Why love is a choice

Here's Why Love Is a Choice and a Decision

Couples in long-term commitments often say that love is an ongoing choice. You decide every day how or if you cultivate love in your relationship.

You can experience great love in many ways — romantically, platonically, companionable — but it’s rarely a force out of your control. At some point, love is a choice — and a lot of work!

Love is a choice and a decision because your actions determine if it lives on or ends. You are in control of how you act in your relationships and how much you push past conflict and challenges.

When you decide to work on communication, trust, intimacy, or emotional security, you’re choosing love.

What about hormones? If love is driven in part by biology, it may seem like something beyond your control that will continue indefinitely.

But, while hormones can sweep you up in the early days of love, Elizabeth Earnshaw, a licensed marriage and family therapist from Philadelphia, explains that lasting love requires conscious decision-making.

Hormones may continue making you feel sexually attracted to your partner, for example, but that’s different than love.

“As your relationship grows, your hormones will no longer be the driver of the feelings,” she says. “This means you need to be the driver of the feelings. You do this by actively choosing to be a loving partner.”

It may feel easy to find love at first — your hormones are leading the way. Building love, which implies emotional intimacy, may take effort and action.

If you feel you love your partner despite the absence of loving gestures and actions from them, you may be dealing with an anxious attachment style or a personality disorder, among others.

Love is a verb

Lasting love can’t rely on hormones to carry it forward. This means your actions — or lack thereof — directly contribute to the strength of love in a relationship.

A new 2020 model of fundamental love suggests there are four components essential to building enduring relationships:

  • attraction
  • connection
  • trust
  • respect

These are features of love that require you to act. These are actions of compassion, appreciation, and reliability to build. They’re made from times of positive shared experiences, close proximity, and familiarity.

Love is a biological cascade of hormones and feedback pathways in your brain, but it’s also a deep psychological connection and bond that creates a sense of comfort, intimacy, and trust.

There are different theories about attachment styles and the stages of love. Not all of these are a choice but some may be.

Some experts focus on three biologically-defined phases of love, while others believe there are seven or more emotionally-based phases.

Biologically, the framework for love was laid down in the 1990s by Dr. Helen Fisher, who along with a team of researchers at Rutgers University, mapped the stages of love to unique hormone processes in the brain.

  1. Lust: The phase ruled by sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. This phase promotes the need for sexual gratification and reproduction.
  2. Attraction: Similar to the phase of lust in purpose, attraction is defined by the dominant role of dopamine and norepinephrine, which contribute to feelings of elation, energy, and euphoria.
  3. Attachment: Ruled by the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, this phase encourages emotional bonding in long-term relationships.

Not all types of love include all three stages in Fisher’s model. Companionable love or friendship, for example, doesn’t usually involve lust.

The emotional phases of love tend to be less easily defined, as love is a unique experience for everyone.

One of the most popular theories involves four stages of love, including the initial “honeymoon” phase people associate with “falling in love.”

“Euphoria and obsession characterize this phase and thankfully it does not last or we wouldn’t be able to get our work done,” Marlena Del Hierro, a licensed counselor from Winston Salem, North Carolina, says of the honeymoon phase.

After the honeymoon, or falling in love stage, comes:

  • early attachment: You’re now aware of your partner’s quirks, but you’re still learning about one another, enjoying new experiences, and building memories.
  • crisis and tension: During this phase, the relationship is strongly tested by a crisis, major life change, or personal growth that may cause drifting apart.
  • deep attachment: Relationships that have come through hard times successfully enter deep attachment and have a sense of understanding, acceptance, and respect, as well as emotional safety.

When some talk about love being a choice, and not a feeling, they may be referring to the transition between the crisis phase and the deep attachment stage.

It’s OK if you don’t know how to choose love at first. There are simple strategies you can immediately apply to show love is a choice — your choice.

1. Finding ways to show gratitude

“The strongest tip to actively choose love is to choose to look at the gratitude in a relationship,” says Del Hierro.

She recommends asking yourself, “What did my loved one do that helped me today?”

Even small things, like making coffee, deserve a “thank you” or a hug, kiss, or reciprocating act. These could also be something simple like washing your mug so your partner doesn’t’ have to.

Sometimes, just acknowledging the other person and saying “I see you. Thank you!” is enough.

2. Showing affection

Del Hierro also recommends finding ways to express affection. Hugging, kissing, and touching are obvious go-tos, but they don’t come easily for everyone.

Affection doesn’t have to be only physical, though. It can also be shown through thoughtfulness.

Leaving out your partner’s favorite blanket on a cold day, or cleaning off their car before work in the winter, for example, can be expressions of affection.

You’re going out of your way to do something kind for your partner because you’re choosing them.

3. Showing appreciation for who your partner is

Loving the person, not the action can be an important aspect of love. This means you love your partner for who they are, not what they do for you or what they offer you in the moment.

You can show appreciation for who your partner is through the simple act of complimenting or reaffirming what makes them special. If you notice they have a great work ethic, for example, you can tell them.

