If falling in love — true love — is a phenomenon (and it most certainly is), then how do we measure the magic of falling in love again? With the same person. How does a relationship already fueled by the trust, devotion, and mutual affection we call love . . . grow? Whether natural, biological, or miraculous, humans do fall in love again. Try and script it, however much you'd like to achieve this form of nirvana, and you'll miss the chance. But when it happens, you know it.
To call my wife of 16 years the same woman I married in a little church in Brookfield, Vermont, would diminish the extraordinary growth of a person I share life with today. After 12 years of friendship (six of those as a couple), I had an inkling in 1994 that this person — the kindest I'd ever met — would be a good partner. But how many decisions do we make at 25 that we support, honor, and stand by the rest of our lives?
I fell in love with Sharon because of that kindness. Her eyes matched her smile in a beauty I thought was reserved for magazine covers. And the way she wore a certain dress . . . falling in love the first time was unforgettable. If any miracles were involved in this initial bond, it was Sharon finding enough in me to connect the metaphorical circle.
But there was so relatively little I knew about true love then as compared with what I've learned since. I didn't know Sharon would tear up with me on Ozzie Smith Day in St. Louis, my baseball hero saying goodbye as I gained a new layer in marital kinship. I didn't know she would endure a KISS concert (floor seats!) or press forward toward a college degree (while working full-time) that would open doors for her professionally I hadn't even known were there. I didn't know she'd relish a stroll on the grounds of Faulkner's Rowan Oak the way I do. The discoveries were significant, most of them making the kind of impact that goes way beyond ballparks or rock arenas. I fell in love again.
Then came parenthood. If anyone tells you "I knew he'd be a great father" before a firstborn arrives, you're hereby authorized to politely chuckle or, depending on the kind of acquaintance, outright scoff. It's an impossible role to forecast for oneself, let alone another, however true the love between you may be. When life turns from sustaining oneself to sustaining a helpless — and priceless — product of oneself, a partner's value grows (or in sad cases, shrinks) exponentially.
I didn't know Sharon would treat her body like that of an Olympic marathoner during her first pregnancy. I didn't know she'd turn bath time every evening into the most delicate and precious hour of the day, our baby (however dirty) the center of her universe. And I didn't know she would keep my shoulders up when a minor, though horrifying, health scare hit our second child just when we thought we had parenting mastered. The discoveries made our world different than the one I'd known. The woman I chose to marry became a mother I watched with awe. And yes, I fell in love again.
Last November, Time magazine ran a cover story asking "Who Needs Marriage?" In a survey of more than 2,600 adults, 39 percent said marriage is becoming obsolete (compared with a figure of 28 percent in 1978). When asked if they agreed that there is "one true love for each person," 69 percent did not.
You can count me among that 69 percent. A human life takes too many twists and turns for there to be but only one match for each of us. Imagine what Einstein would do with this math. But if we look closely enough at the person we love, and if we can recognize that love only starts with a wedding day, I believe a couple can become the only pair imaginable for either individual. This is falling in love again, and again, and again.
Ask the children of divorced parents if marriage is obsolete. Ask a child who never knows her father if marriage is an overrated institution. The tragic beauty of mankind is that we endure "the breakdown of marriage" despite the accompanying heartache. Consider yourself blessed if you've ever found true love. And if you find it again as you stare at that same person who gave you butterflies on your first date, well, embrace the magic. It's worth repeating.