Philly Love Story: Steve Duross and James Langel
Steve Duross, 52, and James Langel, 34, opened a business together, got married, got divorced, and remain business partners … and friends.
PM: How did you two get together?
James: It was January 2003, walking dogs early, early in the morning, 6:30. Unbrushed hair, unbrushed teeth. We didn’t get together officially for another year. It was Christmas of 2003 that we were together. We got married in September of 2005.
PM: You formed your business after you were together but before you were married. Was that a huge step?
James: I don’t think we really looked at it that way. I was going back for my MBA, and I wasn’t happy with my job at the time, and Steve was like, “Hey, this is something I really want to do. I would love to do it with you.” I said, “Okay, it sounds like a good idea.”
PM: When did you break up?
James: Fall of 2011. But we actually lived together for another seven or eight months until I left for [a job in] Europe.
Steve: Living together was awful. It was painful.
PM: Was there talk of dissolving the business?
PM: Sounds like a pretty friendly breakup.
James: Well, let’s just say we weren’t sawing the sofa in half. You know, I hate to quote Sex in the City, but I’m going to quote Sex in the City: Carrie said something like, “You love somebody and you have a life with somebody and it doesn’t work out — where does the love go?” It’s not We’re broken up; let’s throw grenades at each other. In the past three years, Steve has visited me three times in Austria.
Steve: I made a vow to this person. I didn’t make a vow that we were going to stay together forever, and that I was going to be married to you no matter what. That’s just not realistic — it’s time to change the vows. You make a promise to your friend, your best friend: I’m going to have your back. And then one day you’re not going to have his back anymore?
PM: Do your friends have opinions on your relationship?
James: People are so used to picking sides when a couple breaks up. I think our friends have just been confused because they don’t understand how we can be so close. The main thing is, they respect and support what works for us. Hopefully we’re setting a new precedent for how breakups have to be.
PM: James, you moved back from Europe last month.
James: Steve and I are sharing an office.
PM: Are you nervous about being so close after years apart?
James: The timing of everything worked out well, having three years living away in Europe figuring things out. … How many times have you broken up with somebody and just wished, “Oh my God, can’t they just move away?”
Steve: My answer to that is yes. I am the tense one. James is sunny — everything is going to be fine. The world can be crashing down around him and he’s like, “Oh, step over it, it’ll be fine,” and I’m like, “Oh my God!” So it’s a nice balance. Everyone’s life is in flux with the new space and the expansion. But I just could not do it without him.
PM: Will it be okay if one of you starts a new relationship?
Steve: I said to him, “You know I’ll be fine as long as you don’t have your little bimbos coming by the store.” [laughter] My sense of humor tends to be wry.
James: I would be fine. I just hope that he finds someone who can give him everything he needs and has the same interests, you know?
Steve: So what does that mean?
James: I want you to be happy.
Steve: No, I get that, and I love you for it.
James: I mean, of course I’d be a little annoyed if you went for someone 15 years younger than me, Cougar Lady. [laughter] But yeah.
More Philly Love Stories
- A Whirlwind Romance: Todd Carmichael and Lauren Hart
- Together 24/7: Jeniphur and Michael Pasquarello
- A Single Scenester: Elizabeth Wellington
Originally published in the February 2015 issue of Philadelphia magazine.