Today is Valentine's day... so for the day that's in it, we asked some popular Cork couples for a sneak peek into their relationships; what keeps them together; what drives them nuts, and most importantly how they keep that elusive ‘spark’ alive
LIKE lots of Cork couples, Debbie and Peter Stringer first met in the Bodega. But unlike most other couples, they had their first official date in Rome.
The pair met in the Cork city centre bar 10 and a half years ago, having being introduced by a mutual friend.
Debbie remembers: “We laughed a lot the night we met which is always a good sign. Peter actually went on tour with Ireland for five weeks a few days after we met and we ended up speaking to each other every day on the phone.
“I think that is really how we got to know each other and realised pretty quickly we had great chemistry. We went to Rome the day Peter came back and had our first date there.”
They got married in Spain back in 2015 and welcomed baby Noah in April, 2017.
With Peter based in Dublin while he’s starring in RTÉ’s hugely popular Dancing With The Stars (DWTS), suffice to say things are busy for the young family.
“We have a lot going on separately and together. Peter works away a lot which we are very used to and we make the time we do have together count,” says Debbie.
Like any couple, she acknowledges they work at their relationship.
“We’ve realised that we are a great team and that together we can get through most hurdles. Every couple needs to work at their relationship and we are no different. Life is very busy for both of us and especially now that we have Noah so we make sure we listen to each other always and still make time for dates and laughing,” she says.
Although Peter’s snoring has been a challenge in recent years!
“He never used to snore but got a knock on the nose when he was playing for Sale, and the snoring started which absolutely drove me crazy. But Noah arrived soon after as did the sleep deprivation so now I’d sleep through anything,” joked Debbie.
“For us it’s the little things, knowing you have a best friend to share everything with and that you’re being listened to. Showing appreciation for things and being affectionate is so important. We are planning a get-away for a night, just the two of us which we haven’t been able to do yet since we’ve had Noah, but we always try and schedule regular date nights which is lovely.”
Peter is also clearly a romantic, if dancing to his wedding song,by Christine Perri, in a recent DWTS show is anything to go by.
“The words he said in the VT were very special,” admits Debbie. “We’re not big on Valentine’s though but we might go for dinner if we are in the same city!”
Their tips for a good relationship?
“Communication for us is so important and not holding anything in if there’s something on our mind. If there is something one of us wants to do we always work to try and fit it into our lives. Also, just spending quality time together as a family and laughing,” said Debbie.
ACCEPT the annoying habits and remember you have some too. That’s the advice from award-winning blogger Cliona O’Connor, who enjoys an enormous following on social media where she shares lifestyle, health and fitness tips in her likeable, non-preachy way.
Originally from Kilworth and living in Douglas, she married Kerry man DO 10 years ago in the former Sheraton Fota.
“Randomly he is O’Connor and so was I before marriage (and obviously after too!). Now this is where it gets funny — his mum and dad were O’Connor too. And now the scary turn — his brother Dan married an O’Connor also! He is one of nine siblings so I guess chances are one would marry an O’Connor but still — what are the chances?”
Her followers rarely catch a glimpse of DO on camera (Cliona explains it stands for Dermot Oliver — ‘his parents shortened it to DO as Dermot was his Dad’s name too’), and as parents of four, she says they’ve a lot going on.
“Our relationship is busy — I supposed anyone with young kids would say the same. Plus my husband works long days and is away quite a bit. It’s always all go in our house,” she says.
The couple have been together for 17 years in total, dating for seven before getting married, and Cliona says they’ve ‘mellowed over the years.’
“We can quite happily sit in silence now — comfortable together but not even bothering to chat if we are tired. Not because we have nothing to say to each other but because we just know when the other needs to zone out.”
But obviously, like all couples they each have little habits that annoy the other.
“I drive him insane with my epic dishwasher stacking skills — I’ve become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy in that department now though. I’ve just given up so I fling stuff in as I know he will rearrange the whole lot anyway, so why drive myself mad trying? But he cannot turn off a light switch ever — it drives me insane.”
