'Sexy Couples' on how they keep romance simmering

Posted: February 13, 2014

SEXY Singles Week is an annual rite of summer in the Daily News. But readers often ask us, "What about sexy couples?" "Why do you ignore married people?"

You know what? They've got a point.

Marriage gets a bad rap. Most of what you read or hear about it concerns divorce or diminishing sex drives. Not to mention state laws that let some people marry but others not.

Online dating and social media have made this an age of endless possibilities, and monogamy gets short shrift.

Now, we love our Sexy Singles, but we also love the idea of celebrating till death do us part.

So, for Valentine's Day this year, we've rounded up some of the area's Sexiest Couples.

Some have been married for decades. Others are still new to the game. But they have shared a commitment to being together and making their relationship work. And a willingness to share their thoughts with Daily News readers on how to keep a relationship hot. (Comments have been edited for length.)

Jill McDevitt and Ryan Pena

Married: 11 months.

Him: Engineer at Penn Terminal, in Chester.

Her: Sexologist working on a new line of sex toys (thesexologist.org).

Where they live: West Chester.

How they met: Craigslist.

Kids? None planned.

Almost didn't tie the knot: "We both had reservations about it politically," she said in an email. "Marriage equality in Pennsylvania is not extended to same-sex couples and we thought that was unjust."

Forever, maybe: "We have never promised each other forever. What this means for us is that every single day, we wake up and we are both still here. We both truly want to be here, which makes us value and cherish each other in ways I've seldom seen in other relationships I observe."

Sex stuff: They schedule it for Wednesday nights and weekend mornings. "These are minimum amounts - they often happen more frequently, but they can't happen less."

Why that works: "It makes it a priority, builds positive experiences and memories, which beget more positive experiences and memories. Plus it builds excitement. I am a huge proponent of scheduled sex to keep things spicy."

His take: "It's very nice to be comfortable with each other and not have to worry," Pena said.

Tra and Rosa Thomas

Married: 14 years.

Him: Former Philadelphia Eagle and owner of 7 Deuce Sports, in Medford, N.J.

Her: Homeschools their youngest two children and helps run 7 Deuce.

Kids? Three boys, ages 18, 10 and 6.

Where they live: Burlington County.

How they met: In history class, freshman year at Florida State University.

Lovers who play together . . . : "I do mostly everything he's interested in," Rosa said. "If he wants to ride a bike, I get my leather pants and ride with him. I do not like motorcycles, but I knew that was something he wanted to do, and I wanted to experience that with him. I didn't like golf, but I bought my golf outfits and drove the cart and got clubs. I got into it for us to spend time together. Now I just have to get him to do things I want to do."

Tra? "I do! I watch 'Judge Judy.' I'm up on all the 'Housewives' segments. I'm up on everybody - all the 'Housewives.' I'm up on it."

Rosa has her limits: "The only thing she's drawn the line on is with me trying to get a pilot license," Tra said.

Tra the romantic: Tra once sent Rosa roses every Friday for a month. "I thought it was cool, too, until after the third time," he joked.

State Sen. Vincent Hughes and Sheryl Lee Ralph

Married: Eight years.

Him: Politician.

Her: Actress/singer/activist.

Where they live: West Philly and Los Angeles.

Children: Four adult children.

Backstory: The couple met Jan. 31, 2002, through a mutual friend and got engaged Feb. 16, 2003, after Hughes knelt in the snow to propose outside B.B. King's Restaurant and Blues Club, in New York City. The marquee outside the restaurant read, "The Senator loves Sheryl Lee."

Happy times: "We'll run up to Sid Booker's Shrimp place, on North Broad Street, and grab two dozen shrimp and sit in the car with music on, laughing and eating," Hughes said. "People will say, 'Isn't that Senator Hughes? Isn't that Moesha's mom?' "

On a bicoastal relationship: "This time of the year, through June, it's hard for me to travel because we are doing the state budget and session is in," Hughes said. "So Sheryl has been spending her time flying in every other weekend. There are times in the summer when I'll be able to go out there for three or four days."

What keeps them connected: "He's living his passion and loving what he does," Ralph said. "I've got my thing. He's got his."

Ralph's wisdom: "Marriage is no walk in the park. It's like anything else. You have to work at it."

