THREE WOMEN, THREE STORIES
Love may be the only experience we all share. Love makes us human. It brings us to the extreme ends of the spectrum of human emotion, from feelings of overwhelming joy to unparalleled heartbreak. But what does real love look like? And how has love changed over time?
The Way We Love is a documentary exploring how we love in the modern world. How do we know we are with the right person? How does love change as we age? What hardships do we all face?
Featuring three women with three very different stories, but whom all share a deep understanding of the human condition and what it means to be in love.
“The bible says that love is the most important thing in the world,” she said. “If you don’t got love, you don’t have anything.”
Debbie always liked the idea of being a wife, but she, like many others, never planned for what she might have to do when her partner grew older.
Her second husband got sick just nine years into their marriage. Suddenly, she went from wife to caregiver.
Debbie remembers meeting Gary “like it was yesterday”.
“I was sitting in my first day of work and this guy came in … and he just looked at me, and I don’t know what happened but our eyes clicked – our eyes just met – and I thought to myself, I want to get to know that guy. He looks like a fun person.”
She eventually divorced her then-husband and the father of her children. She remembers it as a pivot that changed her life forever.
Fifteen years later, in 2015, Debbie took Gary to the hospital for a cough they thought was bronchitis Unfortunately, the truth was less benign — Gary had lung cancer. There was a three-and-a-half inch tumor in his lung. “Inoperable” was the word the doctors used.
Debbie wasn’t alone as a caregiver for a spouse. The U.S. Administration on Aging estimates that 65% of older persons rely wholly on spouses and other family members for assistance in their care.
Approximately 16.6 percent of Americans, or about 40 million people, provide care to adults 18 and over who have a disability or illness, according to a 2015 joint study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP.
Reed did everything for her husband over the next few months. She dressed and undressed him, gave him his medicine at the right times every day, and took time off work to bring him to his medical appointments.
“He did everything for me,” Reed said. “And by the end I had to do everything for him.”
Even though he was physically there, Reed said she felt alone. They couldn’t do the things they used to do. She said God was using this time to prepare her for his eventual death.
“You don’t have time for work or church, you don’t have time for a social life, because all your time is spent taking care of the person you love and trying to keep them alive.”
By March the next year, her husband was gone. The effects of his death and the effort she went to in providing care during the last months of his life have persisted, however.
“I was tired physically, mentally and emotionally … it really hit me at the end when he was gone. And then to go from that to grieving … I really think loneliness can kill you.”
To Reed, finding someone to love that loves you is akin to “hitting the jackpot”. But what do you do when the one you love falls ill? “In sickness and in health” is a familiar wedding vow, but do couples adequately prepare for when that becomes reality?
Reed spent the majority of her life as a wife. She says she doesn’t know how to be alone because she’s never been alone. She is a woman self-defined by her relationships. At 25, she married her first husband. At 48, three years after their divorce, she married her second. Now who is she?
For Reed’s generation, marriage was a natural step in life. 44 percent of baby boomers were married between the ages of 18 and 30, according to a 2011 Pew Research Center poll. Only 22 percent of 18 to 30 year old millennials were married, half the share of their parent’s generation at the same stage of life.
This isn’t to say that marriage is becoming obsolete. Despite the fact that 39 percent of survey respondents say that marriage is becoming obsolete, the majority of Americans are still upbeat about the future of marriage and family —67 percent say they are optimistic.
Reed says she plans on spending time after her husband’s death volunteering and finding time for hobbies that fell by the wayside when she was his caregiver.
“And I know that when he does die it’s gonna be really really hard,” she said, just a few weeks before his passing. “But I think I’ll get through it because I have all my memories … of him and they’ll keep me going.”
Public acceptance for gay and lesbian relationships has risen from 40 percent in 2001 to 63 percent in 2015, according to a Gallup poll on moral acceptability. Public acceptance of polygamy has only risen from 7 percent in 2003 to 14 percent in 2016. Having multiple lovers is still very much a taboo.
Celeste Jackson, a 44-year-old mother of four, is dating two men. When her mother found out, she called her the “Whore of Babylon” and refused to meet her second partner.
“We have morals and ethics that they have no clue about,” Jackson said. “I’ve been insulted and called a slut and worse … It bothers me only because they’re not seeing past one thing. Our relationship isn’t about sex, it never has been about sex. It’s about the emotional connection that we have.”
Like Molkentin, Jackson met both of her partners online. After spending most of her life searching for the one person that she would spend the rest of her life with, Jackson decided that one wasn’t enough for her.
“Growing up I was taught that you were only supposed to be monogamous,” Jackson said. “You were supposed to be with one person for the rest of your life, forever and ever until you died. And the fact that my own parents divorced made a lie out of that.”
Jackson has been dating Brian for five years and Terry for three years. She describes their relationship as “rather complicated.” The couple does share a bed at Jackson’s home, but the men don’t have interest in each other. They only have interest in her.
Jackson, who is supporting two of her daughters through high school, recently went back to college as a non-traditional student and graduated in May 2016. She says that her two partners were the support system she needed to go back to school and that she would “not have made it this far without Brian and Terry”.
Jackson has two daughters that currently live with her: Bridget, 18, and Thora, 16. The two girls have approved of their mother’s relationships and have even experimented with nontraditional relationships on their own.
Due to the taboo nature of their relationship, Jackson and her partners normally keep a facade when going out in public. They refer to Brian as the boyfriend and Terry as the housemate.
