Love is compassion and feminine power, love is sacred and courageous, love is truth and beauty, love is the world’s universal language and the only efficient panacea, love is a force that shifts paradigms and transforms the world around us… Love comes in all forms, and its strength knows no bounds. Embrace it.
Go beyond the clichés of Valentine’s day, and use the occasion to celebrate all the miraculous facets of love. Here are 10 love stories that serve as an inspiration for humanity, stories that teach us an indispensable lesson – that we can overcome any challenge with the power of love.
1. Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre
Simone de Beauvoir, the mother of the modern women’s movement and the author of The Second Sex, and Jean-Paul Sartre, the father of existentialism and author of Nausea, met in 1929. For 51 years, their love, their conversations, their letters, their rebelliousness, and their work gained them the status of one of the most glorious and controversial couples of 20th century. To this day, they remain famous for their open relationship, a model of existentialist, free love. We admire their relationship because it was complementary not possessive, enriching, not consuming, incorruptible, not selfish.
“We were two of a kind, and our relationship would endure as long as we did: but it could not make up entirely for the fleeting riches to be had from encounters with different people.” – Simone de Beauvoir
“I am mastering my love for you and turning it inwards as a constituent element of myself. This happens much more often than I admit to you, but seldom when I’m writing to you. Try to understand me: I love you while paying attention to external things.” – Jean Paul Sartre
2. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt
They are one of the most glamorous and famous couples in the world, yet their status, their success, their beauty, and their famous Hollywood nickname -“Brangelina”- does not define them. They are parents to six children, avid philanthropists and human rights activists. Recently, in a courageous op-ed in New York Times, Angelina Jolie credited her “loving and supportive” partner Brad Pitt when talking about her double mastectomy. He later responded:
“Having witnessed this decision firsthand, I find Angie’s choice, as well as many others like her, absolutely heroic. All I want is for her to have a long and healthy life, with myself and our children. This is a happy day for our family.” – Brad Pitt
3. Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller
They met in Paris in 1932. He was a struggling American novelist, she, an eccentric Spanish-Cuban diarist and feminist. Together they lived an intense love affair that lasted decades. Their relationship led to some of the most passionate love letters ever written. They inspired each other and vehemently supported each others’ work. We recommend you dive into their contagious intimacy by reading A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller, 1932-1953
“Before, I almost used to think there was something wrong. Everybody else seemed to have the brakes on. […] I never feel the brakes. I overflow. And when I feel your excitement about life flaring, next to mine, then it makes me dizzy.”– Anaïs Nin
“Anaïs, I only thought I loved you before; it was nothing like this certainty that’s in me now. Was all this so wonderful only because it was brief and stolen? Were we acting for each other, to each other? Was I less I, or more I, and you less or more you? Is it madness to believe that this could go on? When and where would the drab moments begin? I study you so much to discover the possible flaws, the weak points, the danger zones. I don’t find them—not any. That means I am in love, blind, blind. To be blind forever!” – Henry Miller
4. Marina Abramović and Ulay
Their moving love story went viral a few times in the last couple of years. In the international art scene, Marina Abramović and Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen) are widely known for their performance art work. They started collaborating as artists and living together in 1976. They often made their deep connection a subject of their artwork, including performances such as Relation in Time, 1977, Breathing In/ Breathing Out, 1977, and Rest Energy, 1980. Their final collaboration was dedicated to their break-up in 1988 and it is called “The Great Wall Walk”. Starting from opposite ends of the Great Wall of China, Marina and Ulay met in the middle after walking for 90 days. It was their way to say goodbye. A painful, restoring and memorable goodbye. They rarely saw each other afterwards. Their emotional reunion took place in 2010 when Ulay showed up at Abramović’s MoMA performance entitled “The Artist Is Present.” Watch the video below and get ready to be moved to tears from this incredible reunion.
5. Michelle and Barack Obama
They met in 1989. Michelle was working at a law firm, and was assigned to mentor Barack Obama as a summer associate. Barack didn’t love the corporate law world, but he soon found himself falling for Michelle. It is clear today, that “Obama could not have run had it not been for his wife: he has specifically said she had the power of veto,” as told in The Guardian. They are a truly inspiring couple, because regardless of their status and power they manage to look authentic, down-to-earth and… in love.