She says they’ve less time for each other over the past few years but they do make a conscious effort to pencil in some time to go out together and do something.
“We definitely make an effort to get out together every so often. We go to Orso in town or sometimes we walk two minutes down the hill to the Maryborough Hotel for a drink. Any night we are both home we always end up sitting on the sofa with a cuppa at the end of the day too. I hate talking on the phone so it’s good to spend some time having a catch up in real life.”
And her relationship tips?
“Have a good babysitter — they are worth their weight in gold! Not even for nights out either but get someone to come in so you can even grab a coffee some time.”
Cliona admits that she doesn’t even know what day Valentine’s is this year.
“We generally don’t go out especially for Valentine’s. We went to a fabulous evening in the Maryborough Hotel last year that coincidentally was the night before Valentine’s so DO announced that he was off the hook. I’ll get him a card — assuming he’s not away!”
AS a teen she served him half cooked chips to get rid of him when he came in to the chippers where she worked — now, 20 years and four children later, the pair say they’re best friends.
“We met in the summer of 1993 when we were both 17, Alan had done his Leaving Cert and I was going into 6th year,” Lucy recalls. “We met in The An Brog on Oliver Plunkett Street. One of my friends was going out with one of his friends, we had a laugh that night and Alan asked to see me again. I worked in a chip shop on the Grand Parade and told him he could pop in. I wasn’t that sure about him and when he did pop in the next day I served him half cooked chips to get rid of him (or perhaps as a test!) but he was persistent — waited to walk me home after work and then that was it from then on.”
She admits that initially she thought he was very funny and might just be a ‘good distraction for the summer,’ but Alan says for him it was ‘love at first sight’.
Amother of four children, aged 16, 14, 11 and 8, Lucy, who lives on the South Douglas Road, says their relationship is easy-going for the most part.
“We jog along. It doesn’t feel like hard work, just comfortable, and intuitive. Don’t get me wrong we have our moments, but mostly we are relaxed with each other and we know each other very well.”
Alan jokes: “We do have our moments but then Lucy reminds me that she is right!”
Lucy acknowledges that getting older has helped them mellow and realise not to sweat the small stuff.
“I think that when the kids were really young, it’s easy to lose yourself in that busy-ness and tiredness — it is just full-on and unrelenting, in those first few years. But now it seems less intense, although challenging in different ways as teenagers are hard!
“Now, though, I think we see the wood for the trees and are keen to ensure that we are intact as the kids grow up — that we still enjoy each other’s company and have the same goals and interests.”
Alan added: ‘The best thing about the two of us is that we are best friends, we get along together and like the same things. We have even mastered working together, from different rooms.”
The couple share the load whenever they can.
Lucy says: “My job takes me away from home frequently and he does everything to make that easier. Each person pitches in with the cooking, washing, bedtimes, etc. That way for us there is no resentment.”
But of course they do have their annoying habits.
“Alan has the worst memory and can never remember things that I have told him or where he has put something. It drives me mad as I cannot fathom how you can move something and not know where you put it… or completely deny that I told you I was going out on such and such a night or the kids need to be somewhere at 6pm… he does snore too!”
Alan quipped: “I’m sure something drives me crazy… but I can’t remember.”
The couple renewed their marriage vows five years ago in Vegas.
“The kids were with us, Elvis married us, it was fun, but then I think that sums us up,” said Lucy.
Their top relationship tips are to be kind to each other and to do small things like buying a bar of chocolate, filling the tank with petrol for each other, sending a text to say thanks or to find time to relax without kids — easier said than done, they admit.
Lucy says: “Also, never make the task more important that the relationship — yes, it helps if you can draft in support, a cleaner, a babysitter and have time out for yourself and well as together. But we are happiest watching TV and eating a packet of biscuits!”
For Valentine’s, Lucy says she always says ‘no’ flowers — but Alan insists.
“I’ll leave it to the last minute — he’ll definitely get a card and maybe a box of Maltesers!”