When men and women possess a particular asset, such as high intelligence, unusual beauty, a personality that makes others swoon, or a hefty bankroll that has the same effect, some decide to trade their assets for someone else's strong points. The raging beauty may trade her luster for the power and security that come with big bucks. The not-so-talented fellow from a good family may swap his pedigree for a poor but brilliantly talented mate.
Indeed, almost any combination can survive and thrive. Once, some neighbors of mine stopped by for a friendly social engagement. During the evening Robert, a man in his 50s, suddenly blurted out, "What would you say if your daughter planned to marry someone who has a ponytail and insisted on doing the cooking?"
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"Unless your daughter loves cooking," I responded, "I'd say she was darn lucky."
"Exactly," his wife agreed. "It's really your problem, Robert—that old macho thing rearing its head again. The point is, they're in love."
I tried to reassure Robert, pointing out that the young man their daughter had picked out seemed to be a relaxed, nonjudgmental sort of person—a trait he shared with her own mother.
Is there such a thing as love at first sight? Why not? When people become love-struck, what happens in that instant is the couple probably discover a unique something they have in common. It could be something as mundane as they both were reading the same book or were born in the same town. At the same time they recognize some trait in the other that complements their own personality.
I happen to be one of those who were struck by the magic wand. On that fateful weekend, while I was a sophomore at Cornell University, I had a terrible cold and hesitated to join my family on vacation in the Catskill Mountains. Finally I decided anything would be better than sitting alone in my dormitory room.
That night as I was preparing to go to dinner, my sister rushed up the stairs and said, "When you walk into that dining room, you're going to meet the man you'll marry."
I think I said something like "Buzz off!" But my sister couldn't have been more right. I knew it from the moment I saw him, and the memory still gives me goose flesh. He was a premed student, also at Cornell, who incidentally also had a bad cold. I fell in love with Milton the instant I met him.
Milt and I were married for 39 years, until his death in 1989. And all that time we experienced a love that Erich Fromm called a "feeling of fusion, of oneness," even while we both continued to change, grow and fulfill our lives.
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