REDBOOK readers tell how bad karaoke, a fiberglass shark, grungy sweatpants, and Costco helped them fall (and stay) in love.1. "Sam and I got into an argument that, looking back, was really about nothing - and he went for a walk to calm down. He then realized how ridiculous the fight was, so he popped into Stop & Shop and came back with a cake, specially inscribed in frosting: 'I'm sorry I'm so stupid.' He put everything back into perspective with a little flour and butter."
-Jean Sagendorph, 40, engaged to Sam Pocker, 34; New York City
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2. "My husband loves peanut-butter cups, and he never used to share them with me. But one day, after we'd been married for a year and a half, he passed me one. I blurted out, 'Oh, my God, you really love me!' Ever since then, he'll leave a cup on the nightstand or the kitchen table to say, 'I love you.'" -Alice Bennetts, 39, married to Brett, 41; Kalispell, MT
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3. "I have the worst voice ever, but that doesn't stop me from singing in the shower, the kitchen - anywhere! I own the Xbox game Lips, which is basically a karaoke version of Guitar Hero. If my husband knows I've had a hard day, he'll break out the two microphones and a bottle of wine. We'll do Alicia Keys's 'No One,' Sara Bareilles's 'Love Song,' or Rihanna's 'Umbrella.' He says, 'I'll sing awfully with you so you won't feel bad.'"
-Charli Penn-Watkins, 28, married to Gibran Watkins, 30; Montclair, NJ
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3."Howard lets me hang my 7-foot shark wherever I want. It's a fiberglass cast of a shark that my father caught. At first, he said, 'I don't know if there's room for Sharkey.' I responded: 'You married me, you married my shark.' Howard never gave me a hard time after that - it's hung happily in every apartment since."
-Kirsten Johnson, 33, married to Howard Pyle, 37; Brooklyn, NY
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4. "One reason I was initially attracted to Elizabeth is that we share the same sense of humor. Once, we got into a fight and she retreated into the back room in our home, which has sliding glass doors that look out onto the backyard. To diffuse the tension, I took off all my clothes and walked completely naked into the backyard. She laughed, and we were able to make up. I can't imagine that working with anyone else."
-Mike Schwartz, 44, engaged to Elizabeth Tippet, 32; Los Angeles
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5. "Dan is a skier, and early on, he tried to teach me. I ended up lying in the snow crying. Dan rescued me, giving me a piggyback ride down the slope. It was so exhilarating because I felt what it was like to ski, and I loved that he wasn't embarrassed in front of his skier friends. That moment I thought, I could marry this guy."
-Alison Barnes, 37, married to Dan, 48; Missoula, MT
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6. "On date one, Jason told me he was moving to Chicago in six months for his dream job, but we fell in love anyway. He had a pair of sweatpants he'd owned since he was 15 that I'd wear when I slept over. They were gross and oversize but comfy; he never let me wear them home because they were sentimental to him. The day he moved, I found the sweats, neatly folded, waiting for me on my bed. Right then I knew I would move to Chicago. I was there a month later."
-Sophia Mclin, 35, married to Jason, 34; Portland, OR
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7. "On our first date, Ray took me hiking in the mountains; on our second date, to an Elton John concert. When he called to ask me out on our third date, I couldn't wait to hear what he would suggest. 'Want to meet at Costco?' he asked. 'I need to pick up some things for a catering job' - Ray owns a restaurant - 'and Costco has great Polish hot dogs.' Now, don't get me wrong: I have a Costco card and appreciate the prices as much as anyone. But a cement warehouse for a third date?
"We met at the store, and as I watched him throw jumbo boxes of frozen meatballs and shrimp in his cart, something changed. Shopping with him, I felt a surprising sense of intimacy. There was comfort in the fact that we could enjoy doing something so mundane together.
"We continued to date, mixing Costco runs with movie nights and hikes. Then one day at Costco, Ray held up a bag of chicken burritos. 'Do your kids like these?' he asked, and tossed them in the cart. 'Do they like cantaloupe?' he added, holding up a bag of three melons. 'I can keep one, and you can take two home.' This was no business run - he was shopping for us. My mind flashed back to my divorce eight years earlier, and how, since then, I had raised three teenagers on my own. This was Ray's way of showing that I wouldn't have to be alone anymore. Now it was his turn to take care of me. A few trips later, Ray made it official: Under the fluorescent lights in Costco's jewelry department, we picked out a solitaire diamond ring."
-Samantha Ducloux Waltz, 65, winner of the Redbook-Cup of Comfort "Your Love Story" essay contest, married to Ray Waltz, 72; Lake Oswego, OR (Read her full essay at adamsmedia.com/cup-of-comfort)
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