Daniel Jones, the editor of the New York Times’ Modern Love column has read about 50,000 essays on love, and written a book called Love Illuminated — Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject about what he’s learned.
When Jones talked to Katie Couric about the book, she said she thinks if you want to find someone, you need to put out an APB to everyone you know.
The hazard in doing that, according to Jones, is that you have to know what you want before you send out that APB or it won’t make a difference — and, most people don’t know what they want.
They think they do, but they really don’t.
I believe there’s some truth in that.
Before I married Doug, I thought I knew, but looking back, I didn’t have a clue.
Does anyone, really?
We might be able to list certain characteristics and values, but is it possible or even practical to suppose that we can really know who we will love (or who we can love) by just analyzing ourselves, our needs, and wants?
How do we know who or even what type of person we can build a life with before we actually meet and get to know that person?
I’ve always envied people who found love quickly and easily without ever having to even wonder about things like this.
One of life’s most mystifying subjects to me is why some people find love easily and early in life; some find it much later; some never find it at all; and some find it; and then, heartbreakingly, lose it.
Daniel Jones told Katie three things he’s learned about love:
- You can’t hurry up fate. You can’t find someone fast AND have it be destiny. The two are incompatible.
- You can’t get married and stay single. You have to give something up for marriage to succeed.
- You can’t have love without the possibility of loss. You have to love fully, knowing it will end.
These are interesting conclusions.
On the first point, I agree that you can’t hurry fate. Sometimes two parallel universes need to be aligned and sometimes, that takes time, a lot of time.
But is love always the result of fate? Can love be a choice?
Not to take all the fun and romance out of it, but what if love could also be an investment, like a savings account you decide to open and build with regular, constant deposits to make it grow and thrive?
At first, I dismissed the second point because it seems so obvious — you can’t get married and stay single. But, one thing Doug and I have learned as “empty nesters,” (I hate that term…) is that without our kids to bring us together for games, concerts or family meals, we can easily go to our separate corners of the house, pursuing our own “single” activities, and quickly lose our points of connection.
He travels frequently and when he’s home, I might have evening meetings, dinners with friends, or be involved in projects of my own. We watch different television programs; read different books; and prefer different bedtimes. If we let that go on for very long, we start to feel more like roommates than husband and wife.
We’re consciously making more efforts to connect– like me joining him on an occasional business trip or me watching his mind-numbing TV shows. (In fairness, he says the same thing about mine. Take last night, for example, I wanted to watch Parenthood. He hates Parenthood because he thinks the characters always talk over each other. He wanted to watch endless CNN political talk shows, where they never talk over each other…)
But, back to writing about love…
In love, like most important things in life, there is no neutral. You are either moving forward or drifting backward.
Without effort, all relationships go adrift, and become purposeless. Unanchored, unmoored relationships cannot last; or at least, can’t be very fulfilling or satisfying. You need a destination, and you need to paddle.
To the third point, this one makes me sad, and would deter me from ever loving.
Except for two things:
1) You have to believe the relationship will be worth it. I remember when my dad died and the grieving was brutal. My mom said my grief was a testament to my love for him. “Would you have loved him less if you knew it would hurt this much to lose him?” Of course not. The love, the relationship was worth it.
2) Not all relationships have to end.
Some will end because one person may care more than another, or for a million other reasons, but I think we have to look for, invest in, and believe in lasting love.
Life ends, but relationships don’t.
Yes, there will be separations. One person will most likely die before another.
But, one of my core beliefs is that relationships don’t end when life ends.
Clearly, some relationships have to end for the well-being of one or both partners, but going into a marriage with the idea that it is temporary, automatically limits its success, depth, and potential for happiness.
Turns out I have a lot of thoughts on this topic and will likely follow up with my own ideas about love.
But, I’d like your ideas too.
Do you agree with Jones’ findings?
Are you paddling or drifting in your relationships?
Please share with me and help me illuminate this subject even more.
5 thoughts on “Love Illuminated”
Laurie your remarks are so eloquent. They are so different, so interesting. Many thanks for sending your articles. I hope you make them into a book. gk
“Not to take all the fun and romance out of it, but what if love could also be an investment.” This is what I love most about your essay. A marriage (like any relationship between human beings) is about deciding that I will make adjustments in my own needs and desires for the sake of having the comfort of companionship
. It really comes down to – do you want to be by yourself (which is fine) or do you want companionship? If you want companionship, you will necessarily have to make accommodations to another human being.
Janet, you summarized that so perfectly! True words for sure.
This is great, Laurie. I agree that a marriage is a commitment that you work on throughout the years. I think if you start nurturing it from the beginning, you don’t have to lose the romance and fun.
So true Erin! Welcome home, world adventurer.