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True romance: The Loveumentary finds the secrets of marriages that don’t suck


Nate Bagley’s family was really ready for him to get hitched, but he wasn’t sure he believed in lasting love. That’s when he set out on a road trip that changed his life.

Great love, it turns out, is a lot like great design.

For either one, you’ve got to have a plan, says Nate Bagley, a former marketer turned romantic truth-seeker with a project called The Loveumentary.

In relationships, most people “don’t know what they want,” Nate says. “They don’t know what’s possible because they’ve never seen good design. I think the majority of people settle for mediocrity in their relationships because they’ve never seen what an amazingly well-designed relationship looks like.”

Nate and his fellow Loveumentarian Melissa Joy Kong traveled the country to find and document those well-designed relationships. Along the way, he didn’t just find out what makes love last – he found his life’s work.

So why aren’t you married?

The story of The Loveumentary starts two years ago. Nate was in is mid-20s and feeling the pressure to get married. His large Mormon family thought he should have settled down long ago.

“I’ve dated a lot, but I’ve never felt ready,” he says. “And I was always nervous that I was going to get married and have a really boring, mediocre life.”

To deal with his relationship anxieties, he decided to do something big. Really big: He would talk to the most un-boring, un-mediocre couples he could find around the country to learn how they stayed happy and, he hoped, how to build his own great relationship.

The next day, he quit his job (“I had this realization that this was not my life’s calling”) and started interviewing couples.

A (professional) match

Nate had done about 25 interviews when a mutual friend introduced him to Melissa. The content strategist, now with Eventbrite, had a vision that matched up with Nate’s.

“I knew I wanted to do a cross-country road trip and spend a solid three months interviewing as many couples as possible,” he says. “Melissa wanted to write a book about the most in-love couples, so we thought it would be great to team up and see what would happen.”

And so last September, they launched a $29,000 Kickstarter campaign to pay for their journey. One month later, they had 332 backers, and a fully funded campaign.

“We set out on this trip and between the two of us, we interviewed close to 100 couples,” Nate says. “Week by week, we release them on the Loveumentary website.”

The greatest love of all — really!

Through all those interviews, Nate discovered something surprising about what makes love last.

“I thought it would be a combination of commitment, trust, communication and having similar interests,” he says. “While those things are factors, the thing that was consistent in every single couple that we interviewed was that each person in the relationship understood that love started with themselves.”

In other words, they knew how to be happy, love themselves and express love in the world, with or without a relationship.

“The people in these relationships didn’t rely on their partners for validation, for purpose, or for self-worth,” he says. “We learned that if you want a true, strong, lasting relationship, you need to love yourself first, as you can’t give something you don’t have.”

Love spreads

It turns out that something really cool happens when you share love stories. You bring more love into the world.

Take what happened when Nate posted the story of Garrett and Jen.

“They had both been through divorces on their own,” he says. “Garrett had two kids, Jen didn’t have any kids, and both had really difficult roads. But after being alone for a while, they found each other and they recreated this amazing love together.”

After Nate posted his the conversation with them, he got a note from a woman who was going through her own divorce.

“She told me that she had kids, that she felt undesirable, and that she felt like she would never be loved again,” Nate says. “But she said that after listening to Garrett and Jen’s podcast, she was filled with hope. She told me she was going to listen to it every day, that she wrote down quotes that she posted on her bathroom mirror, and that she believed that she’ll be able to love again.”

And she was. Recently, Nate found out that she is now engaged.

Let’s talk about love

Want to talk relationships with Nathan? He’s planning a love conference for the end of summer.

“I’m inviting my favorite couples that I’ve met along the journey and a lot of my favorite love professionals,” he says. “They are going to come in, do workshops and activities, and we’re going to teach people how to live above and beyond what they thought possible.”

The goal is to remove couples from their busy lives and the distractions of technology to help them experience each other and build something amazing together. It’s their chance to design with intention.

“My whole goal now as a human being is to expose other people to the stories I’ve heard so they have a template to design their own love lives,” he says. “I want people to know that they can choose what design aspects they want to have in their relationships, and then they can build their relationship to be as beautiful, or as simplistic, or as elaborate as they’d like.”

“That’s a big thing,” says Nate. “And if you know of great love stories, share those with me.”

To improve your relationships, Nate recommends “Egonomics: What Makes Ego Our Greatest Asset (Or Most Expensive Liability)” by David Marcum and Steven Smith. “It’s about being aware of your ego and learning to manage it. One of the things that really stuck with me is that everybody has gifts or virtues in their life. But every gift if taken to an extreme can actually act as a detriment.” Grab your copy at our DesignGood Book Store.