I was born in the hometown of Romeo and Juliet. Every day on my way to school, I used to walk past the famous balcony where Shakespeare has the pair exchange passionate vows after a party. I recently returned to Verona, in the north of Italy, and passed by again—but the thick crowd of tourists made it almost impossible to get near the famous balcony. I noticed the walls around were covered with signatures and it seems that the city has to periodically repaint them, so as to allow more starstruck tourists to write their names. The street hosts a number of shops that sell love-related souvenirs.
I don’t know what Shakespeare would think of the way his story has been reimagined and adapted countless times. One thing for sure, it’s never been more famous—when I’m asked where I’m from, my answer usually brings on smiles and wistful sighs: Romeo and Juliet.
When I was a teenager, I too felt very attracted to Romeo and Juliet’s tragic story, and for a number of years, I was secretly longing for my Romeo to come by and fulfill all my heart’s desires, but life—and 38 years of marital ups and downs—taught me many lessons along the way.
I recently came upon a great quote: “There’s a big difference between falling in love with someone and loving someone. Falling in love simply happens. But in order to really love someone you need to sweat, to suffer, to laugh, to stay awake, to give of yourself. Real love doesn’t just happen. Real love is something you make happen.”1
As much as I cherish great romantic stories, I’ve learned that real love is something quite different. It stands the test of time, it’s about giving and not getting, and it’s foremost a commitment. Back to Shakespeare: “The course of true love never did run smooth.”2 Quite a challenge then.