Happy Valentine’s Day! What does the day of love mean to you? Last year we started with the l’amour est bleu “Love Stories” and received a lot of positive feedback. That’s why we would like to tell you a new love story this year, namely that of Joana and Steffi. We already did the interview last year and it was so heartwarming to feel their affection for each other. Their story shows us that it sometimes takes time for people to find each other and that they then appreciate each other even more. Above all, their love affair shows us that love can go beyond all boundaries and ideas and that in the end it is the human being that counts and nothing else.
How did you get to know each other?
Steffi: Joana and I have known each other for 11 or 12 years. When we met, Joana had just turned 18 and I was 19 or 20. I was partying in a club where Joana was DJing. I was totally drunk and asked Joana for a song, but she didn’t understand me at all. At that time, it was still the case that you agreed to parties via Facebook groups. Joana looked for me in this group after the party and wrote to me.
Joana, you had a crush on her from the start?
Joana: Yes, of course! She immediately caught my eye with her super short hair and long legs. Steffi had such a great charisma. When Steffi laughs, she laughs all over her face and that’s what I remembered. Then I simply sent her my mobile phone number via Facebook!
Steffi: And I didn’t reply to the message.
Joana: I wrote her again and again until she replied. But we were both still in relationships. Before we got together, we had a six-year affair.
Were you already in a same-sex relationship at that time?
Steffi: In that relationship I was already with a woman, whereas in the previous relationships I was with men. But I would like to say that it was not a classic affair as you know it from the movies. We got along very well right away and could talk about God and the world. It took 1 ½ years before we kissed for the first time.
And why did it take so long until you became a couple?
Steffi: Although we got along so well, neither of us dared to end the current relationship. We both had a great need for security and didn’t have the courage to give up this ideal world.
How long have you been together now?
Steffi: For over 4 years and we have been married for over 3 years.
“I have to be honest and say that Steffi was ready to have a relationship with me much earlier and that I was unsure. I still had the need to let off steam and felt it was unfair to Steffi to start a relationship with her even though I wasn’t ready.”
I’m interested what the proposal was like!
Joana: I was still living in Berlin at the time and Steffi had been visiting me regularly. When we finally decided for each other, everything happened very quickly. After all, we had known each other for so long and we were both quite sure. It was clear to me that if I got together with Steffi, I would want to marry her.
I must also honestly say that Steffi was ready to have a relationship with me much earlier and that I was unsure. I still had the need to let off steam and felt it was unfair to Steffi to start a relationship with her even though I wasn’t ready.
To come back to the proposal: In Berlin there is this 5-star hotel on Potsdamer Platz, the Ritz Carlton. I booked a suite there at the very top and organised 400 roses, which I spread all over the suite. I also had a cake made with “Marry me” on it. Unfortunately I wasn’t ready in time and had to fib to Steffi by telling her I had to get a celebrity ready at the Ritz.
Steffi: You left me standing at the main station for an hour! And you only ever wrote briefly: “I’ll be in touch…”. I was soooo mad at you!
Joana: And I was totally stressed and just exhausted! I worked the whole day in the salon and then I had to do all the preparation! I had to do almost everything myself! Then I had Steffi picked up and asked her to come to the room. I had rolled out a red carpet full of flowers, red roses. There was a dinner table in the room…of course she knew she was going to be proposed to today. I even hired someone to film everything and he actually forgot to turn the camera on! So stupid! It just wasn’t meant to be.
Steffi: Luckily that doesn’t happen in our relationship any more because I plan everything now.
Joana: And when I plan something, she looks over it again. There must be no surprises, Steffi has to be prepared for everything.
So Steffi is the control freak in the relationship?
Joana: Yes, exactly, but I can cope with it.
“Whether you are in a partnership or marriage, you are still yourself. Either you find a partner who accepts you like that or it’s just not meant to be.
It’s nice that you accept each other as you are.
Joana: That’s the most important thing for us.
Steffi: No matter whether you are in a partnership or marriage, you are still yourself. Either you find a counterpart who takes and accepts you like that or it’s just not meant to be. I once told myself that I never want to put my happiness on the back burner again. I don’t want to have to bend for someone else. I think it’s very rare to find a partner like that and we’re very lucky to complement each other like that.
How does your family deal with the relationship?
Joana: Steffi’s mum (she only has her mother) accepts us as we are and supports us. She treats me like her own daughter and is like a second mum to me. I grew up very strictly in a Catholic family and my parents don’t know how to deal with such a situation in such a liberal way.
Steffi: In Portugal it is still different.
Joana: You belong to a different generation. My parents always said: “Others should do what they want, but not my own daughter”. That’s why I don’t have a close relationship with my parents. It’s different with my grandmother, with whom I have a close relationship and she also loves Steffi. There is only the language barrier in between. My parents thought for a long time that it was just a phase. Even when we announced the wedding, they still didn’t want to believe it. It’s harder for Steffi than for me because she doesn’t get the security she deserves.
Steffi: I knew it differently before because I was in relationships before where I had a very good relationship with my partner’s family. Now it’s the opposite for me. I had to struggle with that at first, but in the meantime I have come to terms with it. Joana is my family, my mother is my family and that’s enough for me.
Joana: Maybe something will change now when they find out that Steffi is pregnant. You have to know that I have a very big family, a big part of which lives in Portugal in the village. This part of the family handles our relationship much better than my parents and siblings. But I also see it like Steffi: She is my family and my everything and the rest doesn’t matter.
Steffi: But we know so many people who love us.
How do you deal with your relationship in public?
Joana: Super open. We don’t care what others think about us.
Steffi: We already adapt to other cultures on holiday and pay attention to where you can travel as a same-sex couple. On the one hand, we are very open, but we adapt to the environment. Even though it is becoming more and more accepted in our society and is being discussed more openly, same-sex relationships are still not “normal” and that has to be said so openly.
And have you already had negative experiences?
Joana: No, not really.
Steffi: Sometimes we get funny questions like, “Who is the man in your relationship?” I always think to myself, “Can’t you tell?” Or: “When you have a child, will the child call Joana daddy?” Why should our child call Joana daddy when she is a woman?
Joana: The best question is also: “Do you want to be a man?” They infer that from my sporty style, although I also have feminine features.
Steffi: Or sometimes people say to me: “Steffi, you haven’t had the right man yet!” To which I reply, “Yes, I have been with great men!” In the end, I don’t fall in love with the gender, but with a person. And it has now become Joana and she is a woman and with that I am totally fine. But I wouldn’t rule out that it could have been a man either.
Joana: Many questions just go below the belt.
Steffi: Most people probably don’t even notice that. I have clients who belong to Jehovah’s Witnesses. And they have already invited me to their camp three times because they think they can help me! It’s quite strange what you experience.
Joana: But on the whole, the experiences are mostly positive.
What would you like to see from society?
Steffi: I would wish for even more tolerance – tolerance all over the world, so that I don’t have to worry about whether I’m allowed to hold Joana’s hand or kiss her. Right now there is also the issue that we are having a baby together and that, legally speaking, Joana will never be the mum. I would wish that this would no longer be an issue in the future.
Joana: I would like tolerance to be a topic at school. No matter what body you are born in, no matter what skin colour you have, what culture you belong to, etc., children should learn tolerance from an early age so that there is no more bullying.
Steffi: We are very happy that we can live the way we want and that our environment accepts us the way we are.
Joana: But it is also because we are self-confident and stand by it.
Steffi: Yes, because my mum and my grandma have always encouraged me. They always told me that it doesn’t matter who you love, the most important thing is that you are happy. I would wish the same for others, that they can live as freely and self-confidently as we do.