“Destino! Destino!” is the toast that resounds at the table of Lorenzo Bartolini after he and Claire have been reunited as a consequence of Sophie’s discovery of a long-forgotten letter “to Juliet” of Verona (Letters to Juliet, 2010). The search for the one (among so many) Lorenzo Bartolini’s is symbolic of Hollywood’s fantasy that there is one right person for everyone, that marriage is fated, if you will, and that finding the “right person” is the most significant harbinger of success in a relationship.
My mother, God bless her, a good Christian lady, with her heart full of love for her 16-year-old son, responded to my question, “Mom, how will I know I’m in love?” with, “Son, you’ll just know!” leaving me with deep confusion but, at the same time, with a mysterious satisfaction that she was right and that I’d in fact, know! Then I remembered something else I’d heard her say: “Marriages are made in heaven!” For the next 14 years, my eyes would pause just long enough on the face of many a fair maiden whilst my beating, longing heart waited for said mysterious “knowledge” to alight and set me free.
How often I sit with couples for whom “the spark is gone” and I’ve been enlisted to help them recover it. “We started out so well, but now it’s different.” They are confused as to why the love didn’t last and why they now have irreconcilable differences. One partner confesses that she “had no idea he was like that!” He tells me that she’s not as affectionate as she was before they got married. Things have changed and “I can’t believe I could have made such a big mistake!”
These expressed conflicts are evidence of the pervasive myth that finding the right person is of utmost importance, that making the “right” decision is the surest determinant of success. By the time they sit in my office, it is not good news that their presupposition was erroneous—most people show up too late for counseling and leave to early! They’ve swallowed the pill that was fed to them that, having the right mate would somehow make the living (and loving) easy.
But those who begin to comprehend the truth that finding the right “soulmate” has very little to do with marital quality and longevity—that love is not inevitable—embark on a journey of discovery that marriage is a daily choice to remain committed to the pursuit of one’s lover. Love doesn’t happen to us; there’s no such thing as “falling in love.” If there were, then “falling out of love” would make as much sense.
Love is a daily choice to pursue my lover relentlessly, fearless of what I will discover, never using any failing as an excuse to abandon. It means steadily, with patient intent, moving towards my partner, seeking creative ways to communicate that they will always be the object of my love, that I will never give up. It requires that we unhinge our own satisfaction from our commitment. Otherwise, love is conditional: as long as you please me, I will love you. So long as the spark lasts (my feelings, perhaps), I will love you. When “it” dies, I’m gone.
Eros may fade, but Love CANNOT perish, because it is superior to emotion and always under my control. Our lover cannot prevent our love!
This truth is deeply liberating. To be sure, it is not easy. But then, nothing worthwhile ever is, is it?
To explore this kind of love and how to acquire the skills necessary to repair and maintain a fractured relationship, why not reach out? www.clairjantzen.ca/counseling for an in-person or online booking.