Ursula and Joe Augustine

Married: 25 years.

Her: She owns Ursula's About Phace spa and makeup studio.

Him: Retired from the military, he works for the U.S. Department of Defense Foreign Military Sales program.

Where they live: Cheltenham.

Children? Adult daughter.

The "official" story of how they met: At church.

The real deal: After some late-night Halloween partying at a Philly nightclub back in 1988, Ursula's girlfriend's date offered her a ride home. Only problem was that he wasn't driving. Joe was. And Joe wasn't thrilled about taking two strangers all the way to New Castle, Del.

They chitchatted politely, but when Joe left, Ursula didn't give him a second thought. Until the next day, when he drove back to Delaware to ask for her phone number. "When I opened the door, that's when I got a good look at him," she recalled. "I said, 'I was getting an attitude at this?' "

Getting hitched: They got engaged that New Year's Eve and married on Jan. 14, 1989, at the Naval Air Station in Willow Grove, where Joe was stationed. He made all the arrangements.

Staying hitched: "Me and my wife, we've had knock-down, drag-out fights over lasagna," he said. "After we looked at it, we said, 'We are arguing over lasagna?' Afterward, we laughed about it."

Her turn: "It's just about being able to be with that person," she said. "I could watch a commercial with him, and he'll have a slant on it that will make me laugh."

Still Joe's girl: "My friends all tell me I'm crazy, because I always refer to my wife as 'my girl.' My boys say, 'You're talking about my girl - you've known Ursula forever,' " Joe said. "That's just the way it is with us. We are committed to each other but at the same time, I always feel like we just met. It's good."

Melissa DeRuiter and Roy Kaiser Jr.

Married: One year.

Him: Artistic director, Pennsylvania Ballet.

Her: Executive vice president of development, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Where they live: West Mount Airy.

Children: Two, 23 and 17, from his prior marriage.

How they met: At the Pennsylvania Ballet, where she was grants manager till 2005. She asked Kaiser out for drinks at Fairmount's London Grill before she left. They stayed for dinner.

Instant family: "Melissa has become a super stepmom," Kaiser said. "It's a role that she wears very well, and she's incredibly helpful to me."

Valentine's Day plans: They'll get around to celebrating. Kaiser's daughter has an out-of-state tennis tournament that DeRuiter will chaperone while Kaiser jets out of town on a business trip.

No, they really will: "I think it's [Valentine's Day] important. I really do," Kaiser said. "More than anything else, just acknowledge your relationship. It's really easy to lose focus on that with hectic lives and everyone running every which way."

Date nights on the regular: Sometimes something knocks them out of the groove, but they always try to get it going again. "We are foodies - we're on a quest to try every restaurant in Philadelphia," he said. "We have a list of restaurants that interest us. Melissa likes lists, so she keeps the list. When we have an opportunity, we try to check one of them off."

Listen up, single ladies: "Be open-minded," DeRuiter said. "A lot of people in their 30s and 40s say, 'I don't want a man who has kids or is divorced.' But you can't put those restraints on your heart. You have to be open."

Still listening? "You can be straightforward," DeRuiter said. "With Roy, I actually said to him, 'I would love to have a drink with you.' I didn't follow that stereotypical rule of trying to flirt shamelessly until he asked me out."

Take care of yourself: "If I didn't have time in my life that was just for me, it would be harder to maintain a healthy relationship," DeRuiter said. "I exercise four times a week."

Darrell Martin and Craig Peterson

Married: Seven years.

Peterson: Consultant for nonprofits.

Martin: Owns Hip Philly event space in Northern Liberties.

Where they live: Northern Liberties.

Children: Two daughters, ages 10 and 8.

The sweetest thing: They have a daily getting-dressed ritual in which they place their diamond-studded wedding rings on each other's fingers and say, "Today, I choose you." "Of course we know it's long term [they've been together 17 years], but if you look at it as some sort of life commitment, it can be overwhelming," Peterson said. "So we kind of keep it in the moment."

Staying in love: "Moments turn into days and days turn into years," Martin said. "You look back you say, wow, he truly is my best friend and I'm his best friend. We're friends. We also make good business partners and we make great parents."

Making it: "I hate it when people say marriage is hard work, but it's true," Peterson said.

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