by Jim Bates
Dave Callahan's browser was set to scroll through various news stories of the day. He was idly looking at them when one caught his eye: Is There Such A Thing As True Love? The story was based on an article a psychologist had written looking into the nature of true love. Dave was intrigued so he read it, but it turned out there wasn't anything astounding there. The psychologist had done a twenty year study and written an article detailing his findings. It all came down to what, in Dave's mind, was your basic psycho-babble about the nature of love and how everyone was different so every relationship was different and some relationships had stronger feelings of love than others, and blah, blah, blah, on and on, until Dave had just had enough. The author never even answered the question about whether or not there was such a thing as true love.
But what Dave found to be interesting was the "Comments" section at the end. There were over a thousand of them. A nerve had definitely been touched and reading some of them was quite interesting. The jest of it was that the vast majority of the people writing in were of the opinion that yes, in fact, they did believe in true love. By a margin of at least twenty to one. Easily.
Crazy, Dave thought to himself. Lots of romantic people out there.
Many of the comments were from women but there were a surprising number from men, and he found he couldn't stop reading them.
"I found my true love after divorcing my husband of fifteen years after years of neglect," one women wrote.
A guy said, "I married my high school sweet heart but it didn't work out. We just drifted apart. After we divorced, I met my true love."
Another female wrote, "We met in college and hit it off right away. We've been together ever since. It really is true love."
There were positive comments by straight couples and gay and lesbian couples and transgender couples. All types. In a way it was kind of cool, Dave thought, that there were so many happy couples out there.
As the days went by, Dave found he really couldn't stop thinking about the article and the concept of having one true love. He knew a lot of happy couples, and, if he had to guess, all of them would subscribe to the belief that their relationship was one based on true love. They did seem happy together, and Dave had no reason to doubt them. But there were also many people he knew who had been divorced or had been in bad relationships. How did the idea of true love fit into their view of things?
He remembered a conversation he'd had with his mother shortly before she passed away. His parents had divorced when he was ten. His father had left his mother for another woman, whom he subsequently married. They were together for five years before his father died. Some years after his death, Dave's mother remarried and she spent the rest of her life in a happy relationship with her new husband. But when Dave asked his mother if she ever had experienced true love she answered without hesitating, "Why, yes, your father."
"How could that be?" Dave asked, "He left you for someone else."
"He was the first man I truly loved. Even after he left, I thought he might come back."
Dave was shocked, "Would you have taken him back, after all he put you through? Put us through?"
"Yes," she replied, "In a heartbeat."
She was adamant in her belief and would not budge. In the end Dave wasn't sure if he was happy for her or sad for her: happy that she had experienced true love, or sad because her true love had left her for someone else.
The article also caused Dave to look more deeply into his own past relationships. From an early age he had always wanted to marry and have a family. He had been married twice. Once when he was in his early twenty's to a woman with whom he'd had two children. They had grown apart and divorced. A few years later he married a woman whom he'd been together with for over twenty years, before they, too, had grown apart and divorced.
He was a good father, but marriage hadn't worked for him. Had true love been a factor in each of his marriages? Not really, if he was honest with himself. He'd felt a great deal of affection toward each of his wives in the beginning, but that changed over time as other insurmountable life factors got in the way. Some of his conversations with friends over his lifetime had hinted that maybe he'd married and had a family to prove to himself that he could do better than his father had done with his mother. There was probably some truth to that, except that deep down he really did want to be a father and husband. The father part had been wonderful. The husband part, not so much.
A couple that he knew were both on their second marriages. They'd been together for over twenty years. He was convinced that they would say that their marriage was based on true love. Why was that? Because they both were devoted to each other, supported each other and enjoyed each other's company, as well as giving each other space and time to grow.
Maybe that's what it came down to when it came to true love. More than the depth of feeling one had for the other person, it was also the ability to accept that person for who they were and to be a positive part of the growth in that person's life.
A friend of Dave's often talked about her idea that relationships weren't designed to last longer than twenty years. People maybe had three good relationships in them in their lifetimes. One, early on in a person's twenty's before kids were born. Then, a second, middle period, where two people had children and raised a family together. And, finally, a third relationship toward the end of one's life when the child rearing and intense job years were over.
"Successful marriages, maybe combine all three relationship elements," she said,
"What about true love?" he asked her.
"What about it?"
"How does that fit in?"
She was divorced after nearly thirty years of a less than fulfilling marriage. She laughed. "I don't believe in true love. I'll leave that to you romantics."
Is true love, then, only for romantics?
Dave asked some of his male friends and most of them were very uncomfortable with the question, looking at him in a weird way with a kind of "What's wrong with you?" look on their face. Only one said that he believed in true love. Others had never really thought about it, and, when pushed, didn't really have an answer. But some of the comments on the article from guys said that they'd believed in true love, so that said something.
Dave wasn't sure why he was obsessing over the question. It all came down to the fact that even though he hadn't experienced true love, he still felt that maybe it was out there. That maybe it did exist. It did for others. Why not for him?
He was in a long term relationship that had been going on for over ten years. It was the kind of relationship where the two of them had met and been friends before falling in love and committing to each other. Friends told him that she was the kind of person he should have been with all along. He didn't disagree. He felt a depth of love and affection for her that he never had felt before, and he was one hundred percent committed to the relationship. They were mature adults and each had their own interests, but they loved sharing their life with each other. It was the happiest he'd ever been and she told him that being with him made her happier than she'd ever been. He could easily see them being together for the rest of their lives. She wanted it too. Neither of them had a desire or need to be married.
When Dave asked her whether or not she believed true love, she told him that she didn't. "Look, I'm just happy we're together," she said. "What more do you want?"
"As long as you're happy, I'm happy. I guess I'll just have to be the romantic one in the relationship," he laughed.
She smiled, getting what he was saying. "So it sounds like you believe in true love."
"You know, I believe I do, the more I think about it." He was trying to be honest. He told her about the article and the impact it had on him. Maybe true love really was different for everyone. Maybe the point wasn't about true love forever and ever, but, instead, was the idea of committing to the relationship through the good times and bad; to be with the person no matter what just for the simple joy of being together and having the fulfillment of a loving and caring relationship. Which was how he felt with her.
"Does it bother you that I don't?" She asked, "Believe in true love?"
"No." He liked that they were talking about it. "Just don't hold it against me that I do," he added and grinned.
She laughed. "Don't worry. It doesn't matter to me that we see things differently. How about you?"
"No. I appreciate that we are different and have our own points of view. I'm just happy being with you. I like our life together." He paused and then added, "I'm just glad we found each other."
She looked at him for a few moments and then reached over and squeezed his hand. "Me too," she said, her voice honest and true.
At that moment Dave realized that whether what they had was true love or not, he didn't really care. The important thing was that they were together and committed to each other and that was good enough for him. As to the question about whether or not true love really existed, well, he'd leave that for the psychologists to figure out. He had all he needed to know right there beside him with her.