duVarneys Photo by: Lori Dorman/ LD Photography Ventura residents Tory and Christina DuVarney with their daughter, Lyla Blue.

When love finds a way

Locals share their stories of enduring love through trial and tribulation

By Carla Iacovetti 02/13/2014


“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” – Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

It is hard to enter into the month of February without reflecting on love. It is a time when flowers and chocolates are given, dinner dates and heartfelt adventures are prearranged, and romantic anticipation is at an all-time high. Hearts twizzle as we revel in the notion of “true love.”

Everyone loves a good love story; no matter what your age, there is something universally appealing found in endearing messages of romantic love. Whether true or fiction, the tales are unending. Such love struck stories include those of Napoleon and Josephine, Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Romeo and Juliet and Jane Eyre, to name a few.

What makes these tales significant is not just the writing, but also the message of invincible love — a love that goes the extra mile, a love that finds a way in the midst of discouraging odds, and we are wooed.

The famed Beatles song All You Need Is Love (Lennon-McCartney, 1967) shared a simple and truthful message that is not just about romance; it is about life. They sang about an ancient reality that we continue to embrace today. Amid life and all of the circumstances that life offers, Lennon encourages love outside of perfection. “Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time,” he says. No gimmicks, no pre-conceived notions, just patience revealed with the understanding that, “Love is all you [really] need.”

During the summer of 2002, when Tory and Christina DuVarney serendipitously met while vacationing in Hawaii, everything was coming up roses. Walking in downtown Honolulu, they happened to cross each other’s path. The friends that they were with knew each other and they struck up a conversation. Even though there was a spark between them when they met, they did not exchange numbers. After returning home to Ventura, Christina told a friend that she really wanted to get to know Tory.

A couple of weeks later, her friend ran into Tory at a local bar and told him that Christina wanted to get to know him better. To Christina’s horror and surprise, the friend showed up at her door with Tory at 2:30 in the morning. Christina believes it was fate. They sat in front of the fire and talked for hours and discovered that they knew so many of the same people and had so much in common. “We still cannot fathom that we knew so many of the same people and never met,” Christina said. “After sitting up talking all night, we watched the movie True Romance, starring Christian Slater, and we’ve been together ever since.”

At the time of their meeting Tory and Christina had both started their own T-shirt brands, which evolved into their current store, Beautiful Disaster and Handsome Devil Boutique, located on Main Street in Downtown Ventura.
Even with their incredible connection, Tory took his time to propose. “It wasn’t because of uncertainty, I just wanted to do it right. You know – make sure my ducks were all in a row,” he said.

The couple began working on a family shortly after they were married, but after a year of trying everything conceivable, Christina could not get pregnant. In November 2012, Christina began the process of in vitro fertilization (IVF). After one failed attempt, she had a transvaginal oocyte retrieval (TVOR) performed. Everything was put on hold, however, when she developed ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, a complication that can accompany some forms of fertility medication. Generally this is not serious, but Christina ended up in the hospital.

One month later (Christmas morning), Tory decided to go surfing, making everyone wait to open presents. While Christina was busy in the kitchen preparing for the festivities, the phone rang. It was Tory. He said, “Babe. Bad news. My board got me in the eye. Need you to take me to urgent care.”

“I really wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see. When I pulled up to the beach, Tory was covered in blood and was holding a blood-soaked beach towel over his eye,” Christina said.

The minute the doctor at urgent care took a look at Tory’s eye, he picked up the phone and called the hospital to let them know Tory would be coming in. If there were any chance at saving his eye, he would need immediate attention.

The DuVarneys did not have insurance, and they had spent all of their savings on IVF, which is an expensive process. When they arrived at the emergency room, he was taken into surgery within the hour. The diagnosis: A ruptured globe.

The entire eye was crushed. He should have lost his eye.

“There were a series of miracles that took place immediately after Tory’s accident,” Christina said. “It’s not odd; it’s God. I believe in looking at the bigger picture because everything happens for a reason.”

Tory’s buddy Nate Weber happened to be the anesthesiologist who was working in emergency that day, and he assisted during the surgery. The issue wasn’t just the injured eye; it was a number of complications that accompany an injury of that caliber, and blindness developing in both eyes was a major concern. Dr. Christopher Fong, the ophthalmologist from Miramar Eye Specialists Medical Group, worked a miracle.

They had a long road ahead, with five additional surgeries and hoping that Tory would not lose his eye altogether, and that he would not become completely blind. “I had to sign a paper allowing them to take the eye, if they needed to. I was literally sick to my stomach,” Christina said.

After spending their hard-earned savings to try and conceive a child, they were then facing the financial aftermath from Tory’s accident. “I was convinced my continued nausea was stress-related, but I decided to go see my doctor. To my absolute shock, I was pregnant, and without the help of in vitro! It truly was light in the midst of darkness,” she said.

Miracle after miracle happened. “My friend Matt Noble put together a benefit to help us out financially. The emergency room surgery alone was $30,000, and I had six,” Tory said.

There was a tremendous outpouring of love to this couple from the community. Businesses, restaurants, family members, friends and strangers donated money and raffle prizes. “This wonderful community stepped up to the plate in a major way. The accident caused me to lose some sight, but I’ve gained so much sight in so many other ways,” Tory said.

“I am so grateful for the way friends, family and this community gave so unselfishly, but it also speaks very highly of who my husband is. He is a loyal, kind and giving human being who always has a smile on his face — you know, when you give love, it comes back to you,” said Christina.