But to Jackson, they are her equal partners through and through. While her family has not yet come around to the idea, and polygamy is still outlawed in the United States, the couple plan on performing a “handfasting ritual” this October to signify the permanency of their relationship.
Jackson’s mantra is “The more love you have, the more love you can give.” So, she asks, why not share with whomever you can?
“Love isn’t easy, but is is one of the sweetest things that you can have,” Jackson said. “And it’s worth struggling for. It’s worth fighting for. The fact they both love me and my kids enough to stay around for that responsibility, that says a lot to me. I love them both for the people that they are.”
Marley Molkentin, a 18-year-old freshman at Columbia College Chicago, kept her first relationship with a girl, Rachel, a secret from her parents at first.
“We dated a long time in secret cause we weren’t ready to tell and come out to our parents and stuff yet,” Molkentin said. “It was very sneaky. It made me feel really guilty . . . After the coming out that fell away completely.”
Despite the initial secrecy, Molkentin, who identifies as bisexual, believes she has it better than LGBT Americans did in the past. Molkentin, who recently graduated from an all-girls Catholic high school, said her relationship with Rachel was widely accepted by her peers at school. Her parents have since become accepting of the relationship .
According to a 2013 Pew Survey of LGBT Americans, the vast majority of America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults believe that society has become more accepting of them in the past decade at 92 percent.
This isn’t to say there aren’t roadblocks to progress, however small they may be. At Molkentin’s all-girl school, she stirred controversy after the school decided to block an Ellen Degeneres quote on student-designed sweatshirts and the founding of the school’s first LGBT club.
Eventually, Marley became the first student at the school to bring another girl as her date to prom.
Marley met Rachel via Facebook after a breakup. They became friends in real life and eventually, they got together.
While 17 percent of heterosexual couples formed in the past 10 years met online, 41 percent of same-sex couples formed in the same time frame began online, according to research by Michael Rosenfeld, a social demographer and professor at Stanford University. Rosenfeld concluded that young heterosexual adults are among the least likely group to meet their partner online.
Young LGBT couples, however, are thriving online. The Internet expands our network and allows people to find love without assistance from family, friends or co-workers. For people whose pool of potential dates is limited, online dating becomes the answer.
On the day of prom, Marley’s family met up at Rachel’s house to get ready. Rachel was ordered to take the gum out of her mouth for pictures. “Be home around 1,” Molkentin’s mom called out as they got into her car.
LOVE OVER TIME
How have relationships and dating changed over time? We know now that LGBT relationships are more accepted than they used to be. We also know that online interactions now play a large role in the dating sphere.
How Couples Meet
Marley met her girlfriend on Facebook. Debbie met her husband at work. And Celeste met her both of her partners online. It’s true that online interaction has helped couples meet all across the world, but how much how it really changed how couples meet? Let’s find out.
As you can see by the interactive graphs below, the search for love has changed a lot since the 1930’s. In 1940, family and church were common ways to find a romantic partner. By 1990, nearly 40% of couples met through friends. Now, online connections are growing – particularly for those interested in same-sex relationships – but increasingly for older and middle-aged straight people too.
Source: Rosenfeld, Michael J., Reuben J. Thomas, and Maja Falcon. 2015. How Couples Meet and Stay Together, Waves 1, 2, and 3: Public version 3.04, plus wave 4 supplement version 1.02 and wave 5 supplement version 1.0 [Computer files]. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Libraries.
Polyamory and Same-Sex Relationships in America
New data shows that Americans are more accepting non-traditional types of relationships than ever before. For example, public opinion on gay marriage has practically flipped in favor of it since 2001. Public opinion on polygamy and polyamory, though still seen in large as immoral, has still doubled from 7% of people viewing polygamy as ‘morally acceptable’ in 2001 to 14% in 2016.
What could this mean for the future of these relationships? It is clear that same-sex relationships enjoy the fastest rate of acceptance among non-traditional relationships, but polyamory may not be far behind. Is the legalization of gay marriage in the U.S. a sign of things to come for polygamous relationships? Ross Douthat, a columnist for The New York Times, predicts that polygamy could be legalized in the U.S. as early as 2040. Read on to see the rates of change in acceptance for these relationships over the past 15 years.
Sources: Mitchell, T. (2016, May 12). Changing Attitudes on Gay Marriage. Retrieved November 05, 2016. Swift, A. (2016, June 8). Birth Control, Divorce Top List of Morally Acceptable Issues. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
HISTORY OF DATING
Nowadays, love is just a click away. As the world gets smaller, it is easier than ever before to find romance. Online dating as we know it, however, isn’t exactly a new idea. Advertising for a partner has a history going back to the 17th century.
Despite the popularity of the personal ad, ever since they began in the 1600s, many people have viewed the act of advertising yourself (whether in the paper or online) as cold and calculating – and even sad. As we saw above, these attitudes have changed. Celeste met both of her partners online, and teenagers like Marley use social media in dating like never before.
Scroll below to view a timeline of the history of ‘online dating’ as we know it.
Love letters used to be just that – a note sent in the mail to a lover or loved one. The definition has expanded over the years, and now love letters come in a multitude of forms – through email, text messages, and even snapchat.
Below is a gallery of “love letters” – old and new – gathered from couples across the country.
WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
We are always on the lookout for great love stories, whether they be about an innocent crush or a long-distance affair. Do you have someone in mind? We’d love to hear from you. Please fill out the form below and let’s talk!