There are many factors that contribute to the high divorce rate that we see in our country today: factors such as change of financial status, infidelity, or the mysterious “irreconcilable differences.”
I personally facilitate at least a dozen couples counseling sessions a month, and, while it is true that sometimes the aforementioned culprits are seen, lately I have been seeing a new factor for discord in the relationship: “I’ve just fallen out of love.”
What exactly is “falling out of love”? What is love for that matter?
Let me start by describing what love IS NOT…love is not that warm, mushy feeling you feel inside, where your heart is fluttering and you see stars in your eyes. Those are symptoms of emotional sensory overload---and, besides, that’s just the beginning, or what we sometimes call “the honeymoon stage.”
That feeling lasts a few months, a little longer if we’re lucky. In the beginning, we put our best foot forward—we look our best, dress to impress, conceal our behavioral foibles in an age old effort to impress or win the other over. Once we’ve “sealed the deal” and the relationship forges ahead, what happens is that, over time, we start to “let our hair down” and slowly morph into our REAL selves.
The façade is no longer needed---and one day, we turn over in our beds, look at our partners and say to ourselves “Who IS this person?”
However, this is when TRUE love is tested, when TRUE love is forged.
Because, you see, love is a choice.
That’s right, love is a CHOICE. When the going gets tough, we must CHOOSE to love our partner. When we begin to take for granted the things we DO have in common, and really start to face our differences, or what we DON’T have in common, that is the time when we must CHOOSE to love our partner—CHOOSE to stay.
We must CHOOSE to look past our partner’s faults…CHOOSE to empathize with our partner’s experience…CHOOSE to only recall the fond memories we once shared while simultaneously CHOOSING to create NEW memories. It’s too easy to give up when things get tough…it’s more challenging when you choose DESPITE (fill in the blank with your personal challenge!)
And that makes the experience so much richer, so much stronger.
I see many individuals in couples’ therapy who, at times, feel forced or obligated to stay in the relationship for whatever reason: the children, finances, self-esteem. However, this “obligation” vanishes when one CHOOSES to love.
In the Christian religion, agape love is described as the highest form of love. Agape is distinguishable from philos (brotherly love) and eros (sexual, or physical, love) in that it is said to be “God’s Love”.
What’s interesting is that, when you look up the definition of agape in its original Greek language, it means “love as an act of the WILL”—in other words, CHOICE. So the “highest” form of love, according to the Christian tradition, is love that is a CHOICE. Or, put another way, choosing to love means loving like God loves.
Yes, love is a choice. And for a relationship to last, it must be a choice that is made every day.
Sam was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English
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