Every fairytale has a big bad wolf. No life situation is perfect. Tory and Christina’s relationship was amazing from the first day that they met, but they had some huge hurdles to clear — hurdles that were out of their control. From the expensive attempts at creating a baby to all of the events that evolved from Tory’s accident, the community shared its love with this couple unselfishly.

“You can’t always control things in life. I’ve learned that. As much as we tried everything to get pregnant, it didn’t happen. We tried so hard to find our way to a child, but in the most amazing time, sweet Lyla Blue found her way to us,” says Tory.

Tory and Christina live in awe and are grateful. They believe in the magic of an enduring love that spans across time and space — a love that takes you in and recreates itself again and again.

“For a relationship to work, both parties need to be present in the relationship,” said Denise Castro, Psy.D, a Ventura-based clinical psychologist. “When we know that someone is emotionally responsive, it makes all the difference in the world.”

According to Castro, when a couple first meets, there is the unquenchable spark that ignites the relationship into full throttle. The fire, however, cannot remain a blaze over the long haul.

“We cannot maintain the honeymoon stage of intensity over the course of time, so if a relationship is only based on chemistry, but emotional intimacy doesn’t grow, there will be no foundation for lasting love,” she said. “It’s important for a couple to build a culture of appreciation and respect for each other. That means being emotionally responsive and embracing the art of communication, giving your partner positive feedback, instead of putting them down.”

Castro believes that complaining is actually an antidote to criticism, citing the following as an example: “You’re a lazy bum,” vs. “I really don’t like it when you don’t pick up after yourself.” According to Castro, complaining can actually be healthy.

John Gottman, Ph.D., a renowned clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of Washington, has been a pioneer in the study of human sexuality and relationship analysis. “Romance is kept alive each time you let your spouse [partner] know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life,” he said.

Successful relationships are the result of a team effort, two people working together and taking into consideration the other’s feelings and viewpoints. “Happy marriages are based on a deep friendship. By this I mean a mutual respect for and enjoyment of each other’s company,” Gottman said.

“When a couple is overly critical of the other person or is defensive and stonewalls their mate (not responding or wanting to deal with an issue), then oftentimes couples therapy won’t even work,” Castro said.

There is so much emphasis on the importance of physical attraction in today’s world. Whether it is gathered via the entertainment world, the media, through meet-up groups or online dating, chemistry and physical desirability still seem to get top billing.

“There has to be more substance to the relationship if it’s going to last. Love finds a way when a couple is emotionally responsive to the other, and that really has nothing to do with chemistry. It has more to do with knowing yourself. You cannot get emotionally intimate with another person, if you can’t be intimate with yourself,” Castro said.


Oxnard residents Beverly Flatford and Trent Rowe

Beverly Flatford and Trent Rowe met in their youth. She was 15 and he was 17, and according to Flatford, “He was the love of my life.”

They became the best of friends, and discovered they actually had romantic feelings for one another two years after they met. Their young love affair, however, only lasted a summer. Beverly’s parents were not just divorced; they lived 2,000 miles apart. Beverly was forced to leave Indiana and return to California where her mother lived. Not long after her move, Beverly met a 26-year-old man and married him.

“I was trying to escape a world of turbulence and dysfunction with my parents. Marrying him seemed like the right thing to do, but it was toxic and abusive. I stayed in the marriage for 18 years because of my three wonderful children — children that he used against me in his attempt to manipulate and control my every move. I felt trapped, imprisoned, and saw no way out,” Flatford said.

Sadly, many women marry for all the wrong reasons, and if they have children and the relationship becomes abusive, they stay in it. “It’s heartbreaking. So many women do this. When you’re in a situation like that, hope is hard to find. I knew the moment my youngest child turned 18, I would be done,” Flatford said.

“Women are expected to fill roles in their relationships that keep them dependent on their partners. This sets women up to feel ashamed, isolated and stuck. Some may feel that they have no real choices,” according to the Domestic Abuse Project (DAP), an organization dedicated to healing lives broken by family violence.

Fortunately, Flatford did not have to wait until her youngest turned 18, especially since her husband had a long-standing history of drug and alcohol abuse. “When my grandmother remarried and she moved into her husband’s home, she allowed my children and I to move into her house rent-free,” said Flatford.

Even though Flatford was living apart from her husband, she still felt an obligation to try to make it work, always hoping he would somehow clean up his act. The couple sought counseling and decided to take a family vacation together. Their trip to Florida was nothing short of a nightmare. Her husband abandoned the family completely, leaving them stranded.

In April 2010, Flatford and her children moved to Hesperia, Calif., to stay with her mother. She had no idea how this move would ultimately alter her life. “I believe my move to California was destiny,” Flatford said.

Four months after moving to California, Flatford reconnected with Trent Rowe on Facebook. She was pleasantly surprised to find Rowe was living in Oxnard and coaching football. After a few months of communicating, the couple reunited for the first time in more than 20 years.

“He came to Hesperia and took me on a proper date. He treated me with such respect and dignity. For the first time in my life, I felt like a lady,” Flatford said.

Flatford was convinced that she could never trust a man again, but her old friend opened up a completely new world for her and her children. “My kids have gotten to see how a woman should be respected and treated — sadly, something they never saw with their father,” said Flatford.

Flatford and Rowe’s connection was immediate. According to Flatford, “I felt like it really never stopped. I loved Trent at 15. I didn’t know what it meant to love back then, but our connection never died. Love found a way, and for the first time in my life I am happy,” Flatford said.

While these may not be everyone’s love stories, for these two couples, love did find a way.

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