Tag Archives: finding true love

Is Love a Decision or a Feeling?

As I’m enjoying a short break with my family, I’m reposting one of my most popular posts. It seems many people find my blog by Googling the question above. So, here’s my answer back from 2009.

What does the word “love” evoke in your mind? Is it your love affair with cheesecake or warm chocolate pudding? Or an image of you and your sweetie having an afternoon picnic? When you were a child, you probably loved your teddy bear or your parents. As you grow older, your understanding of love should grow and evolve, just like your understanding of everything else. Too often, we have a shallow understanding of love, concluding as long as two people make each other happy, that’s love.

Love has lots of definitions. The most common are 1) a deep feeling of affection or attachment, 2) sexual affection or 3) a strong liking or predilection for something.

I would suggest that none of these definitions encompasses what mature love involves. In my interviews with long-time married couples, their view of love is not the fly-by-night romantic view. You might be surprised to learn the romance and affection is still there even for older couples, but there is something much more, something that happened along the way to make the love richer and more permanent.

What these mature couples have developed is a view that love is an action—a decision—not a feeling. The fact that they have been married a long time doesn’t mean they didn’t face serious obstacles. What it means is that they found a way through the obstacles. They didn’t always feel loving toward one another, but they decided to love anyway. One couple who faced tremendous difficulties including a marital affair early in their marriage, talked about how this decision to love one another changed their perspective. They found that if they led with loving actions, their feelings soon followed. In other words, after they started acting lovingly, they felt more in love. They transformed their entire marriage more than 30 years ago to an extraordinarily loving one that continues today.

Anyone who has children knows that children don’t always act in ways that deserve love, but good parents decide to love them anyway. You can’t say you love your children while you neglect them. Similarly, you can’t say you love your spouse if you neglect him or her and refuse to act in a loving manner when your spouse doesn’t “deserve” it. For example, if your spouse is having a bad day, do you contribute to it, or do you provide encouragement? If you’re having an argument, do you sometimes choose to give in, or do you dig in your heels?

The bottom line is that you have to decide whom to love and how to love. Use your behavior and choices to lead your feelings, rather than allowing your daily feelings to determine your behavior. That’s mature love.

 To love is to choose.–Joseph Roux

Photo credit: ©Jorge Casais/PhotoXpress.com

Is There a Case for Settling in Marriage?

Single women say finding a man with 80% of what they want would be “settling,” but single men say finding a woman with 80% of what they seek would be “a catch.” I’ve heard these statements before, but author Lori Gottlieb backed them up with a scientific survey. Her controversial book, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough is not really about settling at all. It’s about women needing to have more realistic expectations of Mr. Right.

Gottlieb was a woman with ultra-high standards. She thought women should have it all and shouldn’t settle for anything less; compromise was not a part of her vocabulary. She had many prospects in her 20s and 30s, but none was good enough. Then, she found herself single and 40, the mother of a donor-conceived baby, when she realized she would have made very different choices about marriage and family if she had know what truly would make her happy. She realized the loneliness she felt was not assuaged with a child. “It was different and perhaps even compounded. It’s both single-person loneliness and the loneliness of not sharing the little moments of my son’s life with someone who cares about him as profoundly as I do.”

She realizes she hadn’t been picky about the important stuff, but rather about the trivial stuff that doesn’t matter a decade or two into marriage “when you’re more concerned about child care and contented companionship than you are about height or hairlines.”

For those of us who are married, Gottlieb seems to make a lot of sense. But when you see her interviewed on national TV, they always pair her with a young professional woman who still believes there is one perfect man out there who will make her every dream come true, or with a woman who believes a marital partner is not necessary to make a woman happy. They get hung up on the word “settle” and feel doing so would be compromising their integrity. Gottlieb has been called “an affront to the entire woman’s movement.” She’s been called desperate, but she says she is only wiser. She has a better picture of who Mr. Right is, and his name is Mr. Good Enough.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not as perfect a wife as I thought I’d be, and my dear husband has one or two flaws as well. If we looked for perfection, we wouldn’t find it. I agreed with the wife in a Washington Post article about Gottlieb’s book who said “if I had made a list of what I wanted in a husband, I would not have had the wisdom, creativity and self-awareness to create a husband as wonderfully quirky and perfect for me as my husband is.”

Still, one can argue that a woman should know what she wants in a husband. I’ve known several women who have listed out their priorities and found great men to match them. The key is to know what your deal breakers are, and to know that they are not superficial. Physical attributes can’t be counted on. Job status is not permanent. However, certain character traits, common values and goals, and similarities in faith may be important to your long-term happiness.

Gottlieb says that recognizing both she and a potential Mr. Good Enough have less-than-ideal qualities is not settling—it’s maturity. It’s the kind of maturity that admits companionship and compatibility are as important as passion. “Nothing about good enough implies that you haven’t found a true love—or in fact, a much deeper kind of love.”

If you’re married, did you have a list of must-haves before you wed? If so, were they met? Do you think women are too picky in dating? Or do you think women shouldn’t feel pressure to “settle” in such an important relationship?