Shakespeare’s Sonnet #116 is one of my favorites. Who can forget Kate Winslet reciting it in the rain, her broken heart ravaging her face in Sense and Sensibility? She thought she and Willoughby had something eternal, but he broke her heart over mere money.

In particular I love this line: “Love is not love/ Which alters when it alteration finds.” People change. Life throws you curve balls. That’s the true test of the strength of a love—how it holds up under duress, what happens when circumstances change. If a little change is a deal-breaker, then maybe that wasn’t really love after all.

There are many stories out there about the obstacles couples overcome to be with each other. There are a lot fewer about what a couple will do to stay together. Marriage in the fairy tales is the end of the story, but, in real life, it’s the beginning. The real adventures come afterwards, in keeping your happily ever after and keeping it happy.

It’s a theme I’ve been exploring in the Menopausal Superhero series with my character Linda/Leonel Alvarez. There’s a lot of change to be weathered in a long marriage: becoming parents, getting or losing jobs, moving, struggling with illness, suffering a loss, gaining a windfall. Linda and her husband David had been married for twenty years at the beginning of Going Through the Change, when Linda underwent a shocking transformation (spoiler alert! though it happens in chapter one):

She became a man. Talk about an alteration! You’ll have to read the book to get the details, but I’ll tell you that it was an accident, a freak event, not a considered decision. Something that happened to her.

When I was writing the novel, I really fell in love with Linda and David and with their marriage and family as well. It broke my heart nearly as much as it did Linda’s to think about losing her husband. “She was going to lose him. Her David. Her vida.”

So, then I wondered. What if he stayed?

It’s been a fascinating ride, watching Linda (now Leonel) and David navigate the new waters of their relationship after so many years of established patterns and expectations. The second book, Change of Life,  brought them additional challenges in Leonel’s new line of work. The third book is due out this summer, and their relationship continues to evolve.

But I believe in them. Theirs is really love. They’ll find a way.