Monday, May 31, 2010

Lasting Love: Happy Chance or Commitment?

Is lasting love the exception, the norm, or even possible?

A week ago Sunday, I came across an insidious quote on My Voice, My View. (I love this blog, follow it, and recommend it. Septembermom makes me think! And it is... Her Voice!)

The quote was from W. Somerset Maugham, an English playwright, novelist and short story writer who died in 1965 at the age of 91.

Here is the quote:

"We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person."

Insidious means "harmful but enticing." It is a lovely quote, written by an accomplished author; however, in the quote I found an untruth that took me decades to identify and disallow. Another way of putting this quote is: "Most people in love, fall out of love, unless they are lucky." Therefore... don't bet on love!

The sentiment behind this quote may be why so many men shy away from saying, "I love you," or commit to a relationship. They've bought Maugham's lie.

Today the leading cause of divorce in America is "Irreconcilable differences!" Or, No happy chance: We grew apart!

"There are many reasons for divorce that lead to the dissolution of a marriage. Reasons for divorce in the past had to show blame for the dissolution of the marriage against one of the spouses. Most states today have “no fault” divorce which means that the reasons for divorce do not have to prove fault by any party. Eighty percent of all divorces are granted on the basis of irreconcilable differences."1

In my mid-twenties I learned to trust God for what the future might hold, even in love. I have learned that lasting love is often the result of nurture, commitment, and compromise. (Lasting love is not a happy chance, but a designed outcome.)

On "My Voice, My View" I offered a comment:

I'll take the role of a contrarian here. It is not by "happy chance" we continue to love a changed person. It is by commitment.

When I was younger, hearing heard such a quote, I was reluctant to love. But I've found that on-going love is a choice, a determination, and a commitment. It is not merely "a chance."

I loved a woman who changed... decayed... and died. Love is... "for better or worse, sickness and in health..." not "if by chance..."

The quote is lovely and even is, perhaps, the majority view. But methinks... it gives too much room for giving up, getting out, and excusing a lack of commitment.

I'm not opposing divorce so much as I am defending love. We all change, and hopefully, we all continue to grow, but in a marriage there is plenty of room for change and growth. In fact, most spouses I know are hoping for that.

I'm not the man I was at 20, 30, 40, or even 50. I've changed. I was "becoming" at 20 what I became at 30, and so on. We fall in love with someone who also is "becoming." Together, we become a "new and improved" couple. We are still in love, not by happy chance, but by a sympathetic, earnest commitment.

Love is possible today and tomorrow. Even with the same person... for decades... for a lifetime... or... until God by death shall separate us.

Just some Monday musings.

PS: Wiki-pedia provides us this paragraph, including another quote, "Maugham's love life was almost never smooth. He once confessed: "I have most loved people who cared little or nothing for me and when people have loved me I have been embarrassed... In order not to hurt their feelings, I have often acted a passion I did not feel.""

Wiki-pedia also notes that Maugham did have a 30-year-relationship, "Haxton continued as Maugham's constant companion for 30 years, until he died in an alcoholics’ ward in a New York hospital. Maugham later placed the following dedication in his 1949 compilation, A Writer’s Notebook: In Loving Memory of My Friend Frederick Gerald Haxton, 1892 -1944." William and Frederick were friends and lovers.


  1. Now you know that you make me think all the time! Don, it's always a pleasure to visit you here :) Thank you for pushing me to see through this quote more deeply. Initially, I thought the quote affirmed the idea that we are are in continual change and we should celebrate the hopefully positive change as our loved ones grow and explore their individuality. Love should be dynamic, accepting and challenging to an extent. To be honest, I let that "happy chance" inference slip by me as I pondered the quote. I agree with you fully that love needs to be nurtured and developed through commitment and generosity of soul and attentiveness. Keeping a love alive should not be dictated by "happy chance." Too many people consider relationships to be disposable when they don't embrace the inevitable changes in people, circumstances and life directions. I appreciate the quote regarding Maugham's love life. It is interesting to read that he had such struggle with loving others and himself. It brings even more light to his "plea for acceptance" in love when you think of the original quote. Possibly, he would even accept that "happy chance" at love because he felt in a way crippled in his ability to express or exchange it.

    Thanks for the chance to share my musings. Hope they made some sense. I'm a little punchy this morning. Not enough sleep :)

  2. @September: Co-musing... that's blogging at its best! (Maugham reminds me of Oscar Wilde, very quotable, very insightful, but his life is far from being a positive model.)

  3. I like your idea of becoming, as opposed to changing. People use "change" as an argument and a self-defence; but how can anyone argue with someone becoming?
    As for myself, I don't think I have ever really changed. I have only developed in what has, thankfully, been a God-designed process, to the extent that I have cooperated with God. Everything I ever was is still thoroughly there. What I became or developed into may be surprising, and yet not foreign. It is becoming.

  4. @Dennis: I think the idea of becoming is very much in keeping with being created in the "likeness and image of God," who gives his name as "I am who I am" or as some have paraphrased, "I am becoming all my people need." Or we think of Jesus' proclamation: "I am." If God explains himself in terms of being, then isn't it appropriate that we should explain ourselves in terms of becoming?

  5. Oh, Don. Ever the contrarian. :P

    That quote is very enticing, and were it not for you I'd have taken it as fact. But then you got me to realize: since change is inevitable, why not try to fall in love with someone whose core beliefs and temperaments are compatible with yours? That way, when the wishy-washy stuff comes and goes, you'll still be in love with the same person at the core.

    I suppose that's what E-Harmony's all about. :)

  6. @Saphron: Yes, I do the contrarian thing quite often. Many times I test the contrary position, but abandon it. (Especially when the argument makes sense. It's just something of a reality check I run: Does the contrary position have any merit?) I really like your conclusions regarding the post. To me, the whole thought process was illuminating: a personal epiphany. That's why I shared it. Thanks for commenting!