If you weren't quite sure, EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE now lets us know:


Story Highlights

-- Scientists have discovered that people can have a love that lasts a lifetime
-- About 10 percent of couples appear to feel young love's first blush permanently
-- Research has suggested first stages of romantic love fade within 15 months

Well, thank you, Science. This is both wonderful and horrible news. It is also not news to me.

I could've told you that this kind of love was real. But, no matter. I am just another one of the millions of folks over the years who have sat down to tell you this, who felt the need to make the case for it, or express the longing for it, knowing that it was "out there." I appreciate that Science is on-board, because I am super down with Science, and like everything to do with brains and stuff. Theys got machines now that kin measure thangs, like pupil dilation, heart rate increases, brain chemical changes, hormonal and adrenal changes. People in love are, in a word, wacky, and it is fun to hook them up to wires and electrodes and sweatometers and drool measurers and whatnot.

These early physical and chemical responses to love are quite similar to those people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or an amphetamine habit, which is why Science, and its pal Psychology, have often split love into phases: Lust/Romance/Attraction and Companionate/Reasoned/Affectionate. It seems to make sense. No one can sustain the mental and physical explosions and changes that love brings forever, right? It would be like running flat-out; after awhile you have to slow down or you will just burn up from effort and exhaust all your resources. You then either settle into the latter phase of Love, or break up and perhaps search again for that romantic high, that person who sparks you up. If your break up was significantly traumatic, you might decide that Love was a BIG FAKE MEANIE and not try to find it ever again. Love, that Big Love that all the songs and poems and stories and movies and paintings and sculptures have been made to celebrate or mourn, is transitory. Sometimes found, but impossible to keep at that first amazing moment when the two hearts seem to beat together, effortlessly in tandem, and all of life's little moments seem richer for it.

Right? Right?

No. And yes. But no!

Sometimes, and I think it is for far, far less people than the ten percent this study estimates to be the case, you win THE LOVE LOTTERY. Which means, you get it ALL: love, lust, friendship, attraction, emotional, intellectual, and physical intimacy, romance, ease, comfort, acceptance. All of that, always. Do not confuse this with perfection; there is no such thing when it comes to people, especially when you put two of them together in a room for a long time, or even a couple of days. Love Lottery winners have the same hard times, the arguments and disagreements, the frustrations and disappointments as anyone. BUT, and I made that a capitalized BIG BUT, the difference is that there is a connection there so strong, deep, and mutual, a respect and a trust understood and valued, that the Lottery winners will do what it takes, willingly and gladly, to keep communication open, to keep this very special thing going, to take this piece of magic and make it work. Put simply, they just kind of adore each other, and keep just enough of the OCD love-crazy silly in them, while being able to accept each other and grow as individuals, whatever may come to them.

This is how every so often you see some incredibly ancient couple slowly walking, the more-able one matching the pace of the one with the cane, holding hands and chattering like they just met. Or another couple with three little crazy kids under the age of five running around who can still steal a glance and smile with a wink. Or another pair who sit quietly at a coffee shop reading their separate books or papers, and every so often will connect with a small touch, a shift toward each other, an almost-imperceptible mirroring of their bodies.

I guess if you do the math, you understand why this is also horrible news.

Just like Powerball, yes, this is real and yes, you can win it, but your chances are not so good. So much goes into being able to get it in the first place. Love Lottery is not just fate or chance, although that is also a huge part of it. Sometimes you just run out of time or opportunity to meet the other ticket holder. But more often, it is because you can't see it or accept it because of Issues. In order to feel that, have that, and keep that magic, you have to have some experience in real, unconditional love. Someone in your past must have given you this, and you must have been able to feel it and believe it, whether it was from a parent or another family member, a loyal friend, a teacher who believed in you, or even a damn dog who would not leave your side when you were sick with the flu. You also have to think enough of yourself to think you deserve to be loved, and to give love. Life messes up people pretty hard, and it is really hard to be fully open and giving to any other human being if you can't find the good in yourself to offer, or you just cannot bear the idea of giving it, and it going away someday.

Not to mention not only do you have to have that all aligned, but your SPECIAL PAL has to as well. "Mutual" is so the key word here, where there is a more even balance to the give and take of the relationship, where you both are pulling in the same direction for the same reasons, and pulling as hard as you can. And finally, you both have to WANT IT. Not everyone does, and that is not always a bad thing at all. There are people that are perfectly sound and healthy who simply do not care for the intensity and work that a Lottery Love requires. They are able to have excellent and full lives with different kind of relationships, and do not feel cheated or let down by life in the least. They find satisfaction in other things.

My worry is for those who want the Lottery, and fear they shall never have it, and always wonder and feel a lack. I worry for those that think they have the Lottery in other person, but don't see that the other person doesn't really agree, and they think you can make the Lottery happen if you just love someone enough or long enough. I worry for those already in relationships, and they pretty well know they are not in the 10%, and are sad or bored or confused. Some of them will get divorced, some of them will hang on and either live with the sadness or attempt to see if there is something in them or their partner preventing the Prize Patrol from knocking on the door. It is all so complex, and there aren't really any stock answers other than to be honest with yourself, and to work on that Issues deal. Nothing is ever hopeless, and it ain't over until it's over.

A simple physiological measurement of long-term couples' responses to photographs is nothing to base your world upon. But just look around you. So much of the good, the beautiful, the powerful, the astounding, the heart-wrenching, the most meaningful and lasting things in life have been created through, by, and for love. It is there, it is real,is worth it all. I will defend it and protect it and believe in it to my last breath, like a nutty tin-foil hat wearing superhero, holding a box of melted Brach's Valentine candy, L-O-V-E emblazoned on my hot-pink flowing cape, able to leap over a dozen roses in a single bound.

I wish you all good luck and peace through all the times of your lives, and loves.

Johnny Cash -- "In My Life"