"I'll be cooking dinner," says Jim Skelly, "and Warren will come down, and the next thing, you know, we're kind of doing a dance in the kitchen. It's just it makes us laugh."
Skelly is speaking about his husband Warren Leonard. The two say laughter and spontaneity have been at the center of their relationship ever since their very first date 32 years ago.
"Warren got up to go to the restroom, and a while later I did," Skelly said. "And above the urinals in the bathroom, there was a chalkboard and I looked up and it said, ‘Jim, I'm so glad I met you.’ And after that, that was it."
"It seemed to have work," Leonard added. "We had a second date."
Cathy and Sheila Marina-Thomas say completing a task together—even something as simple as finishing a puzzle—is one element that’s helped their relationship, now in its 27th year, remain just as strong as ever.
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"Working on projects together," Sheila begins, "Building a relationship is building, you know, and understanding communication."
And you could sort of say it was a project—a career project that, after three decades, brought Joseph Devito and William Mera even closer.
"We take different trains," as Warren puts it, "but we generally end up at the same space."
They recently became business partners. But working together-- and spending so much time together during Covid lockdowns-- was not always easy.
"I actually had some struggles," William says, "Because, you know, Joseph is used to doing his thing his way without any questions… Just doing it."
"Joseph is a visionary. He can think of something and do it. I have to study it."
"[William] looks at it from a more operational standpoint where ‘A’ plus ‘B’ equals ‘C,’ whereas I look at ‘A,’ and then I go straight to ‘Z.’
"Different ways of getting to the same place," William adds.
Getting to the same place and staying there takes work. We asked these three couples-- each of whom have been together more than 25 years-- what advice they'd pass along to younger generations and about what the trick is to making love work all these years.
"Sometimes you have to agree to disagree," says Sheila Marino-Thomas. "You can agree that they, you know, they have a valid point, but you may not agree with it. So you’re just going to move on and say, ‘Listen, we're not going to fight about this.’"
"I think you also have to realize you're not going to like each other every day, and it's okay," Cathy adds. "I mean, you're going to get up with this person every day. So some days you're just going to be like, ‘I don't feel like dealing with you today.’ And it's okay. It doesn't-- it's not a rejection of the other person."
Their advice applies to couples, across the spectrum.
"Anybody's relationship-- gay, straight or whatever--you're going to have times that are very tense," says Jim Skelly. "You're probably going to have a few arguments along the way. But at the end of the day, you know, you're going to go to bed with this person and put your arm around this person and realize that you want that person in your life."
"We live in a time when there's a lot of competing demands for people's attention," Warren Leonard adds. "So if you if you care about something, you have to pay attention, you have to nurture."
"Anything worth having is worth fighting for and worth working at," William Mera says. "And more so in our community, because we're not--- we didn't have role models growing up. You know, we were the dregs of society."
"But when you're faced into a new situation where you're together so much," Joseph adds, "I have to remind myself to be empathetic and try to understand how William is feeling about things from his perspective instead of just the way I see it."
Above all else, these couples say, as Cathy Marino-Thomas put it, "Don't be so quick to walk away."
It’s not always easy.
"Focus on each other and trying to really listen and hear," says Warren Leonard.
But it will be worth it.
"If you can say at any point in your relationship that your life wouldn't be better without another person, then you know thats the reason to stay," said William Mera. "Because nothing's perfect and you're not perfect. But do they make you a better person? That's all that counts."