Layla G and Molham B__
Layla G and Molham B Image Credit: Supplied

Love is a many-splendored thing. The strongest and most intense of all emotions, it can be a heady romance, sweeping lovers off their feet in its first flush, but over years it acquires a fine texture with compassion, understanding, respect.

In the last three years since the start of the pandemic, couples who fell in love or married struggled harder than ever to preserve the quintessence of love, giving a whole new meaning to Valentine’s this year. We ask three couples what being in love and making their marriage work during one of the toughest times – the pandemic.

'We have to be open to change and be adaptable’

Layla G and Molham B

Like-minded friends, a good sense of humour, shared cultural heritage and love for life, brought Saudi-American expatriate, Layla G and Syrian expatriate Molham B, together in Dubai five years ago.

We had similar values in love, says Layla Image Credit: Supplied

Layla, a yoga and meditation specialist, recalls: ‘We first met through a dating app towards the end of 2017 and initially we chatted with each other for some time until we felt comfortable to meet each other in January 2018.’

Sparks did fly among the two as the couple realised, they felt comfortable with each other. ‘We felt a very easy and natural connection with each other when we met for the first time. We continued meeting with friends and family and eventually got married in January 2020.’

Layla added that the fact that both had grown up in Dubai helped. ‘We had similar values in love and we had a strong friendship that has energised our relationship from the very beginning. Trust, respect and easy communication are vital to any relationship. Love can change over time. One cannot look glamorous all the time and what truly matters is that couples have to be open to change and be adaptable. What helps is appreciating each other and acknowledging each other.

‘Molham always pays attention to finer and delicate details in our relationship, plus he has a great sense of humour and we are able to laugh together. We balance and complement each other.’

With marriage love, does change hues and acquires new meaning. At such close proximity one gets to see the good, the bad and not so pleasant aspects. What truly matters in times like this is to be able to sift the grain from the chaff. Molham felt all couples have to work intuitively and give plenty of time to each other, to retain the true essence of love.

‘I’d say that the most important part that made a huge difference in our relationship was that we dedicated time to sitting together and talking healthily.’ He adds that either partner must not hesitate to say sorry, when he or she realises that a certain behaviour has caused grief to the other partner.

‘Something along these lines, ‘I did wrong my wrong led to you being upset. I own both my behaviour and your response. I’m sorry about that, and if I can, I’ll make amends. I see that you are hurt. I own my behaviour that caused it. I’m sorry, and is there anything I can do to improve it?’ and be willing to ask the partner and make amends. Therefore, I was not just saying sorry but also admitting what caused her to feel sad/down/upset,’ elaborates Molham thoughtfully.

The couple also have learnt to give space and freedom to each other around the house and outside. Molham adds, ‘This is a super important thing we did to make our relationship work. We both learned when to start lifting the pen from the last page and start writing a new story on a new page.’

'We learn so much about each other every day'

Fidha Hafis and Hafis Anwar

This couple from Dubai tied the knot on the eve of 2023, on December 31, 2022, after they fell in love following a meeting arranged by their respective families.

Fidha 2
Love for the couple is something that needs to be nurtured and given an opportunity to evolve post marriage

Both Fidha and Hafis, hail from Kerala, and are in their mid-twenties. Their value systems and frames of references coincide as both were born and brought up in Dubai.

Fidha takes the lead in recounting their meeting. ‘Although we had quite the Indian approach of our families taking the lead, we had few stolen glances of each other from university where my husband was my senior. From a by-passer to husband, it’s quite surreal when you think about how unpredictable the future can be. We just got married on December 31, 2022. I’ve always found New Year’s Eve the most overrated holiday, never knew how important and beautiful that day could be in my life!’

Love for the couple is something that needs to be nurtured and given an opportunity to evolve post marriage. Fidha continues, ‘I personally don’t believe in love at first sight. But my husband is quite the good looking guy for sure, definitely scored there. But we have a really good friendship, he’s my best friend and confidant and that’s why we are where we are today.’

For Hafis and Fidha it has been an amazing month of discovering each other. As Hafis said, ‘The last month of being married has been amazing. It’s like a never-ending slumber party with my best friend. We learn so much about each other every day. How we like our coffee, the little things that spark joy in both of us. We definitely see the good and the uncomfortable bits for sure. But the good overcomes it all at the end of the day.’

The couple feel that love conquers all and when two people are determined to nurture it, then they make sure to preserve the best and tackle the challenges as they come. Our goal is to be happy with each other, no matter what. I guess when you love someone, the uncomfortable bits aren’t as magnified and when your partner is your best friend – you get to laugh after burping around each other, that’s the beauty of it,’ adds Fidha.

