Catherine Reuter and Larry Behan say their wedding vows barefoot on a beach in Kauai. The casual, carefree ceremony belies all the time and hard work it took for them to get there. As Shakespeare would say, the course of true love never does run smooth.
Four years earlier, on 9/11, Catherine is in her kitchen, having her morning coffee, when the first plane hits the north tower. Her first husband, from whom she’s separated, calls to tell her to turn on her TV. As she sits alone, watching the news, she sees the pain in the faces of people who lost loved ones and hear story after story of their true mature love. She knows she doesn’t have that kind of connection with her husband. They’ve been married since college and tried counseling three times, but as she approaches 50 years old, she feels deeply unfulfilled.
A life-changing insight occurs to her during these tragic days: “Life can and does disappear in an instant,” she remembers thinking. “If I can’t be happy here, I need to find what makes me happy. It’s no one else’s responsibility. It’s mine.”
Within months, she moves from Milwaukee, WI to San Diego, CA where she doesn’t know a soul. She plans to teach golf, which she’d done successfully for the past decade in Wisconsin. “My ex and I played a lot of golf together,” she says. “I went from a very average golfer praying to break 100 to a three-time club champion at Ozaukee Country Club in Mequon, WI.”
About a year after she arrives in California, she comes across a one-inch ad in the San Diego Union-Tribune. It announces that the San Diego Single Golfers Association would be having a happy hour at a local El Torito. Catherine has no interest in dating, but considers it an opportunity to meet golfing friends. When she arrives, she sees a group of tipsy 50-somethings flirting outrageously. After taking a deep breath, she walks over and seemingly time-travels back to high school. The men all ogle her, while the women all hiss at the new competition.
At about the same time, Larry Behan happens to see another ad for the Single Golfers Association. He, too, is an avid golfer, who has been divorced for 12 years. A friend suggests he join the club to meet some new people. At an event at Eastlake Country Club, he sees a pretty, vivacious blonde on the driving range and is immediately wowed – by her technique. “What a great golf swing,” he remembers thinking, “I’m gonna meet this woman.”
Actually, he continues to watch Catherine and admire her professional swing for months until he finally asks someone to introduce them. He recalls that she was nice, but not interested in having a boyfriend. When he calls to say they should play golf sometime, he doesn’t hear back from her for several weeks. Eventually, they do play golf a couple of times and go sailing on his boat, just as casual friends.
One day, out of the blue, Catherine sees Larry in a different light. With lots of help from coaches and mentors, she finally heals from her divorce and is ready to trust and love again. She writes a list of qualities she’d like to see in a perfect partner. That approach comes naturally to Larry, who was a human resources director for 27 years. He has already vetted Catherine’s “girlfriend” qualifications.
The Behans have wonderful fun together. “We are great travel buddies, golfing buddies,” says Catherine. “I can kick his tail on the putting green, though he is proud to shoot in the low 70s routinely.” Sometimes they even make wagers, although Larry playfully declines to discuss the “private prize” the winner collects.
They’ve both learned from their previous marriages. After his divorce, Larry read Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and other books to help him understand that both sides are responsible for a failed relationship. Mindful never to escalate an argument to a relationship-damaging point, he’s determined to succeed in love this second time around.
As for Catherine, she’s come to terms with her past and learned to communicate better. “I grew up in a violent alcoholic home and am hyper-vigilant to aggressive anger. It makes me freeze,” she says. “When I was a young wife, I chose to live without confronting conflict. Silence seemed like a sort of peace.” She has none of that tension with Larry, a gentle, kind soul with whom she’s able to relax, be herself and speak up when she disagrees about something.
These insights turn into a new career for Catherine when she creates a system for love and begins counseling others. This unexpected path as a “love coach” spawns a social network where she chats with single women and teaches classes on how to find a soulmate. She’s also written a book on her signature system and gives expert advice on yourtango.com. While homebound, recovering from a serious illness, a few years ago, she discovered her passion for the internet. These days she continues to blog as well as help others as a “blog angel.”
As part of her “brand,” she wears hearts whenever she teaches or speaks in public, including a pair of earrings from Brighton Collectibles at Westfield UTC. It’s the perfect symbol for a woman who has helped so many people understand love. And it’s the easiest valentine gift idea, in case Larry is reading.