San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Arts and Culture

Isabel Allende: 'I love my dog unconditionally, but never the man I'm sleeping with'

“I was in the process of deciding if I should stay in the marriage, because it’s always comfortable to stay in which you know rather than to launch into the void at 70,” she told Collier Meyerson in an interview for Lenny Letter.

Yet launch she did — all the while pondering the durability of love and marriage. “Is it possible to love the same person?” Allende asks herself. “I concluded that maybe, if they’re lovers, but husband and wife is very hard.”

On average, divorce rates in the United States have been declining for the past 30 years. But Allende is part of a demographic group in which divorce rates are increasing. For married individuals 65 or older, the risk of divorce has more than doubled since the 1990s, according to researchers from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Most often, the researchers noted, these unions aren’t plagued with “severe discord”; rather, “the partners have simply grown apart.”

In her interview with Meyerson, Allende says, quite starkly, that if a marriage is romantic (as opposed to a union based more on companionship), unconditional love is nearly impossible. “In my long life, in my experience, you can love your friends unconditionally,” Allende said. “Your parents. Your children. Your pets, of course. I love my dog unconditionally, but never the man I’m sleeping with.”

Why is unconditional love harder when sex is in the mix? Because it’s easier to feel like you’re not receiving as much love as you’re giving, Allende says. “I want something back” in romantic relationships, Allende says. “It’s such an intimate and profound relationship that it cannot be unconditional.”

“I think that the perfect arrangement, the perfect couple, would be a couple that have been able to preserve the romantic and passionate bond, and they are great, great friends,” she says. “Friendship is all about trust and sharing. Passionate and romantic love is all about sex and emotions. You have to try to combine those, I think. The great marriages, the great couples I know, have both.”

Read the full interview here.

© 2016, The Washington Post

Log in to comment