Growing up in the beautiful city of Aba, I had a girlfriend whom I loved so much. Although, I’ll admit, I didn’t know so much about love then. All I had was the feeling. That affectionate, passionate feeling. It was a profound, tender feeling of attachment that I didn’t have for any other person, at that point in my life. I understood love to be a feeling.
That girlfriend eventually moved on, married someone else. Despite all the feelings of love and affection we had for each other, she chose someone else. I have been in other relationships afterward, and now, I think I have a better understanding of what love really is.
Love is not just a feeling. No, it is not.
I recently met a friend who argued that love is a decision. And I have come across articles on the internet on this same issue. Many of them with reasons why they believe so. When my friend made his point and buttressed it with his reasons, I was inclined to lean toward his side of the argument. I asked myself several questions, one of which was: if love is a feeling, what happens when all the feeling is gone? Because there are sure too many times when we don’t feel like loving the object of our affection. I told myself my friend might just be right.
Again I told myself, love is not just a feeling. It is beyond that. I went home that day with a lot on my mind. After I arrived home, I went for a cold shower, as it helps clear my head. It was under that shower I made up my mind about what love really is. I felt better after that, and I made up my mind I was going to tell the world.
So here we are.
Is love, a feeling or a decision? I think it’s a mix of both. When people fall in love, they do just that – they fall. Falling in love does not require an effort. It is a passive act. You have this strong feeling drown you. You don’t have to force yourself to do anything. It comes naturally.
But a time comes when your head comes above water, when the feeling no longer has power over you. You’re no more “falling” in love. My friend would say, you’re standing in love at that point. Fully in control. When this happens, when you have the power, what do you choose then? To love or not to love.
Whether you choose to love or to not love, you make a decision. Many times when we say we love someone, it might be because of something. It might be because of their beauty, their smile, it might be the way they dress or their sense of humor. Truly, what we love about this person is how he/she makes us feel. That isn’t really what love is. That’s the “feeling” of love. In most cases, this feeling changes, weakens over time, and might eventually dissipate. In extremely unfortunate instances, that feeling never returns. Now what would happen if that aspect of what you love were gone, permanently? What if a loved one had an accident that immobilized them? Or a fire incident that scarred them, and made them lose their smile or their sense of humor. Would you still love them? Would you stop loving them? Decision time.
If the object of your love made you mad with something they did, would you still love them? Someone said love is a decision. A conscious choice to love is the decision to be kind, compassionate, affectionate and understanding towards someone. I agree. So, even though the things they were that made you love them in the first place were no longer there, your choice (decision) to love them, is what counts.
The feeling might not always be there, but we can always make the choice to love, or act with love. Imagine, for a second, that you decide to become a writer. That’s your decision. You make a commitment to it. You know what you have to do to become one. You need to read a lot, and you need to write, no matter how badly. Many times you will not feel like writing; you might have other (more interesting) activities lined up. You know if you want to write, you have to sacrifice those other activities just to write. It might not always be enjoyable, but you made the decision and you know you have to stick to it. That’s commitment.
Love is the same. It’s a choice (decision).
There are definitely times when you’d rather be selfish and act in an unloving manner. There are times also when you might not feel attracted to the object of your affection. There are many times when you’d rather just be alone, or just be with your friends than spend time with your loved one when they need you. In all these moments, you’ll make a decision. Do I choose to love or not? Once you answer this question, you know what you have just done. You have just made a decision.
If you look at love as a conscious decision, you’d want to love no matter the challenges.
But if love were only just a decision, why did you “feel” the way you felt on that first day? If love was just a decision, why did a teenage boy like me (who knew nothing about love) feel what I felt for my first love? Why did you feel like going back to that person after they broke your heart? If love was merely just a decision, you’d decide to leave, and not love again, and there’d be no problem. It’d be like you were both never together. Yes, relationships (being in love) require often that we make the decision to love or not (in certain circumstances).
But that subtle, underlying feeling of love precedes our decision to choose to love. Love is a more deeply embedded feeling. Personally, I think love is a feeling, and how we choose to act towards the object of our love is a decision. But that’s just what I think. Hence my earlier supposition that love is a mix of both. If today, regardless of what you feel, you decide to love someone. Your decision and resolve will be truly tested when hard times come, and you sit and think, and then realize you never really loved (felt anything for) them. If you really did feel something, you’d want to stay, you might not want to let go. Your feelings will tell you that you want to be with that person regardless.
A lot of people have ‘decided’ to love because of money, without that ‘feeling’ of love; and they have been burned. Many also have gone into marriages based on their decision to love, maybe because of looks. These marriages almost often end in divorces. These people only work on the decision, and try so much to convince themselves they can be with this person, regardless. But when tested, because there was never any feeling of love, they easily let go, and choose to move on. If love was only a choice, there would not be sadness or hurt or suicides (in the name of love) in the world. You’d only just decide to move on and not love anymore. We won’t feel so heartbroken when the other person decides to leave us.
When you fall in love, it’s a very precious gift you have received. The Creator made us relational beings, so he put that feeling in us that makes us yearn for and seek to be loved. We find love, then we decide to nurture this precious gift we’ve found. Think of love as a ceramic toy. It’ll be fine and last for you as long as you choose to nurture and protect it. Putting in mind that it is fragile, you’ll handle it with care. If you neglect its nature, and treat it without caution, you’ll break it.
Here’s to hoping that you find that someone that your heart desires; and when you find that someone, I hope you’ll decide to stay.
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