February 2016: New happy endings: rewriting the love myth

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Dear Readers,

It’s February – and it seems like everything you read is all about love and relationships. I found myself wanting to write about tips to keep the passion alive, crafting the perfect online dating profile, secrets to get over your ex, followed by secrets on how to get your ex back. Wait, has love really always been this complicated?

Married for over 50 years, my grandparents have always been my most reliable example of a healthy, loving relationship. Their love story is pretty idyllic – they met, my grandfather pursued his muse, they married and they lived happily ever after. After having raised seven children and spent everyday together for decades, they still cuddle on the couch together, watching baseball. I have never seen them fight, and I’ve never seen them exchange a single harsh word. The most conflict I’ve ever witnessed between them is my grandmother giving him “the look” when he talks about politics a little too fervently at family get-togethers. Other than that, they’re my definition of a perfect couple: respect, faith, affection, and little need for material things to fill a void.

As Valentine’s Day rolls around, I start to wonder if I’ve missed my chance at the kind of love my grandparents have. As that lifelong bond of dedication, compassion and yes – compromise – becomes more and more scarce in our society, I start to panic, wondering if all of us singletons are doomed.

While the deeply-engrained ideals of traditional, fairy tale love still rest somewhere deep inside my heart, I remind myself of all the proof I have that true love as one exclusive story is a myth – and as our society changes, so do the ever-increasing complexities of intimate adult relationships.

Thanks to the honesty and courage of several readers who generously shared their own love stories, February’s Love and Relationships issue offers more proof that real love comes in many forms, defying preconceived notions. “Happily Even After,” an article on page six of this edition, features successful online dating love stories of widows and widowers who found a second love in each other after the death of their respective spouses – partners in a happy marriage decades long. The story gave me much-needed perspective on my own incomparable heartache, and a deep compassion for all the widowed who have courageously faced the grief of losing someone you’ve shared your life with for 30, 40, 50 years.

What made their stories so admirable was their willingness and openness to acknowledge the complexity of their own situation to me and to each other. They openly admitted that they had lost the love of their life, and a newfound romance would never serve as a replacement for their lost love…but that they were ok with that. Happiness and companionship created a new kind of love the second time around. Having properly mourned and honored the loss of their partners, these widows and widowers turned to online dating and found partners who could understand them – having been through the same thing themselves. Then, they went on to build a different kind of love offering one another comfort, understanding and renewal.

I had seen the power of renewal birthed from love in my own life, as I now see my mother and father the happiest they have ever been. Having each met what seems to be their perfect match, both are in happy, loving relationships that have already lasted for years. Both of them seem like different people all together – calmer, happier and more at peace. With sparkling eyes, an ease in communicating and a deep love evident in both couples, perhaps the lessons they all learned from previous relationships opened them up to finding the right love for them.

I suppose February’s issue taught me more than any other has – about life, love in the later years, and about respecting the different ways in which we express our hearts. For all of you with a love that you share with the world, thank you for the gift – and for all of you still searching, I won’t give up hope if you don’t.

Sincerely,
Amanda Smith

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