Jennifer Aniston sure does have a lot of reasons to celebrate.
The actress rings in her 49th birthday on Sunday, just days ahead of celebrating Valentine’s Day with husband Justin Theroux.
The occasion marks another busy year for the couple — Aniston recently signed on with Reese Witherspoon for a new Apple TV series, while Theroux filmed the comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me in Budapest.
“They have figured out a life that works for them,” a source previously told PEOPLE of the couple that married in 2015. “Jennifer’s life with Justin is great.”
A second source said the distance helps them appreciate the time they do have together even more.
“This has not hurt their marriage at all, it seems to help,” an entertainment source previously told PEOPLE. “They love and respect each other and do spend a lot of time apart. For them, it is a healthy part of their romance.”
Added the first source: “By not spending every minute together, it’s like their honeymoon is lasting longer.”
But when they aren’t working, Aniston and Theroux, 46, enjoy a quiet life at the Los Angeles home, which they designed together.
“There was a time when I thought there was something romantic about picking up and trotting off somewhere different every three months. Now I’m becoming more particular about the projects I take,” Aniston told Architectural Digest. “I look around at my husband and my dogs and our home, and there’s nowhere else I want to be.”
Just skating at the Winter Olympics this year, medal or no, is already a victory for pair figure skater Alexa Scimeca Knierim, she tells PEOPLE, less than two years after facing down a rare and potentially deadly gastrointestinal condition.
“This competition’s very meaningful for us,” says Alexa, who skates with Chris Knierim. “We’ve kind of been lacking the joy and lightheartedness of life for about two years now, from all the struggles we’ve been through, so being here together, Chris and I are kind of just enjoying it.”
The couple competed Sunday afternoon at the team figure skating event, in Gangneung, South Korea, where they placed fourth in their free skate. It was somewhat of a let-down following a short program on Thursday that earned them a season’s best score and helped keep alive Team USA’s chances of a medal in the event.
Even so, the Knierims made it to the Games — its own reward.
“Today wasn’t a brilliant skate by any means, but we’re just so happy to be here,” says Alexa, 26, adding, “We’ve already won by being able to step on the ice.”
Asked if such a competition feels like a celebration, having made it through the lows of her health struggles, the couple is quick to reply yes. “One-hundred percent,” Chris, 30, tells PEOPLE.
Speaking to reporters not long after their free skate, he and Alexa also discussed the key role their Christian faith has played in their lives, from Alexa’s worsening condition, her diagnosis on through her recovery.
“It’s the reason I was able to get back on the ice,” Alexa said, “because I stopped worrying and stopped trying to control life, because I couldn’t. In the moment, you know, I was so sick and didn’t really know where things were going to go for me, whether it was skating or life in general. So I finally just threw my hands up and said like, ‘You lead the way,’ and it’s my testimony and I stay true to it.”
“And even here at the Games, it’s no longer about me,” she continued. “I have fans out there who know that I am a true believer in the Lord and I’m trying my best to shine his light and let people know that it’s okay to promote him and do things for him, because in the Christian life that’s kind of what we’re supposed to.”
For her, the Olympics is an opportunity to “glorify God, and my followers know that that’s my purpose and it makes me happy,” Alexa said. “I’m here living my dream, and if that’s the way that I have to go about it, I’ll keep doing it.”
Standing beside her, Chris agreed: “We both share the same thing,” he said of the place of religion in their lives. “I think it’s played out in her a little stronger than me because of the situation she was put in.”
Alexa and Chris have a group prayer before each of their competitions, just after warming up off the ice, she said. They also meet regularly with other Christian athletes in Colorado.
“So it’s taken a big kind of role in my life and Chris’ and I truly believe that’s why we were able to get here,” she said.
The Knierims previously detailed Alexa’s health journey to PEOPLE in an interview last fall, explaining then how she became ill in the spring and summer of 2016, eventually being diagnosed two months after their June wedding that year.
“In April of 2016 I started feeling very sick at a competition, it was the last one of the year, and issues continued to develop all the way through August of 2016 when I was finally diagnosed and had immediate surgery in my abdomen,” Alexa told PEOPLE. “I ended up having three surgeries and we had to withdraw from all of our events for the first half of the year. My life, our life, changed drastically in that time period — life was on hold and we weren’t really sure what life would be for the two of us.”
“I’m 5-foot-2 and I was about just over 80 lbs. before and after surgery,” Alexa said. “I lost all of my muscle, and my body mechanics when I started getting back into working out were like next to none … the very first time I stepped back on the ice after my surgeries, Chris had to hold me up because my body was not capable of standing on its own.”
And yet here they both are now, together, at their first Olympic Games.
“Coming here, you know, this is the cherry on top,” Chris said last week after competing in the pairs’ short program. “We’ve had a tough couple of years, and this is just something really special.”
The 2018 Winter Olympics are airing live on NBC. To learn more, visit teamusa.org.
Married pairs figure skaters Alexa and Chris Knierim sealed their season-best performance, on Friday morning at the 2018 Winter Olympics, with a kiss on the ice — and a chorus of “awwws” from the audience in the arena (and probably around the world).
“When we kissed, in the back of my mind I was like: We’re on Olympic ice. It’s still such a big deal, we’re still like kids taking it in,” Alexa tells PEOPLE only minutes after leaving the rink.
She says once she heard the audience’s reaction to the couple’s smooch, “I was like, ‘Chris do one more!’ ”
The Knierims, first-time Olympians who started skating together in 2012 and wed in June 2016, had “hands down” their best short program of the season when they took to the ice for the team skating event on Friday morning in Gangneung, South Korea, Chris later told reporters.
Their final score of 69.75 earned them the top spot for a time until Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford bumped them to No. 2. They eventually landed in fourth, behind Canada, Germany and Russia.
In the team event, men, women, pairs and ice dancers from 10 top countries all perform the first of two programs; the five best nations from those performances advance to the second routine from each of the four categories — and the top three medal.
— U.S. Figure Skating (@USFigureSkating) February 9, 2018
Alexa and Chris, 26 and 30 respectively, came into the Winter Games this week fresh off their second national pairs title. They were clearly exulting in their success at the Olympics, which helped sustain Team USA’s medal chances after a disappointing fall from Nathan Chen in the men’s short program earlier in the day.
Speaking to press after skating, the Knierims both said they were more calm than nervous on the world stage, with Chris noting it was going through nationals and making the cut for Team USA that was the more tense experience.
“Coming here, you know, this is the cherry on top,” he said. “We’ve had a tough couple of years and this is just something really special.”
Not long before their wedding two years ago, Alexa was diagnosed with a rare, potentially fatal gastrointestinal condition from which she later recovered.
Should the U.S. qualify for the free skate and free dance, the Knierims will be back at the Gangneung Ice Arena before they return again to compete for the pairs medal.
“We’re here for the team and everything, but we’re also here just to kind of do our best,” Alexa said. “And if that helps the team, then we did our job.”
When I first had the idea for this story, I vastly underestimated how hard it would be to find couples who’ve been married for over 40 years. I started asking around within my circle of friends (hoping that their parents might qualify) and was quickly reminded that the statistics are no longer in favor of such long unions. That said, the people included below are in the very special percentage of women who’ve made love work long term. I don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed working on a story more, or been more inspired by the wisdom and advice revealed. No matter how long you’ve been with your partner (or, if you’re like me and still looking for that special person) you’re sure to be inspired by the ideas below. Happy month of love! …see the slideshow here
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