|Kelli and Joel Guitierrez kiss to seal their love.|
by Susan Moore
Most people begin looking for love early in life and are lucky enough to find it. Others give up looking all together and end up finding exactly what they were not expecting to find.
When Kelli, a recent graduate of WVU Parkersburg, and Joel Gutierrez, a current student at the college, met in 2008, Joel’s brother Jesse was about to leave to work in Iraq.
As many were gathering to see him off on his journey, a silent connection was happening.
“I was not looking for anything long term,” Kelli said.
“Neither was I,” added Joel.
But in typical fashion, when people are not looking for love, it finds them.
Kelli was a single mom at the time, trying to support and raise her son, Alec. Joel was living in Chicago, working full-time and doing pretty well for a young guy.
But on that fateful night, something happened that would change their lives forever. Their long-distance relationship began.
Joel left shortly after the party to return to Chicago, but the connection that they made that night continued.
Long-distance relationships are not easy ones to maintain, but Kelli and Joel made it look simple.
“We talked as much as we could,” Joel said. “But we were expecting nothing to come of it at the time,” added Kelli. From sun up to sun down they were texting, talking and whatever other communication method they could use to keep in touch.
Joel would often come to West Virginia to visit and Kelli made the venture to Chicago to keep this relationship going.
But the traveling began to take its toll on both Kelli and Joel. During a call one day, Joel threw out a thought he had. He felt it was time to make the move to West Virginia and bring some stability to this relationship. Joel gave up a great job and the majority of his family to be near Kelli. “It was all about her,” Joel said about his decision.
But this move was not easy on him. He had left a comfortable paycheck in Chicago and was having a difficult time adjusting to West Virginia. But he stayed because of Kelli, and settling down was what he was prepared to do.
About six months after his move, Joel thought he was ready to propose. One evening after everything had settled down, Joel did what most men fear and asked Kelli for her hand in marriage. It was not the grand gesture of which most women dream. Yet it was simple and heartfelt, matching the nature of their relationship.
After the initial shock wore off, Kelli responded with a "yes," and they were off to share the news with Kelli’s son Alec.
But much to Kelli’s amazement, Joel asked Alec for permission to marry his mom. In which Alec respond with an enthusiastic "yes" to match his mom’s response.
Soon, a wedding was planned and Kelli and Joel were married on August 7, 2010. But that is not the end of their love story. Kelli and Joel share a love that most would want. But love is not always easy.
“We struggle sometimes to find our balance,” Kelli said.
But for the Gutierrez family, each day is filled with love and laughter, mixed in with some arguing and reasoning.
“We are still getting to know each other,” Joel said. “There are some days where moving back to Chicago seems like the right thing to do,” he continued.
But due to the love and support of his wife, he knows their love will persevere.
To Joel, the loving and understanding nature of his wife keeps him grounded. “She is an amazingly fun, open, and creative person," Joel added.
For Kelli, it is the big heart and Joel’s devotion to making her and Alec’s life a great one that keeps her going each day.
“He is patient, romantic, and a complete spoiler,” Kelli said as she described her husband.
In the end, love is all anyone is looking for and Kelli and Joel Gutierrez seem to have found it. Taking it one day at a time, this couple is finding what it takes to keep the balance between family, love and life. Kelli and Joel still have many chapters to write in their love story.