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Real Love is a Choice

By Seth Adam Smith on Thursday February 9th, 2017

Image: Milan Popovic

Is There Such a Thing as a Fairy Tale Ending?

My wife and I have known each other since high school but didn’t date until much later. We had only dated a couple of weeks before we realized that we were madly in love and wanted to get married.

I was all for it! I even suggested a spontaneous, immediate wedding in Vegas. (Seriously). Kim, however, was a bit more practical about the whole thing. She wanted to take the time to plan it all out.

I felt deflated. “We’re so different,” I said. “You like to plan, while I like to be spontaneous.”

Kim’s eyes widened. “I can be spontaneous!” she said, hurriedly. “I can totally be spontaneous. You just have to tell me in advance when you want to be spontaneous, and I will write it down in my planner…”

I gave her a strange look. She was totally serious! Clearly, Kim did not understand the meaning of spontaneity.

Embrace the Imperfections

Funny as it may seem, the more I think about this conversation the more I’ve come to realize that planning to love someone—or choosing to love someone—is actually one of the most beautiful things about love.

I’ve heard it said that real love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.

And it’s true.

When all the butterflies have fluttered away and your wedding day becomes a distant memory, you will discover that you’ve married someone who is just as imperfect as you. And they, in turn, will come to learn that you have problems, insecurities, struggles, quirks—and body odor—just as real as theirs!

Then you will realize that real love isn’t just a euphoric, spontaneous feeling; it’s a deliberate choice, a plan to love each other for better and worse, for richer and poorer; in sickness and in health. Of course, you don’t choose who you’re attracted to, but you definitely choose who you fall in love with and (more importantly) who you stay in love with.

Loving someone perfectly“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” – Sam Keen. Image: Pablo Merchán Montes.

Love is About Choosing to Walk the Path Together

Our society places a lot of emphasis on feelings. We are told that we should always follow our feelings and do whatever makes us happy. But feelings are fickle and fleeting.

Real love, on the other hand, is like the north star in the storms of life; it is constant, sure, and true. Whenever we’re lost and confused, we can find strength in the love that we have chosen.

Besides, life already offers us plenty of spontaneity: rejection, job loss, heartache, disappointment, despair, illness, and a host of other problems. We simply can’t abandon ship every time we encounter a storm in our marriage. Real love is about weathering the storms of life together.

When my grandma was in her fifties, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; a degenerative disease that disrupts the body’s ability to communicate with its nervous system. Within a few short years, Grandma had lost the ability to walk and was confined to a wheelchair. Grandpa, who was then the chief of police, retired two years earlier than planned in order to take care of Grandma. He helped her do everything—from getting around the house and visiting the doctor, to helping her take her medicine and bathe.

In speaking about my grandma, Grandpa once told my mom, “It hurts me to see her like this. You know, when I got married I thought that everything would be smooth sailing. I never imagined that I would have to help her change her catheter every day. But I do it and I don’t mind it — because I love her.”

Committing to Love

Love is so much more than some random, euphoric feeling. And real love isn’t always fluffy, cute, and cuddly. More often than not, real love has its sleeves rolled up, dirt and grime smeared on its arms, and sweat dripping down its forehead. Real love asks us to do hard things — to forgive one another, to support each other’s dreams, to comfort in times of grief, or to care for our family. Real love isn’t easy — and it’s nothing like the wedding day — but it’s far more meaningful and wonderful.

I recently came across this wonderful quote:

No one falls in love by choice, it is by chance. No one stays in love by chance, it is by work. And no one falls out of love by chance, it is by choice. – Unknown

Whenever my wife and I run into a problem in our marriage, we do our best to choose love. While we’re certainly not perfect, the love we share today is more real and more wonderful than anything we had ever anticipated.

So, whatever spontaneous storm may come our way, I plan to continue loving my wife.

If you truly love someone (and they truly love you), commit to that love and plan on it being hard work.

But also plan on it being the most rewarding work of your life.

 

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17 Responses to Real Love is a Choice

  1. I agree with Alan O’Dwyer’s comment or question above.

    Of course, I really enjoyed the article and believe it holds some golden points.

    Ah, we have forever been trying to define “in love”. Is it the infatuation or rose colored glasses stage where we blow off possible flaws in our “beloved”, or do we look straight on, in spite of the flaws and “choose” to revel in our “feelings” and go for it?

    It IS definitely some brain/bodily chemical that affects us from time to time (though not near often enough in a lifetime, unless we lucked out and found a true lifelong love.

    Best of Love-

  2. Worth reading.. At least someone truly explained the true love in its real meaning.. Appreciate it.. Meaningful and interesting..I can just say.. awesome

  3. Very nice article… However, in this world there are so many people, who did not understand that, rather they tried to show the nice dream and when they about to reach the goal, that partner just left the hand and said “I am confused. I can’t think about love.”

  4. Does the article not contradict itself? In one part it says “you don’t choose who you’re attracted to, but you definitely choose who you fall in love with”

    and then later in the article it references a quote saying

    “no one falls in love by choice it is by chance..”

    • I don’t think it’s a contradiction. The quote continues: No one stays in love by chance, it is by work. And further: And no one falls out of love by chance, it is by choice.

      I think what this quote is pointing to is that love inevitably at first is random. The mystery on how 2 people resonate comes from a complexity that is unexplainable at first. And then… comes a refinement, where choice kicks in, agreements and negotiations on how the relationship should evolve, the setting of values. At this point, love is elevated to a new status. This is where most relationships fall apart, when the work to build the love is not that interesting to both or one of the partners.

      As the writer points, you choose who to stay in love with. You always point to the north star that is that love.

      My question is, is it romantic to think that this applied love technique really develops that deep love mentioned? Love above all? What about problems that are unsurmountable? Then again, as the writer notes, you also choose to fall out of love. In essence, I believe in the value of choosing and working love.

      Thank you for your thoughtful article, and the last bit on being the most rewarding work one will ever do.

  5. I like this. I think you have to work hard at keeping love alive and being happy and fulfilled. It is hard work but so worth it if you find your other half.

  6. Wonderful- only major point I do not agree on: love for a partner/spouse is not unconditional… it is conditional (hence the choice one needs to make, day in, day out.) Only love for oneself and our own children is to be unconditional. You do not want to be your spouses’ mom or dad.

  7. My first marriage was a disaster. In this marriage (one of the world’s greatest love stories), there are a few things I’ve learned: Begin as you mean to go on. Don’t hide parts of yourself. If your partner can’t handle your less-than-perfect self, they are not the right partner. Fight holding hands. It’s really hard to say things you don’t mean in the heat of the moment, or take pot shots to score points when you are holding your beloved’s hand in yours. Remember to say things out loud, such as how much you love them, how proud you are of them, the qualities you love about them, etc. Everyone needs to hear these sorts of things every day.

  8. Very inspiring article! Our ideas and expectations about love are mostly wrong. In india where marriages are arranged partners grow by committing to love each other. Far less divorces are the result.

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