SALT LAKE CITY — After watching marriage relationships around him crumble and having little success himself with dating, Utah native Nate Bagley resolved to seek stories of true love and robust marriages.
Bagley grew up in what he describes as a “big Mormon family” in a culture that expects the 29-year-old to have been long married by now. As he watched friends get married and divorced or become unhappy in their relationships, he became jaded toward love. Last year, he came up with an idea to change his attitude and help others with similar attitudes: record happy couples’ love stories and advice, capture their dynamic together in a weekly podcast.
He quit his job in Internet marketing and moved back in with his parents so he could fund and work on the Loveumentary project full time.
“I felt very compelled to do this project. I felt very drawn to it and it was my responsibility to bring it to the world,” Bagley said. “I’ve committed the last year of my life to finding these people and documenting these stories.”
In June, a mutual friend connected Bagley with Melissa Kong, a former journalist for Time Inc. The friend knew of Kong’s “impossible list,” which included a goal to find 100 of the most in-love couples and write about the nature of true love and how to build lasting marriages.
“Melissa and I both had very similar ideas at different times and we did not know each other,” Bagley said. “She was in Chicago, I was here in Salt Lake and I think we both had a desire to give a very honest representation of what true love looks like.”
Earlier this month, Kong flew to Utah to join Bagley on a trek across the country to find and record conversations from people with working relationships. The decision was a defining one for Kong, who left her job in Chicago as CEO at Technori and committed to a year of telling love stories with Bagley.
“I was convicted with something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time,” Kong said. “It’s very easy to settle into — it’s a strong term — mediocrity and let your dreams slip away and not do anything about it. It wasn’t like I woke up one day I got in my car, it took a few weeks, probably a month or so to warm to the idea. Just picking up and moving was a big shift.”
Armed with their convictions, the two are heading out to meet 75 in-love couples throughout the nation, in addition to the 25 already recorded. Though they don't consider themselves experts, their goal is to write a book about their observations, the advice given and the love stories shared on the podcast episodes.
“The truth is, at least from my perspective, is the only people who are experts on love are people who have been in relationships for 50 years and have made it work,” Kong said. “What Nate and I are really good at is pattern identification. We’re good at taking lots of different stories and figuring out what they have in common.”
They hope to give an opposing perspective to that offered by Disney princesses and divorce statistics.
“So our goal is to go out and talk to as many couples who claim to have real, true love and give people a real representation of what it looks like. We want to know what trials people go through, what their struggles are, how they overcome them and what it means and feels like to them to be in love with each other. What is it that sets the most amazing relationships apart from the average ones or the ones that fail.”
Their podcast episodes include one about a woman who underwent brain surgery, altering her personality, and whose husband has stayed with her for 30 years. One couple has been married 54 years. Another couple met online. They have discussed marriage with four people in a polygamist relationship, gay couples, young couples and are slated to talk to a couple in an arranged marriage.
“Every couple we talked to has a different dynamic in their relationship, they have different needs,” Bagley said. “It’s what they create for themselves that’s true love. We’re not necessarily trying to set a definition for what true love is, but we’re trying to help people create that in their own relationships, whatever that is for them.”
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