Can True Love Still be Found in Today's World?
An Answer to Hubber's Question: in today's time do we see true love among people?
From ancient times to the present true love, or the bonding of two people in a lifelong union, has always existed and, for most, has always been the sought for ideal. Unfortunately, a number of people down through the ages, have been unable to find true love.
However, despite the fact that, from ancient times to the present, there have been people who have not found true love, the majority of people throughout history probably have found true love or something close to it.
The question in this request, in today's time do we see true love among people?, implies that true love barely exists or is in danger of vanishing in the present time.
However, one possible answer to this that true love is so common,
both today and in the past, that we don't notice it. What we do notice
are the exceptions or the cases of people where true love doesn't
Like the old journalist adage man bites dog is newsworthy while dog bites man is not newsworthy. Divorces and messy breakups are the exception and are thus newsworthy while happy marriages are common and don't stand out.
In the case of love there is also the problem of definition. There are three definitions that have historically been used and these are:
Eros - this is generally defined as sexual attraction and is the main theme of romance literature. Eros is exciting and is what provides the spice in a loving relationship. It is also a great theme in art and literature as well a sales and marketing.
Sex sells as any modern day marketer desiring to sell anything from laundry detergent to automobiles knows. The long running TV genre known as the soap opera has been used to describe the half hour long, ongoing TV shows dealing with romance and infidelity not because soap is the theme of the show but because their purpose is to attract an audience to view the laundry detergent commercials that originally sponsored these shows.
While Eros is exciting and is great for bringing people together, it is both self centered and short lived. Under the influence of Eros, a person seeks to satisfy their own desires. Of course for normal people, the object of one's desire either begins to feel the same erotic attraction in which each is then seeking to satisfy their desire with the other or the other fails to respond which causes the desire to die in the first one.
Eros, Agape & Philia - the Three Types of Love
Also, once one gets to know the person of their desire, the mystery begins to disappear and with it, much of the initial raw sexual desire. Of course in a long term relationship Eros can be made to periodically appear and rejuvenate the relationship, but Eros is too demanding and too self centered to sustain a long term relationship by itself.
Agape - Agape love is in some ways the opposite of Eros in that the focus shifts from concerns for one's own desires to those of the object of his or her love. Like Eros, Agape love is very selective as to the object of its love, but with Agape love the lover derives satisfaction from meeting the needs and making their lover happy rather than focusing on their own happiness and desires. This is like the Biblical command to give and you shall receive (Luke 6:38).
Agape love does not have the same intensity as Eros and this makes it ideal for a long term sustainable relationship. While Eros is like an adventure toward a goal in which the adventure ends when the goal is achieved, once a lover meets the object of his or her desire and satisfies that desire the intense erotic feelings tend to disappear.
Agape is concerned with the more mundane job of tending to the day to day little things of maintaining a loving relationship a task that, while requiring focus and work, is less intense and less self centered.
Philia - or Platonic love, like Eros and Agape, is an ancient Greek term which is used to describe friendship which is a special type of relationship between people.
Friendship is a relationship between two people that does not involve sex and has elements of both Eros and Agape love in that, in the short run, friendship can be mostly one way with help and support being given without the expectation of receiving while in the long run most friendships will dissolve without some sort of reciprocity.
True Love is Alive and Well Today - It is Just Not That Visible
When people talk about true love they usually have the image of a long term, loving relationship in mind. However, this is not what is most prominent in the information we receive each day. Marital breakups, spousal abuse, infidelity, etc. are the focus of attention while the fact that far more people are going about their daily lives happily married is usually overlooked. This is true of both the media and plain old gossip.
The fact that a co-worker, neighbor, relative, friend, etc. is having problems or has done something wrong makes for good gossip, or the evening news if it is big enough and juicy enough.
In reality many more people we know are happily going about their daily lives and his is so common and routine that it rarely merits comment. In fact the only time such everyday things stand out is when they are the exception - when the rest of the neighbors are filing for divorce and the Jones remain happily married that might warrant a comment or when all of the couples in a group except for one couple spend all their time bickering with each other, then the one couple that is not bickering will have some limited gossip value. However, things that are tragic, wrong or both make for far more interesting topics for journalists and gossips than good things.
Also, because it is more exciting, Eros has long been a theme for art and literature while Agape, being more common and more mundane, is usually only discussed in self-help books.
This is why almost every story, novel, stage play and movie dealing with romance ends with And they lived happily ever after. However, had the author continued on to describe living happily ever after they would have put the audience/reader to sleep because, while living happily ever after is great for oneself, it is boring to read about or view it in others. Sure, we may be happy for them and even be slightly envious of what they have, but for entertaining diversion most of us want something with more action, suspense and tragedy.
It is Natural to Take Common Things for Granted
This is not to say that we don't see the numerous examples of true love around us, it is just that they are so common that they don't register. It is like the drive to work every day in which we drive the same route at the same time and, hopefully, see everything.
