass,” Lorraine teases.

The two briefly squabble about whether or not Ralph should be smoking in front of a guest.

Lorraine, returning to the conversation, says, “Life is pretty much -”

“- Normal,” Ralph finishes. He adds, “She’s a beautiful woman and the best thing that happened to me in a long time. She makes my world.”

“Don’t be dramatic,” Lorraine counters.

He responds, “What would I do without you? I’d be lost.”

Lorraine laughs at this. “He does depend on me a bit too much for, like, stupid things.”

Not taking this sitting down, Ralph counters, “That’s your fault ‘cause you started doing it. I told you, I told you. Don’t do it or I’ll be dependent. ”

“His time is his own,” Lorraine continues, ignoring Ralph’s response. “He’s slow. That’s the only thing that really irks me.”

Ralph shrugs, saying, “When I get there, I get there.”

Lorraine, softening, adds that she likes everything (else) about him.

“Ralphie’s very easy. He doesn’t bother me… He looks on the bright side, that’s for sure.”

Though they both have their own dreams for the future, they are satisfied with the way things are.

Looking at Lorraine, Ralph asks, “Are you happy?”

“Very happy.”

“I’m happy, she’s happy. Everybody’s happy,” he says.

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