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Is love a choice?

Is love a choice?
Dr Jozelle Miller is the sole health psychologist practicing at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.

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Falling in love is something that so many people have experienced, but remains a sensation that is almost impossible to put your finger on. Despite endless songs, movies, TV shows, poems, and pretty much every art form, attempt to describe what falling in love is really like… it’s still not exactly clear how you fall in love. What is meant by the concept “falling in love” really?

Some relationship experts describe falling in love as a lot of feelings, emotions and urges, and sometimes it was described as having the power to totally change your entire brain chemistry. But when you fall in love, when you actually go through the process, is it something that “happens” to you whether you like it or not, or is it something that you’re actively choosing?

When a relationship is new, it is fun and enjoyable courting or being courted. In the beginning, we are constantly thinking about the new person in our life, and wanting to spend all of our time together and share new experiences together. We want to show how we feel by sending cards or flowers, or just sending a cute text message. We see the mirage of social media postings displaying the bliss of love; everyone expecting the fairytale ending.

Feelings, however, can be fleeting. No one seems to want to talk about how those loving feelings can fade, that it takes work to keep the love alive, and that choosing to stay in love is a choice we all must make.

Who we love is as much of a choice as it is a feeling. Staying in love takes a commitment. After the rosy glow of the new relationship wears off, we have to make a decision: Do we want to love this person and commit to a relationship together, or are we going to let this person go? Once we have made the decision that we have found the person we want to be with and commit to, the work begins.

A big part of that work is making many other choices.

It is a choice to see the good in our partner every day, rather than focusing on the negative things that bother us. We have to accept them and love them as they are. If we go into a relationship thinking we can change someone, we are setting our relationship and ourselves up to fail. We all have flaws and quirks and are weird in some ways. Accepting those differences is part of love.

We can choose to ignore the petty, irritating small things our partner may do. If our partner forgets to take out the garbage, or leaves the cap off the toothpaste, we can talk about it with them, but we also can accept that this just might be being forgetful, and choose to move on. Trying to change our partner into us is one of the biggest relationship mistakes we can make.

When we are unhappy with how things are in our relationship, it is easy to overfocus on what we are not getting from the relationship. Instead, a healthier response is to see what we could be doing for our partner, rather than focusing on what they are not doing for us. We should always try to be supportive of our partner, because we cannot expect anything from our partner that we are not willing to give ourselves.

Another important choice we can make is to choose to remember the reasons why we committed to this person. Our relationship will not always be pleasant and there will be times for serious discussions and disagreement. There will be trying times and even bad times that we will need to work through together. The key to surviving these times is to remember to be respectful, acknowledge our commitment, and work through whatever is at hand together. During these times it really helps to remind ourselves of why we chose to love them in the first place.

Love is all about choices. We choose to see the good, ignore the petty, look for what we could do for our partner, and remember why we love our partner. Choosing to put in the effort to do these things is what love looks like, and with that work comes the wonderful reward of staying in love.

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