What makes two people want to get together and form a lasting romantic relationship? The answers are as varied as the people themselves and worthy of serious study and consideration.
About two weeks ago, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage (yes, the same author as Eat, Pray, Love). In this book, the U.S. government doesn’t permit her partner Felipe to enter the U.S. due to some government regulations and they eventually get married despite their anti-marriage attitudes after unpleasant divorces and miles of red tape. While waiting for the necessary permission to come through, they travel to places outside the U.S.
In the book, Liz examines various cultural attitudes toward marriage around the world, as well as why people want to get married and what they gain or lose by marriage. The book offers an intriguing glimpse into Gilbert’s family dynamics as well.
It’s a constant source of fascination to me about how people meet one another, whether it’s in real life or in fiction. A wedded neighbor of mine saw her guy across a room and thought, “There’s the man I’m going to marry.” A college buddy met her husband because they both enjoyed sports such as volleyball and hiking. Two of my long-term friends met their spouses on online dating sites.
Other times, it’s a meeting that happens just by chance. Two people happen to be in the same spot at the same time or they get together because they work or volunteer at the same place.
Meeting someone else is really funny in fiction. Some of my favorite books have started out where the heroine gets into a tangle and the hero arrives at the worst possible moment and gets the wrong impression. This sets up a plot conflict that the characters resolve later.
What works best in a lasting relationship, from my observations, is when two people bring out the best in each other, genuinely care about the other person’s feelings, have similar attitudes and are good communicators. I’ve seen that some couples have a certain kind of ease in each other’s company — it’s not just their body language but their way of communication. After seeing one couple behave this way during a visit, I turned to my mom and said, “I’ll bet they’ll be getting engaged later!” and they did. (Yesterday, this same couple celebrated their anniversary — 14 years of marriage!)
Technology’s made it even easier to meet somebody. I watched a fascinating TED talk video where digital strategist Amy Webb described how she met her husband by studying the patterns of online dating and acting accordingly. (It’s a long video, but humorous and interesting.)