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The many faces, facets of love

Through happiness and hardships, five couples talk about finding each other and making it work

Love is messy and frustrating and maddening. And yet, because of its potential, we pursue it.

We’re willing to upend our lives, disrupt our routines and friendships to take the risk.

We will move anywhere to share, give and receive.

Penn Fix, owner of the venerable Spokane jeweler Dodson’s, collects love stories.

Quoting Nobel laureate William Faulkner, Fix says he measures all love stories by how the writer captures “the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths … love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.”

Last fall Fix asked couples to send him their stories for a first-time event he called the Dodson Diamond Dash, a scavenger hunt designed to showcase Spokane’s history and culture while demonstrating the ties of cooperation and love.

Fix says he was struck by the obvious sincerity of those who wrote him, as well as by the wide range of stories, from grandiose to simple – and he liked them all. He received 800 letters, and had to winnow that by half.

This week five of these couples gave us a peek into their love stories and told us why, at this moment in their lives, their relationships are successful.

Together after 25 years

Jeff Tivis has been in love with Malinda Griffin since they were in middle school together in Littlerock, Calif., about an hour’s drive north of Los Angeles. The problem: She didn’t know.

“She was out of my league,” Jeff says now, 25 years later. “I could never muster the courage to ask her out.”

During and after high school their lives diverged. Jeff moved to Spokane to be near his family, and Malinda married and moved to Colorado.

When he would speak to some of their mutual friends over the years and her name would come up, he would feel the deep regret of not acting on his feelings so many years ago.

Then he attended a friend’s wedding, and there she was – married.

“Her smile just lit up that room,” he said. He spoke with her and they became reacquainted.

Months later Jeff learned Malinda had divorced. He sent her a funny text for comfort and their new relationship was born.

They spoke for hours on the phone and texted like teenagers. Jeff finally told her about his longtime feelings.

Today Malinda describes herself as “stupid in love” with Jeff. She talks to him 20 times a day on the phone.

Their brief long-distance relationship ended in July when Malinda moved to Spokane.

Not all has been easy. Malinda only recently found a job. But the two are sharing love and struggle.

“We’re at a point in our lives where we want each other to be happy,” says Malinda.

“We’re all grown up now and this is what it’s all about,” says Jeff. “It’s easy to say. But it’s hard to do.”

Closer because of their differences

Teresa Bergan decided to click on England for a second chance at love.

And there was Robert Bergan: stoic, handsome, kind and, somehow, single.

At least that’s what she divined from Date.com while searching for a man.

These two lend credibility to the cliché that opposites attract. Teresa is a talker. She’s outwardly friendly, affectionate.

“Robert is the calm in my storm of personality,” she says.

Robert is quiet, a photographer whose images of scenic cities reveal his comfort with distance. And yet the pictures also reflect an adventurous spirit. It was he who left the security of his job with England’s mail service, sold his flat and moved to Naples, Italy, in 2003 to be near Teresa as she wrapped up her 20-year Navy career. They were married in May of that year.

Today, the pair live in Spokane Valley with their two exuberant sons, ages 6 and 2.

They treasure each moment, drawn closer to each other through their differences.

“We bring out the best in each other,” Teresa says.

Lucky number 13

Thirteen years of marriage, and Kim and Shamus Mease have never been happier.

Their lives have taken unexpected turns, including their move to Spokane last year to go back to school for new careers. They’re living near Kim’s parents, who are affectionate grandparents for their children and role models for partnership.

Shamus and Kim grew up in Marysville, Wash., and attended the sixth grade together, though they didn’t know each other well.

They finally became friends through mutual acquaintances and fell for each other.

Relationships take work, they acknowledge.

Shamus was born the third of five children; he had to be bullheaded and proud to make his mark. Kim is an only child and had to accept sharing. Their differences have made for a mature and confident relationship.

“I have learned a lot about life from him,” Kim says. “I think that’s important: to be open to possibilities.”

And Shamus says the same of Kim.

“We complement each other. And we’re in love.”

Groomzilla and his bride

Bryan Quinn isn’t your regular guy. This is a man who organized his wedding, right down to picking out his bride’s flowers.

Riki Quinn just smiles at his meticulous nature.

“He did it for me,” she says.

The marriage is going strong – two weeks and counting. Still basking in the moment, Riki and Bryan credit a strong friendship for leading them toward love.

The two are inseparable. “We complement each other even in the most difficult and oddest of ways,” says Riki. “We confide in each other and console each other. We’re together. Period.”

They can enjoy target shooting together at Riki’s parents’ place in Spirit Lake, then cuddle in their north Spokane home for a “chick flick.”

Their arguments rarely get too heated.

Riki, who is 11 years younger than Bryan, believes the adage “you can be right or you can be happy” has served them well.

Carved from pine

As Jeff Schoonover sped away on his four-wheeler last Memorial Day, Julie “Jewls” Tennison was a bit peeved.

These two lovers shared a closeness that meant, quite frankly, that it’s not OK to just take off and leave the other behind.

But let’s give Jeff some credit. He returned with a ring carved of pine and “I LUV U” etched in the grain.

Their romance started when Jeff saw pictures of his neighbor posing for Halloween with a knockout dressed in a Playboy bunny costume.

“I went right over and found my neighbor,” Jeff says, delivering the message that he’d like to meet her friend.

Jeff and Jewls share many friends and interests. The Post Falls couple plan to marry this July along the Pack River – a special place where they enjoy camping and gathering with friends.

Self-described as stubborn, they have learned the arts of compromise and understanding.

With each embarking on their second marriage, Julie says she wasn’t going to settle for any guy.

“That’s how we both felt. We weren’t going to settle until we found the right person. When we got together we both knew it.”

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