By Tim Mantoani
For a bachelor, Mathew Boggs sure thinks about marriage a lot. Of course, he’s been imagining his wife-to-be since he was a kid.It’s a quirk that best friend Jason Miller finds endearing. “Since the third grade, I’d witnessed at least a hundred of Mat’s ‘I think I’ve found the one’ events,’” he writes in the pair’s new book, “Project Everlasting: Two Bachelors Discover the Secrets of America’s Greatest Marriages.” Problem is, Boggs is not exactly the easy-to-please type. “Mat needs more than a wife; he needs a bona fide love story.”
His parents’ split when he was 14 may have been the initial impetus for the 29-year-old Boggs — who graduated with a B.A. in biology from USD in 2000 — to spend a big chunk of his twenties exploring what it means to build a happy marriage.
“Their divorce was devastating for me,” he recalls. “It was the loss of a dream of one day being able to have my wife and my kids go to grandma and grandpa’s house for Christmas.” Thirteen years later, he was finishing up his master’s degree in education and enduring a nasty breakup. When the phone call came that his grandfather was terminally ill, Boggs decided to do the right thing, the dutiful thing, and spend time with his grandparents while time remained.
“To my great surprise, I had a blast on these visits,” he writes in his book. But it was a single moment, when he noticed that after 63 years the couple was still holding hands, that changed his life. He decided to seek out “marriage masters,” couples who’ve been happily married for more than 40 years, and ask them how to make love stay. But it wasn’t until he enlisted Miller, his childhood friend, as a partner in the project that things started to take shape.
“In 2005 we went up and down the West Coast for five weeks and interviewed 100 couples in an effort to start writing the book,” Boggs recounts in a free-ranging conversation. “Then we realized that we really needed to travel around the country and get people from different regions.” When 10 drafts of a book proposal resulted in a thumbs-down from their agent, the pair was disappointed, but ultimately undeterred.
“This wasn’t about getting a big publisher, this was about getting the book out. So we decided to self-publish this thing.” Throwing caution to the wind, the pair started cold-calling major media outlets. “Then the ‘Today Show’ said yes,” Boggs laughs, incredulous. Of course that was good news, but it was three weeks before they were supposed to leave on their cross-country tour to research the book and they had no resources whatsoever.
“It was like running toward a cliff full-speed, and moments before I hit the edge, the bridge laid down,” Boggs laughs. That bridge was built of stuff like a new agent, subsequent publishing deal (complete with bidding war), corporate sponsorships and, in the end, a deeper understanding of what true love looks like.
“I went into this project anticipating what I thought I might hear, but by and large, every couple talked about respect being the cornerstone of their relationship. These couples are on each other’s side. They don’t throw each other under the bus, they don’t criticize each other in front of other people, and that creates an environment of trust, deepens the relationship, and allows them to get vulnerable with each other, which then bolsters the connection.”
When the book launched in early June of this year, Boggs and Miller were, once again, on the stage of the “Today Show.” And again, they were teased, just a little, about being bachelors. Boggs makes no secret of still being on the lookout for “the one.”
“I’m so happy for this book to be done and out,” he says with a sigh. ”This project has killed my love life. It’s really hard to meet eligible young women in nursing homes.”
He pauses, perhaps wondering if he’s over-sharing, then decides to go for it. “If I get really honest with myself, this project is probably my way of reaching out and trying to find my wife. I’d imagine that she’d be just as much a romantic as me.”
To learn more about Project Everlasting, go to www.projecteverlasting.com.