Is love an emotion or a choice?
If you’re like many people, you’ll say that it’s an emotion. It’s the floaty, bubbly feeling you get around someone. It’s the perfection of every little thing they do. It’s the pointlessness of the rest of the universe when you’re together. To quote Dean Martin, when the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine, that’s amore.
What if I told you you’re wrong? And what if I told you that this definition of love is the biggest cause of failed relationships?
Hear me out.
Relationships are hard. Lots of people say that. And on a surface level, if you’ve been in a relationship, you understand the truth of the statement intuitively. But let’s look deeper. If love is an emotion, how can relationships be hard? Deciding to keep working on a project even though it’s complicated and difficult is hard. Deciding to not give up on your little sister even though she’s being an entitled brat is hard. Deciding to apologize to your lover after a fight is hard.
Being happy isn’t hard. Being sad isn’t hard. Being angry isn’t hard. And being in love isn’t hard.
What’s hard is maintaining a relationship.
Thus, there have to be multiple components to love. One part is of course the feeling awesome at the beginning, but another is what many people call commitment: the choice to be together, to care about each other, to support each other through thick and thin and such. From experience, the latter is much more important. Your brain acclimates to anything after a while, even the company of The Perfect Person™, and eventually the emotion will fade. Your commitment will not. Do you honestly think that those couples who’ve been together for 70+ years are still love-drunk?
What does this have to do with failed relationships, long distance ones especially?
If you think that love is an emotion, you’ll just quit when you acclimate to their presence and the emotion leaves. You’ll think you don’t love them anymore. In reality, you’re simply no longer infatuated – that’s the term I’ve come to realize refers to that initial state of love-drunkenness. You’re perfectly capable of continuing to love that person if you simply commit.
Since distance can prolong infatuation by virtue of not seeing the person very often, long-distance couples who move in together are most susceptible to this problem.
If, on the other hand, you know that love is a choice, you won’t need to worry about what happens when the world stops shining. It’ll keep on turning nonetheless. Your love will go on. You’ll actually be able to work through the logistics of a real relationship as opposed to simply drifting through it because nothing except that person’s presence matters.
It’s not like once the infatuation wears off, you have no feelings for this person anymore – you’re still affectionate and loving – but you no longer feel like the only sustenance you need is their company. You start to decide that no, that habit isn’t endearing, it’s annoying. You start to notice stuff they do that isn’t perfect. And over time they see those things in you, too. But if you’re committed, you both work around the things that you can’t change, and you work on fixing the things you can, and ideally you both become better people in the process.
That is what relationships are about. That is the difference between love and mere infatuation.