I used to believe that love was a light switch: Something flicks on.
We get an overwhelming sensation.
It hits us like a bag of bricks. Or a strong arrow.
When we know, we know. 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 is a series of choices. The first choice is based on many many factors, including chemistry, principles, logic, humor, intelligence, body type, where we are in our lives, what we want/need…
The list goes on and on 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 us. How hard she makes us laugh. The notes he hides in our purse. The way she makes us feel when we don’t feel anything.
But like an airplane flight, there is turbulence. The fights. The disagreements. The little things that bother us. His socks. Her shopping. We start wondering if we’ve made the right choice.
Once we are in doubt, we have to make another choice: to continue to fly with this person or jump out of the plane. This choice is based on a thousand other factors, again depending on the individual and where they are in their journey.
If we decide to jump, the scary free fall will either make us stronger (grow) or miserable (depressed). But sooner or later, we’ll find ourself back at the airport waiting to board another plane. Then we hit turbulence. Or maybe there is no turbulence. Maybe we’ve changed our mind about the destination. Either way, another choice: Fly or jump?
Love is making a choice every single day, to either love or not love. That’s it.
It’s that simple. Either to continue the process or not. 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). We may have love for someone forever, but that doesn’t mean we choose to love that person forever. The choice to love is not a feeling; it is an action.
That is why it is so difficult. It requires us to do something, and I’m not just talking about buying flowers. It might mean putting our wants aside. Also, like chemistry, the ability to love is not a constant: It is a variable. It fluctuates, depending on where we’re at in our life and what we’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. This means the longer we stay on that flight and embark on the journey together, the more fruit the process will bear. Our investment pays off. Our choices become easier. We not only become stronger as a couple, but also as individuals, assuming the love process is healthy—which means we are both doing work. The choice to love creates opportunity to hit notes in life that we could never hit alone, and this is what makes our choice worth it.
So, how do you know if it’s love? That is not the question to ask. The question is: Do you choose to love this person or not? Right now. Not tomorrow. Today. Make a choice. Yes or no. If the answer is yes, love as hard as you can. Love with everything you’ve got (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.
Bonus! Before you ask if you’re in love, ask if you’re happy with yourself:
Double bonus! Once you know, how to make it last:
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Jen Weddle/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: Amani Omejer