Tag Archives: what is 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

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Stay Self-Focused to Repair Marital Problems

Most people who go to marriage counseling are secretly hoping the therapist will change their spouse, says Harriet Lerner, PhD. Of course they do. We all think we are right, don’t we? There may be a few who have acted egregiously and know they are in the wrong, but usually we are certain we are upholding more than our end of the bargain.

Instead of being focused on our spouse’s behavior or attitude, we should focus on ourselves, says Lerner, who writes for Psychology Today and has appeared on CNN and Oprah.

“Change will not happen until at least one person takes his or her blaming or worried focus off their spouse and puts it back on himself or herself,” she says, adding, “Self-focus is not the same as self-blame.” It’s an important point to not blame ourselves as much as to look at how we are a contributor to the good and bad parts of the relationship. Lerner says our energy is best spent observing, clarifying, and changing our own part in relationship patterns.

Our partner may choose to also change his or her patterns, but won’t do that through our criticizing and diagnosing their issues. He or she might consider it after seeing us take responsibility for our part.

As an example, if you feel slighted by something your spouse did, and you begin to withdraw, withhold affection and concentrate solely on the children, you both become part of the problem. It would be better to address your feelings directly rather than compound the problem with “punishments.”

I’ll close this post with a link to a story, a parable really, that I think is deceptively simple and holds a great deal of truth. It has to do with understanding that love is a decision. (Interestingly, Is Love a Decision or a Feeling? is the most searched topic on my blog. ) Anyway, the tale is included in a post called How to Fall Back in Love by Gina Parris. If you read the story, you’ll understand why I included it here.

Some of you may say you are in the midst of a dispute in which you are truly in the right, and your spouse is the biggest jerk ever. Yes, there are times when we can do everything right and be the most loving spouse, work to improve ourselves, and find we are married to someone who won’t budge. In those rare cases (and I do think these would be quite rare), at least we won’t have any regrets. Read the story. Follow the advice, and see how things work out.

All that being said, the next time I have a marital dispute, I’m sure I will still think I’m right! So, it will take some effort for me to evaluate my own actions before blaming my spouse. How are you at this? Any tips you have learned over the years?

Source: Quotes taken from Creating a Marriage You’ll Love, a collection of marriage essays.

Is Love a Decision or a Feeling?

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