Jilly: Can Lightning Strike Twice?

lightning-strikeMost romantic fiction is based on the premise that a hero or heroine meets their other half—the one person in the world who completes them.

Do you believe that a person could find great, lasting love more than once in a lifetime?

I spent all day yesterday thinking about this, ever since I read You May Want To Marry My Husband, an astonishing piece by novelist Amy Krouse Rosenthal, published last Friday in the New York Times. Rosenthal is terminally ill with ovarian cancer and the post recommends the many excellent qualities of her beloved husband of more than 26 years to an unknown woman in the hope that there will be a second great love story in his future.

I strongly recommend you click here to read. Have tissues to hand.

My first reactions on reading the piece were, unsurprisingly, sorrow for the writer’s illness; wonder and joy at her beautiful description of a strong and loving marriage; and admiration that she would express her love for her husband in such a generous way in such a desperate situation.

My next thought was to hope that she would get her wish. Hard on the heels of that I wondered whether it was possible. After living so long in such a happy marriage, with such a conclusion, I could imagine the survivor eventually finding contentment or mutual respect with another person, but I couldn’t imagine experiencing that depth of love twice in a lifetime. I’ve been trying to think of real life examples, but so far I’ve come up empty.

I’d love to be proved wrong, because it occurs to me that if such double happiness is possible, and if nobody has written this story, somebody should.

Lisa Cron of Story Genius says we humans read fiction to plan for the future, to work out how we would deal with the unexpected: “Stories let us vicariously try out difficult situations we haven’t yet experienced…”

Even in fictional form, a story like this might give hope and encouragement to another person facing a dreadful predicament.

Do you believe lightning can strike twice in one lifetime? Do you know of any books or movies that have credibly portrayed such a love story?

9 thoughts on “Jilly: Can Lightning Strike Twice?

  1. I read that piece as well and found it both sad and hopeful.

    As for examples of books or movies where someone has found the “love of their life” more than once, I’m coming up blank, but there must be some out there.

    • Exactly. I suppose it must be possible, but I’m struggling to imagine it. Maybe it’s a lifetime of one-soulmate-per-person conditioning.

  2. Sleepless in Seattle. 🙂 Pretty sure there are others–surely NIcholas Sparks has written a second-chance-at-love-with-a-new-partner story, and Harlquin must abound with them–but I can’t think of any others off-hand.

    More than thinking about book and movie corollaries, this made me wonder if I’d do the same for my husband. While I’d love to know someone was taking care of him and loving him as much as I do, I also know he’s a man who would be very content on his own, without someone in his life to drag him out of the house to places he’d be just as happy not going. He loves our neighbors and our neighborhood and would be pefectly happy just putzing around with them for however many years he had left.

    • I haven’t actually seen Sleepless in Seattle because, you know, allergic to plot moppets 😉 Still, it is legendary and with a script by Nora Ephron, it must be clever and cute. Would you count it as credible? The H&H don’t actually meet until the end of the movie, right?

      I can think of lots of second-chance-at-love stories, but if the current romance is deep and strong, usually there’s a suggestion that the first love wasn’t perfect, or came to an untimely end before it had time to mature into something powerful. Or if the lost love was deep and lasting (as you say, all those Harlequin widowers) then the new love interest is dewy and caring motherhood material but I can’t think of one where she was a credible life partner.

      I also wondered about my husband and me. I’m like your husband–I think I’d be content on my own–but I’m not sure about my other half. He’s more gregarious than I am. For a year or two we lived and worked in separate cities and met up at weekends, and he did not enjoy the experience of living on his own. I hope he’d find enjoyable company in some form or another, whether friendship or romance. I’d trust him to figure it out for himself, though.

      • Sleepless in Seattle is referential as well as having a plot moppet—it features a meet-cute at the top of the Empire State Building because Meg Ryan has been watching An Affair to Remember, in which Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant agree to meet there after a shipboard romance. That was an over-the-top tear jerker, and, okay—I’m a cynic and not that susceptible to tear jerking—so I thought Sleepless was a bit over the top, too, for evoking the earlier movie. Plus that kid. But most people seem to love it.

        As for whether someone can have two great loves—I don’t know. I can’t think of any fictional examples, and I don’t know anyone in real life, but anything’s possible. In my own life, my father died after he and mom were married for 18 years, and then a few years later, she started to see a guy who made a living demolishing old buildings and salvaging scrap. And when she asked him to fix the window in her house that had a draft, he “fixed” it by nailing it shut. So that was the end of that.

  3. Aw! What a beautiful love letter! I went in kind of expecting some sort of sales pitch, but I think it’s her very public way of letting her man know how much she loved and adored him. Shout it from the rooftops!

