In Disney movies and chick-flicks we're taught that there is the one true love. I wasn't sure it existed until I read A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. It tells the story of a couple who truly fall head-over heels, madly in love and base their entire lives around protecting that love. On the way they attend Harvard and Oxford, meet C.S. Lewis, suffer WWII, and consider the nature of God. In it, Van writes that he doesn't think many people fall in love, the hard, gutt-wrenching, lose your breathe, sort.
In order to answer these questions, I read loads of Austen. The most useful to answer these questions was Mansfield Park. Fanny denies a marriage to someone all her relatives agree too because she does not think him a good person, and in the words of Dr. Goldberg, 'one of the most pernicious villians'. The surprise is that while reading MP you almost think there's going to be another Pride and Prejudice ending, only to have it turned around. Also, As You Like It, by Shakespeare. In each, there are a series of marriages, and one feels, at the end, that different couples reach different amounts of happiness. The woman who was tricked into marrying the farmer-peasant would seem much less happy than the marriage of Oliver and Ceilia. Yet even the rogue conversion of Oliver doesn't quite outshine the beauty of Orlando and Rosalind's relationship, and one is definitely happiest that they finally get together. And in P and P, we're happy enough for Jane and Bingley, but what we're all really waiting for is Lizzie and Fitzwilliam.
Vanauken and his wife use the image of the grey goose to define their marriage and their lives. Before they loved God, they both were determined to commit suicide the moment the other died. After God, they chose to not ever remarry. For them it was the grey goose. And what about all these love-suicide compacts in literature? And life-- I once went to a glenn in China renowned for the lovers that had killed themselves.
Is it a difference of nature? Are some of us like bunnies, and mate copiously? Are some of us like dogs, who are sad at death, but bounce back after a year or two? Or are some of us like those grey geese? Is it a difference of age? Is it a difference of the quality of love (is not strained)? The closest answer I've come to is that perhaps not everyone loves so intensely, but they're happy. Yet the grey-goose sort of love bestows itself on those who are worthy of it and to those that have deserved it. A thing like that ought not to be wasted.