Love stories are mythical and definitely follow similar patterns. And yet, there’s something about them that brings us joy and keeps us coming back for more…and more. Mandy Len Catron, author of HOW TO FALL IN LOVE WITH ANYONE, has found the 4 common factors in (almost) every love story.
I wondered if I could come up with a list of features present in almost every love story—even those without a happy ending. As it turns out, there are a few basic elements. Here’s what I came up with:
- The best meetings contain hints of larger forces at work. Ennis and Jack pull up at the same empty trailer, each silently eyeing the other while they wait for the job offer that will change their lives. Or the cheerleader goes to interview the new coach because her best friend refuses to do it.
- Awareness of love. Maybe it’s love at first sight or maybe it’s unrequited longing. It’s the moment when Elizabeth Bennet reads the letter from Mr. Darcy. Or when Rachel watches that old home video and realizes that Ross has loved her since they were teenagers. I always imagined that, in the tradition of all great love stories, my parents felt some immediate connection from the moment they met.
- Potential obstacles. The evil queen has given our heroine a poisoned apple. Or the cheerleader is too shy—and too intimidated by social barriers—to pursue the coach, so she sets him up with her older sister instead. As Nicholas Sparks (documented love story enthusiast) says, “If the obstacles confronting the lovers define the story, then what makes a great love story is their willingness to go to almost any lengths to overcome them—whatever the cost.”(As a general rule, the more personal the obstacle—shyness, for example, is a more intimate challenge than an envenomed fruit—the more satisfying the eventual resolution.)
- It turns out, love is too powerful a force to be muted or stopped. Dragons are slain, obstacles are surmounted, and at last the lovers are brought together, their union bringing them more bliss than they thought possible. Typically, we are left to assume that this happiness continues indefinitely. But even if all is not happily ever after, the union still precedes the tragic ending: Jack and Rose steal away to the back of a car as the ocean liner steams toward its destiny.
The predictability of this pattern does not make it less powerful. Its ubiquity does not take away its pleasurability—twenty-five years of watching Sixteen Candles has not dampened this for me. I am still so pleased to discover that Jake Ryan has shown up to wish Samantha a happy birthday. And I still love announcing that the cheerleader and her sister both married football coaches—on the same afternoon, in the same ceremony, no less. These four elements are so familiar that almost any real-life romance can be finessed to fit.
Learn more about love and life in HOW TO FALL IN LOVE WITH ANYONE by Mandy Len Catron!
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Excerpted from How to Fall in Love with Anyone by Mandy Len Catron. Copyright © 2017 by author. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
Photo by Tord Sollie on Unsplash.