4. Taking care of yourself

Earnshaw points out that taking care of yourself is also a way of actively choosing love.

Taking care of yourself can show that you want to be the best version of yourself for yourself and your partner.

Eating right, exercising, and focusing on health can be ways to show you’re looking forward to growing old together.

Because love is a choice, doing things that go against the tenets of love may damage your relationship.

These love-damaging actions and attitudes may include things that challenge attraction, deep connection, trust, or respect.

These are some signs that love isn’t a choice for you or your partner:

  1. ignoring or dismissing your partner’s needs and concerns
  2. not communicating
  3. emotionally abandoning your partner
  4. taking your partner for granted
  5. being critical and judgmental
  6. keeping secrets
  7. revealing things your partner has confided in you
  8. pushing someone to change the way they are to please your preferences
  9. belittling your partner in private or in front of others
  10. no longer demonstrating affection

Falling in love can be a hormone-driven whirlwind of excitement and happiness, but enduring love is a choice made through everyday actions.

This doesn’t mean love has to be a tiresome sprint, but it does mean you have to consciously decide on actions that constantly build and protect intimacy, trust, and affection.

Small gestures of appreciation and consideration go a long way toward forming unbreakable bonds.

How Do You Know That It's Love?

Source: Jose AS Reyes/Shutterstock

I used to believe that love was like a light switch: Something flicks on. You get an overwhelming sensation. It hits you like a bag of bricks—or a strong arrow. It's when you know that you've found the one, right?

Not so much.

After 38 years and an expired marriage, I don’t see love that way anymore. I’ve placed Cupid right next to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

Love, in reality, is a series of choices. The first choice is based on many factors, including chemistry, principles, logic, humor, intelligence, body type, where we are in our lives, what we want or need, etc. The list is endless and the weight of each factor varies depending on the individual. Based on these factors, we either choose to begin the process to love or not. If we decide to enter this process, the action of loving can bring “light switch” moments: The way he looks at you. How hard she makes you laugh. The notes he hides in your purse. The way she makes you feel when you don’t feel anything.

But like an airplane flight, there is turbulence. Fights. Disagreements. The little things that bother you: His socks, her shopping. You start wondering if you’ve made the right choice. And once you are in doubt, you have to make another choice: to continue to fly with this person or parachute out of the plane. This choice is based on a many other factors, but again depend on the individual and where they are in their journey. If you decide to jump, the scary free fall will either make you stronger (grow) or miserable (depressed). Yet sooner or later you find yourself back at the airport waiting to board another plane. And then you hit turbulence again—or maybe, this time, there is no turbulence. Or maybe you’ve changed your mind about the destination. Either way, you have to make another choice: Jump, or continue to fly?

Love is making a choice every day, either to love or not to love. That’s it. You either continue the process or you don't. We fall in and out of love. Even in relationships—especially in relationships. This doesn’t mean we don’t love the person; it means we are left with a choice.

There is a difference between feeling love for someone (caring about a person) and loving someone (choosing to love that person). You may have love for someone forever. But that doesn’t mean you choose to love that person forever. The choice to love is not a feeling; it is an action. That is why it's so difficult. Love requires you to do something—and I’m not just talking about buying flowers. It might mean putting your wants aside. Also, like chemistry, the ability to love is not a constant; it is a variable. It fluctuates, depending on where you are in your life and what you’re struggling with. Sometimes it is easy to love; sometimes it is extremely difficult. But at the end of the day, it’s always a choice.

Although love varies, it also deepens. The longer you stay on that flight and share a journey together, the more fruit the process will bear. Your investment pays off. Your choices become easier. You become stronger as a couple, but also as individuals, assuming the love process is healthy—which means that both of you are doing the work. The choice to love creates opportunities to hit notes in your life that you could never hit alone. That's what makes your choice worth it.

So how do you know if it’s love? That is not the question to ask. The question to ask is this: Do you choose to love this person or not? Right now. Not tomorrow, but today. Make a choice: Yes or no. If the answer is yes, love as hard as you can. Love with everything you’ve got—that is, your capacity right now at this point in your life. If the answer is no, promise me one thing: Let the fall make you stronger.


Love is not a feeling, but a choice, and that's why


Get to know yourself A man among people

We are used to thinking that we just fall in love, and we do not give any additional explanations for this. But in fact, we rather make a choice - to be with a person, stay close to him and love him. So says sociologist Brooke Meredith.

She suggests imagining the following situation: you met someone you like so much that you decide to go on a date with him or her, then another and another. You look forward to each of these meetings with trepidation and anticipation, but suddenly something very important happens in life - for example, you are offered a dream job related to moving to another city or country. nine0003

And in this case, you will most likely stop communicating with a potential partner simply because your head will be occupied by someone else, and you are not ready to invest in long-distance relationships. Which means you choose not to fall in love with that person. Terminate a process already in progress. Yes, that's also possible.

