"So be kind to your mates, or when you get mates; it is an incredible journey."
A lasting love
"I took one look at her, and I knew that she was the one for me.” This phrase is so overly romanticized, yet we all can’t help but wish that loved happened like this, something so uncomplicated and lovely, like the first time that George Bailey looked at Mary Hatch, stunning and shimmering in black and white behind Capra’s lens. That brilliant image could not better capture that elusive feeling of “love at first sight.”
After having documented a few interviews, I am intrigued by the emerging love stories of these couples that have endured for over a half of a century. The striking factor lies in the unexceptional nature of their first encounters and courtship, usually lasting for a fairly short amount of time. I’m sure it’s amusing to see me gearing up for a juicy love story during our interviews only to be met with an endearing yet simple scenario about how they just met and decided to get married one day: “I asked her to dance, and that was it.” “She signed my receipts, and that was it.” Oftentimes, this didn’t even come with a proposal; my grandparents just assumed that they would be married. After a short period of dating, so many of them took the leap down the aisle with a person that would become their partner for life and the mother or father of their children. How did they do it? I ask from the perspective of my generation so embattled by dating and relationships; how did they pull off a love that lasted a lifetime, literally?
This is a loaded question, but let me peel off the rose-colored glasses for a minute. Don’t let the Bailey family fool you; the whole point of the rest of that movie after their “magical” encounter in the gymnasium was to basically describe how much their life sucked afterwards—aka the deep sacrifices and hardships that they faced as a couple, as a family. The strength of their character, their perseverance, and the enduring nature of their love allowed them to overcome their greatest obstacles.
Nowadays, love is so misunderstood; love is a fairy tale, love will make me happy, love is a jaunt in the park, love is sharing a bank account or buying a dog, love shouldn’t look 50 at age 50. We are so grossly misguided; it is embarrassing. We are frequently asking what love will give ME today? Why are we so entitled? The beautiful thing about our elders is that they didn’t set any expectations or make bargains with love, and they didn’t feel entitled by life in general and by its graces. For them, a lover was a partner with whom they would fight the daily battles, trying to make it all work out and celebrating the good times in between. It was never meant to be a fairy tale.
Many times, our relationships are set up for failure because we start out with unrealistic expectations. It is hard to place blame for our behavior because we live in a society that is so commercialized and obsessed with this “perfect dream of love”. Back then, courting was so simple and unexciting compared practices today—there were no elaborate engagements, pictures running off into the sunset, and large wedding productions with all the bells and whistles. These are all nice, but it is so easy to get wrapped up in the celebration and display that at the end of the day, maybe we risk neglecting what really matters: the strength of the relationship.
It is true: times have drastically changed; our society is complicated. There are so many options and distractions, realities and virtual realities. We are the odyssey generation, always in search of bigger and better things, focused on self-improvement, bucket-list adventures, yoga classes, and taking selfies. We lead these exciting lives, yet love is so complicated and elusive.
It is positive to have more options and experiences but only if we have the right mindset before entering into a serious relationship or when arriving at a crossroads. It is important to simplify the equation, making sure that our expectations and priorities are in order. We need to realize that life is hard while learning to love ourselves and not expecting someone else to fix our problems or make us happy. If we expect anything, anticipate a daily struggle that will be faced together, and take pride in the immense effort that is the sharing of our lives with someone special.