Stop thinking that you have to wait until you fall in love with a person to find happily-ever-after. Love is a choice that you can make or ignore.
Since I started getting into mature relationships, I’ve been under the impression that love is a choice. I make sacrifices. I agree to compromise. I understand when to back down in a fight. BUT, I’ve also refused to give in to demands. I’ve rejected any contradiction to my beliefs. I’ve looked down on anything less than what I thought I deserved.
So, I asked myself, “Did I really choose to be in love?” The answer is yes and no. Yes, because, for some people, I was willing to do whatever it took to stay in love. No, because there were others to whom I did not give the same chances when it came to love.
On the opposite side of it all, the people who did not stay with me made a choice as well. They didn’t choose to work on loving me. And I couldn’t fault them for that. Nobody truly teaches us how to love. We go with our gut, and when our gut says no, we jump ship.
But are we really supposed to go with whatever our gut tells us? Unfortunately, gut feelings don’t always work when you’re already in a relationship. What works, however, are the decisions you make once you’ve committed to someone. The bottom line? Love is a choice you make, not a gut feeling you continuously follow.
Why do people choose to be in love?
Once, I asked my friend, “Why did you choose to stay with your current boyfriend? Is he ‘The One’ you were always looking for?” I was surprised at her answer because it was far from what we’d always talked about while we were growing up. Here’s what she said:
“I’m not sure if he’s the one, but I’m in a mature relationship now. I choose to work on the things I don’t like about the relationship, and I expect the same out of him.”
It wasn’t a mind-blowing revelation, but it was enough to make me reconsider the choices I had made in the past.
I’ve dated guys whom I really liked, but ended the relationship because there were parts of it that I didn’t like. What was wrong with the ones I didn’t choose? Nothing, really. Nothing at all. The fact that I went out with them at all showed that I was attracted to them.
Unfortunately, there was always something that made me reconsider my future with them. At times, it was something small, like a personality quirk that I couldn’t understand. Other times, it was huge, like an inherent clash of morals and values. Basically, most of those budding relationships I’ve had failed because I observed one or two deal-breakers. [Read: 10 relationship deal breakers to watch out for]
Why do deal-breakers affect our choice to be in love?
When it comes to dating, we talk about deal-breakers as if we’re discussing abusive tendencies, bigoted mindsets, or abhorrent personalities. The truth is, however, that a lot of us are in the business of considering shallower traits as deal-breakers.
For example, height. Not wanting to date a girl who’s taller or a guy who’s shorter. Here’s another one: career. Not wanting to date someone who earns less or someone who earns more. Family background. Not wanting to date someone who didn’t have the same upbringing as you. Political choices. Not wanting to date someone who believes in something else as you. Religious differences. Not wanting to date someone who prays for something differently than you. They’re all considered deal-breakers by one person or another.
But what we call deal-breakers are just excuses that free us from the choice of falling in love with someone. A person doesn’t have a choice when it comes to his appearance, but he or she does have a choice in how they will treat other people. That’s exactly what relationships lead up to, right? How your future partner will treat you for the rest of your lives? Deal-breakers don’t define your future. You define it by believe that love is a choice, refining what already exists, and working together to fix any problems that arise. [Read: 12 sizzling tips for couples with a huge height difference]
How can we choose to be in love?
If you’re the type who researches how to have the perfect relationship, you’re Googling the wrong keywords. You should be looking for ways to have a good relationship. Perfection is subjective, but the quality of your relationship is measurable.
You see how it improves every day. You feel whether it’s going in the right direction. You know when there’s an issue that can’t be resolved. You have the means to determine whether it’s right or wrong. Choosing is not just about saying yes to everything.
Choosing who to love, how to love, which parts to love, and why you love someone only happens when you take the time to fully understand a person. You don’t choose a person because they’re exactly what you want.
You choose them because you know what hurts them, what leaves their heart messy, what makes them feel guilty, what makes them bad, what makes them good, and what makes them human. And despite all of that, you choose to stay. You choose to be better for each other. You choose to love one another despite your flaws, your mistakes, your pasts, and even your possible future. [Read: How to fight fair in a relationship and grow closer]
Where do I start?
You have the necessary tools that can make choosing easier: communication, honesty, trust. Aaron Beck, a psychologist who researches relationships, found that people are more likely to fail in their relationships when they refuse to use these tools.
#1 Communicate your needs. For one thing, most people are terrible mind-readers, which makes communication extremely necessary. When a partner fails to reach your expectations, you are more likely to draw negative conclusions that cause trouble for your relationship.
Rather than communicate your observation and ask for confirmation, you end up thinking the worst, convincing yourself that it’s time to end the relationship. The only way to make a relationship work is to talk about what you want and need. [Read: A guide on effective communication in a relationship]
#2 Build trust, don’t expect it. When you first fall in love, you believe that the person is incapable of doing anything wrong. Then, when they destroy your perception with one mistake or one flaw, all hell breaks loose. You lose the trust that nobody worked for, and you refuse to believe that they can make up for destroying your ideal picture of your relationship. [Read: How to build trust in a relationship and make it last]
#3 Be honest about what you want. Lastly, honesty should not be limited to telling the truth when a question is asked. Honesty in relationships includes being upfront about what you want, rather than expecting someone to read your mind.
This is why unspoken rules never work. Saying that a partner *should* do this or that is like saying the sun *should* have tea with the moon. You’re better off just asking, “Would you please?” That is a much more open and engaging approach to honest communication within a relationship. [Read: How to stop lying to yourself and to your partner]
You truly have all the resources you need to make a choice that will make or break your relationship. If you still don’t understand why love is a choice, you probably haven’t made the decision to allow it to be yet. Let your heart live with the choices it makes, and work your hardest at keeping that flame alive.
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Those who can’t do, teach. I can neither do nor teach as well as others, but I can try. Aside from being a writer, I am also a physical therapist. My dream is...