    For quite a while, I’ve struggled with the “one great love” theory. I mean, sure, finding that great love is really difficult and a lot of people never find it at all. Some people are natural nitpickers, and never do commit fully to the suspension of disbelief that I think One Great Love as a meme somewhat requires. Or maybe they have the One Great Love but fail to recognize it.

    Except, I don’t think there’s such a thing as One Great Love. I think if someone has the capacity to have One Great Love, there’s the capacity to love another person with that same kind of love. They just need to get lucky. And with six billion people in the world, an open-minded person could be lucky.

    I’ve read stories where there’s more than one great love in a person’s life. In general, I don’t tend to remember them. But Cordelia Vorkosigan would be one example. Her Two Great Loves are different people and there is a different dynamic going on in the relationship. But after 40 years with Gentleman Jole, I think she’ll be just as invested in him as she was with her first husband, Aral. It really helps that Aral and Jole aren’t rivals in any way, too. They were lovers themselves.

    But serial monogamy starts to smack of polyamory, and a lot of people get squicky about that. If there’s such a thing as more than One True Love, why don’t we dump True Love Number One when it turns out he’s allergic to dogs? Heck, surely there must be True Love Number Two out there who can live with a dog . . . of course, he’ll probably fart in bed with deadly ferocity.

    The One True Love thing helps us deal with the imperfections that everyone has, I think, and makes it easier to stick to something, and put in the work to make it truly grand. So, it’s a useful fiction, IMO.

    And a rather wonderful one. But I do think it’s rather hard on the widows and widowers, who are expected to pine for the rest of their days.

  4. “Murphy’s Romance” seems like a movie that would fit the bill. I think “The American President” does as well. “P.S. I Love You” tries but goes way too far for my taste. “Safe Haven” tries, but there’s more drama/action than romance.

    “Do you believe that a person could find great, lasting love more than once in a lifetime?”
    Absolutely. I have not been married/widowed, but I think I have some experience. We expect people partnered with horses and service dogs to move on and choose a successor. My service dog is my lifeline, my roommate, my friend, my caretaker, and we’re together nearly 24/7/365 while they’re working. I take care of them, they take care of me.

    With dogs, your “one true love” is called a “heart dog.” A lot of people say there’s only one special dog that you’ll find in your life. I think they give up on looking because they’re afraid to hurt that way again.

    Duncan was my heart dog, and I lost him to cancer just about a year ago, and it broke me. I already had Keeper, who I love, because Duncan was retired. She got me through. However, working with Keeper is not that magical relationship I had with Duncan where it was nearly effortless. I have to tell her what to do and remind her she’s working. Between Duncan and Keeper I had Strider, who was a failure as a service dog, but I loved him intensely. I should have a pup coming this summer/fall that’ll be a cousin of Strider’s. Hopefully all the parts I loved so much, with a bit better temperament for public work.

    I still hurt when I think about Duncan, still cry over how much I loved him, how 8 years together wasn’t nearly long enough. But my choices are to throw my heart fully into the relationship, to make it the very best that I can, knowing that I will outlive them, and it will hurt beyond words to lose them, or to close myself off and try to keep that emotional distance to protect myself. It’s the difference between a partner and a caretaker/employee. I’ll gamble on having a partner. Sometimes, like with Keeper, they’ll do the job well, and I just won’t love them as much, and sometimes it’ll be like Strider and I’ll love them intensely even when it’s gone wrong. But I’m hoping that I’ll have another “just right” heart dog in my future.

    It is an amazing thing to have a dog who gets their job, loves the work, and anticipates my needs to the point they become an extension of myself. Now that I know it’s possible, I’m looking to create that relationship again. It’s not an easy thing to find, and I know I’ll be burying a giant part of my heart and soul with them when they pass, but I think it’s well worth pursuing a full hearted love.

    • I had a “heart dog” named Esme. She was a cross of German and Australian shepherd. She had the markings of a German shepherd, with long, silky fur like a collie. She would hike or play Frisbee for hours or nap happliy at my side while I read. Although she wasn’t trained like your dogs, Flo, she was a wonderful companion. I’ve had two dogs since who were very nice dogs, but just not the same. As Abby, my most recent canine companion, has grown elderly, we’ve achieved something like the same level of affection/closeness, but it took a lot more effort to get there.

    • I’ve never had a dog–as kids we weren’t allowed, because before we were born, my mum had a “heart dog” and never got over his loss. Your Duncan sounds wonderful. It totally makes sense that the only chance to find another great love is to go open-hearted into each new relationship. Such a hard thing to do. I really admire your willingness to take the emotional risk and I hope you meet another “just right” heart dog soon.

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