“Sometimes, when we’re lying together, I look at her and I feel dizzy with the realization that here is another distinct person from me, who has memories, origins, thoughts, feelings that are different from my own. That tension between familiarity and mystery meshes something strong between us. Even if one builds a life together based on trust, attentiveness and mutual support, I think that it’s important that a partner continues to surprise.” – Barack Obama
“I didn’t think it was possible, but today, I love my husband even more than I did four years ago…even more than I did 23 years ago, when we first met. I love that he’s never forgotten how he started.” – Michelle Obama
6. Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz
Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz’s dedication to communication with each other is remarkable in many ways, not the least of which is sheer volume.
In their 30 years as husband and wife, they exchanged over 5,000 letters, some over 40 pages long. As Maria Popova of Brain Pickings points out, these letters “embod[y] those highest ideals of being not merely lovers but also each other’s finest muses, greatest fans and most constructive critics.” Dig deeper into the romance with Volume 1 of My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz.
“I’m getting to like you so tremendously that it some times scares me… Having told you so much of me — more than anyone else I know — could anything else follow but that I should want you —” – Georgia O’Keeffe
“All I want is to preserve that wonderful something which so purely exists between us.” – Alfred Stieglitz
7. Elizabeth Gilbert and Jose Nunes
You may be more familiar with Jose Nunes as “that Brazilian guy from Eat Pray Love,” as Liz Gilbert helpfully points out on her website. Their romance is marked by an eyes-wide-open quality, and they work to keep it a “delusion-free zone” according to Oprah Magazine. Follow their curiously romantic road to marriage (which both of the pair had sworn off completely) in her follow-up memoir Committed.
“I did not demand that he become my Great Emancipator or my Source of All Life, nor did I immediately vanish into that man’s chest cavity like a twisted, unrecognizable, parasitical homonculus.” – Liz Gilbert
“A woman’s place is in the kitchen… sitting in a comfortable chair, with her feet up, drinking a glass of wine and watching her husband cook dinner.” – Jose Nunes
8. Freddie Mercury and Jim Hutton
Decades before marriage equality, Queen superstar Freddie Mercury called Jim Hutton “my husband.” The extravagant showman enjoyed the support and stability of down-to-earth Jim, a hairdresser who loved Freddie for who he was, not for his fame. The story goes that he had never even heard of Queen or Freddie Mercury until they first met. Jim’s memoir Mercury and Me shows an intimacy between the two that endured, especially in Freddie’s final weeks of his battle with AIDS.
“We communicated a lot without saying anything. But he constantly wanted to know that I loved him. And of course I did, deeply, and told him. When he was diagnosed he said to me, ‘I would understand if you wanted to pack your bags and leave’. I told him, ‘Don’t be stupid. I’m not going anywhere. I’m here for the long haul’.” – Jim Hutton
9. Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman
They met when performer/musician Amanda Palmer asked writer Neil Gaiman to pen captions for a book of photos she’d taken of herself as dead. A relationship based on mutual admiration, respect, and trust grew. Each artist brought their own devoted cult-following to the table, and social-media communications with those fans shed an interesting light on the partnership (see this Reddit post: “Ask us anything. Go on. Go on you know you want to“). Collaboration is also key to this duo, including the delightful three disc recording An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer.
“he actually understood me, deeply, and that he loved me as i was and had no desire to harness me. and he wanted to come on the adventure with me, not pin me down to his own plan, and not simply stand by the sidelines and cheer. i’d found an actual partner.” – Amanda Palmer
10. Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart
On camera or off, the chemistry of this great Hollywood couple was legendary. “Bogie,” as she affectionately called him, was enchanted by Lauren immediately when they met on the set of To Have and Have Not. He coached her as she played opposite him in her first movie role, and encouraged her as she frequently stole the scene. The more they worked together, the more they fell madly in love, in true Hollywood style. Undeterred by age difference, the two were married and remained happily so until Humphrey’s death. Lauren placed a whistle in the casket as a nod to the famous scene from their first movie: “You know how to whistle, don’t you?”
“It was all so dramatic, too. Always in the wee small hours when it seemed to Bogie and me that the world was ours – that we were the world. At those times were were.” – Lauren Bacall
We are excited to start a conversation and learn more from YOU, dear emerging women. Please join in with a comment below:
What love story inspires YOU the most?
Like what you’re hearing? Dive deeper with us this October at Emerging Women Live 2014.