Married ... with tigers

His wife, Andrea Ayala-Raffo, hangs by her hair attached to a steel cable 30 feet above concrete.

But after clocking out of their high-adrenaline, not so 9-to-5 workdays, the gears shift dramatically.

"We like to go eat at the Olive Garden or a steak house or a local favorite," Daniel Raffo says. "We like to visit museums and parks with our son, Davian."

The Raffos met while touring with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and married in 1998. Both from long-time circus families, the Raffos have watched many marriages and circus gigs weave together.

When your daily routine is death-defying thrills, they say, the key to longevity is keeping drama out of their relationship.

"We are together 24 hours a day, and once in a while I will need a little space, but mostly we just get along very well. We try to laugh every day, and after

performances, we enjoy just hanging out in our trailer, relaxing and spending time together," Andrea Ayala-Raffo said.

The AJC recently caught up with the couple — scheduled to perform with the circus Feb. 13-22 at Philips Arena — and asked them three questions about the three-ring circus of married life.

Q: Is it easier to get a tiger to do what you want or your wife to do what you want?

Daniel: With tigers, you have to respect them and you have to get to know their personalities. Some like to jump a lot. Others like to sleep a lot and you have to respect that and be patient. You can't just ask them to do something. My wife — she does what she wants. But I have learned, sometimes she likes to sleep in. So I let her sleep in and I get up with our son.

Q: When you are performing and see your wife, what are you thinking?

Daniel: When I am performing, she is watching my back. She is my second set of eyes. She is another set of eyes on the tigers. When she's performing, it's a great feeling to see her perform. And I put my hands up to her and help her get down.

Q: What is the key to staying happily married in the circus?

Andrea: We are both fifth-generation performers, so seeing a married couple in the circus is all that we know. But what I learned from my parents is how they were always there for each other, watching each other's backs. They were patient with one another.

I know what I have to do for my husband to help him. He knows what he has to do to help me. We are a team.

TO CATCH THEIR ACTS

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus

Feb. 13-22 (most weekdays have morning and evening performances; most weekend days have three performances). $14 to $35. Philips Arena, 1 Philips Drive www.ringling.com; 404-249-6400

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