I had a secret, selfish motive for writing the column. On some level, despite all the evidence around me, I still wanted to cling to the belief that I was wrong about love. Everyday when I checked my email, I was looking for one letter. I had hoped it would be from someone older, someone who had several decades of marriage to one man or one woman under his or her belt, someone willing to put her name to a claim that she'd been in love with her spouse when they married and that, after thick and thin, they were still "in love." There was a critical distinction I hoped this person would make between having genuine love for their spouse after a long marriage and being "in love" with the person after all those years. So far, that letter hasn't come, though I'm still looking for it.
What came instead were letters and emails from well-written, clear-minded people -- the most mail I've ever gotten on anything I've written -- who'd never been in love and, based on what they'd seen of life, didn't believe that such a state exists, at least permanently. Until they emailed me over the last few weeks, many of them had never shared their secret, that they had never been "in love" and doubted they were capable of it, with anyone for fear of what others would think. Those who had shared it often regretted their confessions, because those they shared their secret with always had the same reaction: to try to figure out what was wrong with them. But once they started writing about it to me, someone they didn't know, it was as if they couldn't stop until their emails spanned pages and pages and clogged up my inbox.
Actually, that was about three- quarters of the mail I got. The other quarter was a hateful smorgasbord of name-calling by folks who accused me of being bitter for questioning whether such a state of being existed and could be maintained over a lifetime. (Ironically enough, not one of these people claimed that they had ever been in love, they just called me names.)
Well, I may be cynical, and I may have an overdeveloped desire to fully acknowledge the reality that I'm living in, but I am not bitter. Sure, like everyone else, I've been fortunate enough to have been burned by a couple of guys, who would have been terrible for me, before I wasted any more time on them. But by and large, I've had wonderful relationships with men and I'm quite fond of the male gender.
The same could be said for most of the people who wrote me about those they had dated. They wanted to marry or had been married, but after numerous crushes and infatuations, they said that they planned to pick their partners with their minds and not their hearts and that so far, no one who fit the bill had come along yet.
The best we can do for ourselves and each other is to decide what, not who but what will make us happy, and then find a person willing to walk the path we've chosen for better or worse, richer or poorer, in love or just plain loved.
Maybe there's a better way I don't know about, but given the rate at which our marriages fail and the pain it is causing the children of this country, this strategy has got to be better than what we're doing now. The time to be honest with ourselves and each other is before we go down the aisle, not after, in the decades when we're living in a marriage based on myth.