Most of what we see on such trips is the same so it is not something to remember and talk about - what we see is usually what we expect to see. What we remember and talk about are the exceptions - the new building going up, the driver that cuts us off (have you ever heard anyone at work describe the number of drivers around them who drove as they should? - no, it is always the idiot who cuts us off who we talk about with our co-workers), the good road conditions (unless they are the exception), the sunshine, etc.
If we stop and look around we will find numerous examples of little things that loving couples do regularly for each other. Most of these are too small and insignificant, to others, to notice. But to the spouse they are big and it is the regular attention to these tiny details by each spouse, that leads to the the true love that we all long for.
Even Divorce Has Elements of Hope for Love
Even with today's high divorce rate (although the statistics still show the divorce rate being smaller than the number of long term, stable marriages) we can still see a pattern of love in many divorces.
This is, of course, mostly of the Philia or Platonic love variety rather than Eros or Agape. But not all divorces or bitter or, despite starting out that way, often don't remain bitter. While divorce itself is tragic in that the couple could not overcome their differences and remain married, many still maintain a friendly relationship.
Usually this is for the children but that is an act of love in that they are able to set aside their personal differences and maintain a relationship in which to raise the children. But there are also many instances here of going beyond cooperating and being nice to each other for the children's sake, and helping the other in both small and big ways when needed. Again, this is classic friendship but, in this case, it remains a still burning ember of what was once a real love.
My Great Uncle's Loving Example
Finally, in thinking of lasting love I am always reminded of my great-Uncle Walt's love for my great-Aunt Helen. They had a long marriage that in no way was unusual until the end.
As they approached their fiftieth wedding anniversary, my Aunt began to become forgetful - it was probably the onset of Alzheimer's but that had not been classified as a disease at that time so her condition was passed off as old age or hardening of the arteries.
As her condition worsened my uncle, who was retired, took over all of the household management and increasingly acted as her caregiver. Finally she had a couple of strokes which left her partially crippled and unable to articulate words.
My uncle had to put her in a nursing home as he could no longer adequately care for her alone. However, for the next ten years he spent every day, seven days a week, by her bedside talking with her from the time the facility opened for visitors at about 8:00 a.m. to closing at about five or six in the evening.
He remained happy and very positive both with my Aunt and with the rest of the family. He didn't just sit by her bedside and feed her (which he did himself every day as she lacked the coordination to do this herself) but he carried on a cheerful conversation with her all day and was always buoyed by the slightest change in response from her - a different movement of an eye or her head (neither of which she had much control over) an inflection in the sound she could make with her vocal cords (again, the strokes left her unable to form words with her mouth), etc.
He was not only encouraged by these small and rare responses from my great-aunt but joyfully shared them with friends and family in a manner of a young person describing a date with a new love.
Despite his age (he was in his 80s), my uncle remained spry and active in addition to his daily bedside vigils with my aunt. He continued to drive, attended family functions, helped others in the family with taxes and financial advice, corresponded with some of my cousins and me while we were away at college and researched and began writing his family history.
The family felt sorry for his burden and, while all of us admired his sacrifice for my aunt most felt his efforts were in vain as, to everyone but him, she seemed totally unaware of her surroundings. But he didn't feel this way and continued on certain that he was doing the best for my aunt and, in retrospect, he was actually enjoying his time spent with her.
Then, in his early 90s my uncle was briefly hospitalized for minor surgery. When he was released his sister picked him up an took him to her home for, what was assumed to be a short period of recovery. However, upon reaching her home he lay down for a nap and died of a heart attack in his sleep.
Looking Back It Was Love that Kept Both My Aunt and Uncle Alive in Old Age
Except for the damage from her strokes and her loss of memory, my aunt, who was also in her 90s, was basically healthy and the doctors predicted that she would live another five or ten years.
However, despite her good physical health, my great-Aunt Helen died in her sleep a couple of weeks after the death of my great-Uncle Walt.
In retrospect it was obvious that, despite her outward condition, my great-aunt was conscious of her husband's presence and love and that is what had been keeping her alive for the previous ten years in the nursing home. Without him she no longer had a reason to live.
Ironically, looking back I have come to believe that, despite my uncle's apparent sacrifices for her during her long illness and the good health he enjoyed, that their relationship was mutual. If my aunt had died earlier I think my uncle would have followed her soon after. In a way my invalid aunt kept my uncle alive just as he had kept her alive.
True Love Still Exists, We Just Have to Look for It
So, to the original question, in today's time do we still see true love among people? my answer is YES and I think that we can do no better than to paraphrase the line in the old New York Sun newspaper columnist Frank Church's wrote in his classic article, Yes Virginia There is a Santa Claus, and say:
Yes, true love still exists. It exists as certainly as caring and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.
Do You Believe That True Love Still Exists Today
© 2009 Chuck Nugent