The couple feel that love conquers all

What is the technique to set relationship goals and work towards them?

There is no secret secret recipe, say the Anwars. ‘Everyone has their own set of boundaries. Respect each other’s boundaries and of course never stop having fun with your partner and seizing an opportunity to make them smile. Passion, sparks and romance may sizzle out but the friendship only grows stronger with time so never stop being each other’s best friend,’ says Fidha.

Hafis concludes perfectly in a philosophical thought. ‘Life is a mix of both good and tough moments. It’s nice to have a someone who stands by your side through the tough times, but it makes better sense if you are able to laugh through the miseries together as well.’

‘Our dynamics are perfect’

Charisse Batac-Lazanderas and Orlan Gavil Lazanderas

Cupid struck Charisse and Orlan in a modest gym in Davao City, the Philippines where the couple met for the first time in 2016. Charisse recounts, ‘I was already working in Dubai and was on a holiday visiting this gym in my city. Orlan was training for boxing. The moment he saw me, he came up to ask me if he could train me in boxing. We struck up a friendship and later, he managed to get my number from racquet book at the gym. The friendship was strong but I also sensed a strong spark in our bond,’ recalls the happy 27-year-old sales executive, with a chuckle.

'We have made the right choice and are happy to be together' Image Credit: Supplied

Very soon the casual acquaintance blossomed into something special and Orlan followed Charisse to Dubai for work. The couple continued their courtship for four years and by then, the pandemic began.

Charisse said, ‘We were in a four-year courtship to see how we felt about each other and how we adjusted to each other’s peculiarities. Both of us felt we were very comfortable with each other. Our dynamics were perfect. We were friends first and there was trust, faith, honesty in our bond. I think these are all important prerequisites in a strong relationship. Therefore, we decided to tie the knot in December 2020. We were in the middle of the pandemic, couldn’t call many people, but we were determined and so decided to go ahead with it.’

It has been over two years since Charisse and Orlan married and ever single day, their love for each other gets a shade stronger. That is because every single day both are conscious and work towards strengthening their relationship. Every single day, they get to build on their bond a little.

Orlan, 30, a logistics coordinator in Dubai based company, observes, ‘When you fall in love, first you have to love yourself enough and in that positive frame of mind you can then sense the love in a bond and give back with enthusiasm. Charisse has been a great friend and this bond naturally evolved from there. I know we have made the right choice and are happy to be together.’

According to Charisse, love is a choice one has to make every single day. ‘Every morning when I wake up with my husband by my side, every morning I choose him, I look forward to making his breakfast and his coffee, because I love him. We enjoy an open communication with each other. The last two years have been tough due to the pandemic and lock down. There has been stress and we understand and accept the little compromises one has had to make to help the relationship work. However, in the end, love conquers all. We are together because our love for each other gives us stability, happiness and peace of mind. We are glad we took this decision and look forward to many more summers and springs together,’ says Charisse.

'Maintaining open and transparent communication is vital'

Reem Ahmadieh and Maher Daou

Reem Ahmadieh, a public health specialist and Maher Daou, a digital media specialist, both Lebanese expatriates, decided to tie the knot during the peak of the pandemic on November, 8, 2020, after a long courtship of over a decade.

Maher believes that there is no rule book for relationships or any secret magic formula Image Credit: Supplied

The couple were meant to be with each other as Reem recounts, ‘We met more than 10 years ago, through my cousin, who happened to be Maher’s best friend. We would always run into each other at my cousin’s place.’

The friendship that bloomed in ten years only got better with marriage, as Reem adds, ‘We’ve been married for two years, and it’s been a smooth sail so far. We really appreciate living under the same roof after all those years of long-distance, the Covid situation made it even tougher and we learnt to be more resilient. Living with Maher has allowed me to get to know him even better, and our 
relationship has grown manifold. Before, we’d only see each other during vacation trips and the excitement was always intense. But living together has brought a new dynamic to our relationship, in a positive way. We put effort into keeping the spark alive.’

Maher felt that there was no rule book for relationships or any secret magic formula, it was all about understanding and tuning in to each other.

Reem 2
A healthy relationship involves mutual happiness, they believe

‘A key aspect of our relationship success is maintaining open and transparent communication to cultivate trust. Additionally, showing each other respect and honouring each other’s beliefs and decisions contributes to a positive atmosphere. Lastly, being able to laugh together helps relieve stress and bring a light-hearted dynamic to the relationship.’

The couple’s top advice for other young people looking to cement their bond is simple. ‘Avoid relying on your partner solely for happiness. A healthy relationship involves mutual happiness where each partner strives to find their own joy and in doing so, elevates the happiness of the other.