Love does not happen to us overnight. It takes time to truly love someone - hundreds of hours spent together in a variety of situations. Love requires face-to-face communication in different circumstances. nine0003

It's easy to get carried away with someone. Experience attraction and passion too: this happens even on the first date. These feelings are really difficult to resist (even if you are infatuated with someone “not the right one” - for example, a married man) and easy to confuse them with love, but this is not her. Love takes time, Brooke Meredith is sure.

Love is not an emotion or a feeling. This action and choice is a million choices that we make

Throughout life, most people experience a variety of feelings for different people, the question is what we do next: resist attraction or take a step towards love. Love means certain actions and behaviors. nine0003

To love means:

  • to choose to stay with your partner, even if he is having a hard time now, because this person means a lot to you;
  • invest your soul in relationships, spend time and effort on their development;
  • feel attracted to someone else, but choose to stay with a partner if that is the agreement within the couple;
  • be included, reliable, responsive, listen and hear;
  • make sacrifices if necessary: ​​work less in order to spend more time together, move with a partner to where he was offered a job; nine0024
  • to be interested in what is happening in his life and what fascinates him, to attend interesting events with him.

Loving someone, we experience a whole range of feelings: euphoria, warmth, excitement, fullness, excitement, calmness, desire. Yet love as such is not an emotion or a feeling. This action and choice is a million choices that we make.

The choice to come home on time, if promised, to listen carefully to a partner who shares problems at work. The choice to give birth or adopt a child, buy an apartment. Stay together despite the hardships. We make all these choices day after day, throughout the years we love someone, not passively, but actively: staying together, going through difficulties, trying new things and having fun. nine0003

Love continues because we choose to forgive. We choose to focus on the good, on the best qualities of the partner, and not on his shortcomings. Love continues because we choose to love it over and over again.

Text: Polina FrankePhoto source: Getty Images

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True love is a choice


Man and woman

My wife and I have known each other since school, but we started dating only after some time. It has only been a few weeks, but we already realized that we are madly in love with each other and want to get married.

I was all in favor. He even suggested, without delay, to rush to Las Vegas, where we would be instantly painted (seriously!). Kim, however, was more pragmatic. She needed time to plan everything. I felt like the air had been sucked out of me. “We are so different,” I said then. “You like to put everything on the shelves, and I love spontaneity.” nine0003

Kim's eyes widened. "Spontaneity? I can be spontaneous! she retorted hastily. - You'll see. But first I would like to clarify when, at what time I need to be spontaneous so that I can put it in my organizer...”

I looked at her in confusion. She was completely serious! Apparently, Kim didn't understand what the word "spontaneously" meant. It may seem funny, but the more I think about this conversation, the more I realize that the most beautiful thing about love is when you plan or choose to love someone. nine0003

We can't run from the ship every time there are clouds on the horizon. True love does not depend on weather conditions

Someone said that to love means to be unconditionally devoted to a person, knowing about his imperfections. And it is true.

When the butterflies have flown away and your wedding day has become only a pleasant memory, you find yourself married or married to a person as imperfect as you are. And he, in turn, also realizes that you have your own problems, sharp corners and quirks. nine0003

Then you begin to understand that true love is not only a euphoric, spontaneous feeling. This is a conscious choice. You really commit to love each other in joy and sorrow, in poverty and wealth, in health and sickness. These are not empty words.

Of course, you don't choose who you like or like. But you can definitely choose who you love and, more importantly, who you go through life with.

Our society pays a lot of attention to feelings. We are taught to always follow the call of the heart and do what it tells us. But feelings are fleeting. Love, on the contrary, is like the North Star, always illuminating our path in all life's storms. Whenever we feel lost or confused, we draw strength from the love of the one we have chosen. nine0003

There are so many spontaneous and elemental things in life: failures, disappointments, job loss, illnesses and many other problems. We can't run from a ship every time clouds gather on the horizon. True love does not depend on weather conditions.

When my grandmother was in her 50s, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. This disease destroys the nervous system. Within a few years, my grandmother lost the ability to walk and was confined to a wheelchair. Grandpa, who was the chief of police, retired early to take care of her. He helped her with everything from cleaning the house and going to the doctor to taking a bath. nine0003

One day, in a conversation with my mother, my grandfather said: “It hurts me to see her in such a state. You know, when we got married, I thought that everything in our life would go like clockwork. I never imagined that someday I would have to change her catheter every day. But I do it, and it's not difficult for me - because I love her.

Love is something more than a sudden inspiring feeling. True love is not always sweet, pleasant and smells like flowers. Most of the time, she looks different, with her sleeves rolled up, her hands covered in mud, and sweat dripping from her forehead. nine0003

Love does not live by itself, only by your work. And love doesn't go away on its own — it's only your choice

True love requires us to do difficult things: forgive each other, comfort in grief, inspire in difficult times, take responsibility. True love is not easy. It's not like what we feel on our wedding day. But this feeling is much stronger and more beautiful.

Recently, I came across a wonderful quote: “Love does not come at will, only by chance.

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