Choosing to Love
In my own life, I've found that "falling in love" is initially a kind of trance, where the two people involved feel all kinds of wonderful feelings for each other. This type of love starts out as a euphoric high, in which both partners focus on their similarities. They believe their match is made in heaven. They are convinced the magical feelings of friendship and love they share will conquer all barriers and problems and last happily ever after. Also during this initial phase of love, the accompanying sexual attraction and activity is generally quite intense and can, if allowed, "drive" the relationship.
Eventually, however, the euphoric feelings associated with falling in love give way to reality. Both partners come down from the euphoric state of rapture. They wake up, in essence, and suddenly begin noticing their differences for the first time. They discover they have likes and dislikes—about each other. Their individualism begins to re-assert itself. Ego dominance and control issues arise, and can, if unchecked, eventually lead to abuse. The logistics of life start crowding out the in-love feelings and the relationship begins, seemingly, to crash and fall apart. The couple loses the feelings of attraction that initially brought them together and they begin, once again, looking for love by turning to a new partner, thus starting the whole cycle all over again.
According to Peck, Chopra, and other leading psychiatrists, the emotional high and the inevitable crash can take as long as two years to cycle through to completion. This is why a long term, non-sexual courtship tends to result in healthier, committed relationships. The courtship is also healthier and more relaxed when both partners are aware of and understand the course that "falling in love" takes.
At some point, then, the euphoric high reaches an end. Crises ensues. Rather than falling out of love and ending the relationship, partners who are aware of love's process can now begin the work of real, lasting love. At this critical juncture, where many relationships fall apart, a couple is ready for the next, higher phase of love, based on the initial feelings of attraction that first brought them together.
The euphoria of love is falling in love; the work of love is choosing to love. Choosing to treat each other with kindness. Choosing to keep the relationship alive and healthy. Choosing to give to one another. Choosing to remain friends despite conflicts. Choosing to negotiate conflicts to mutually-agreed resolutions. Choosing to combine their resources. Choosing to value and respect their differences. Choosing to create a beneficial partnership of independent, yet interdependent individuals.
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Real, lasting love is a choice.
The only prerequisite for real love to continue is for both partners to simultaneously choose to engage in the work of love together. Both partners choose to build the relationship. Both partners are committed to creating a healthy home, where each of them is free to be their best self and where each of them is willing to encourage the other to be their best self and reach their greatest potential as individuals. Both partners agree to maintain the relationship, not out of need, but because each has a contribution and benefit to bring into the relationship. Both partners chose, together, despite any and all logistical problems that arise, to create and maintain a new reality of disciplined love for themselves and their children—a healthy reality where both partners can grow mentally and spiritually and can nurture, support, and encourage one another. In such a relationship, both euphoric love and love-by-choice will flourish and last.
next: Letting Go of Urgency
Last Updated: 08 August 2014
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD