Why is love a choice and not an emotion? The emotional component of love that we associate with feeling "loving" isn't consistent. For a relationship to be solid, there has to be consistency. Choosing to love means one will choose actions that demonstrate love regardless of the emotion that is felt (1 Corinthians 13). Here are five things that you choose to do when you love someone whether you are feeling angry, disappointed, distant, hurt, upset, loving, irritated, happy, unhappy or anything else:
1. You act in a way that is in the person's best interest. When you love someone, you have goodwill toward that person and act in a way that supports and cares. You do not purposefully bring harm or ill will toward them. You want to see the person happy, successful, secure, and fulfilled. Loving someone means you are invested fully in the person's well being. This is part of the commitment you make to the person when you enter the relationship. Romans 13:10 says, "Love does no harm to its neighbor" (NIV).
2. You take the person's needs into consideration. It doesn't mean you always have to do what the person wants or that it is wrong to put your own needs first. It just means you will consider what the other person wants and needs as much as you take your own needs into consideration. It is a balancing act that means you will sometimes sacrifice your own needs and wants for the other person and other times decide that you need to put yourself first. Philippians 2:4 says, "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (NIV).
3. You work toward understanding the person's viewpoint. Your own viewpoint makes sense to you, because it is yours. However when you love someone, it is important that you work toward understanding how he/she thinks and sees things. That person's opinions and emotions, albeit often different than yours, are equally important and you need to put energy into getting what is going on with the person. Part of feeling loved is to be understood for who you are. Proverbs 20:5 says, "The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out" (NIV).
4. You treat the person respectively. No matter how you feel, you can control how you act. You don't have the right to mistreat someone just because you are emotionally upset. One of the worst things you can do in a relationship is to treat your partner with contempt and disrespect. When you respect your partner, you speak and act in a way that conveys that the person is valuable to you. God wants respect in relationships. He tells husbands to respect their wives (1 Peter 3:7) and wives to respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33).
5. You are committed to the relationship. If love were demonstrated only when one had loving feelings, then relationships would be roller coasters. Commitment is the additive that makes the road smooth and flat. Commitment means the relationship is bigger than either one of the partners. The good of the relationship becomes the goal. The marriage, relationship, or partnership is more important than either of the people in it. This helps both people rise above each person's sometimes competing views and needs. God views marriage and a committed sexual relationship as an entity. Two become one (Genesis 2:24) and the one is a union that is to be cherished and not broken, if at all possible.
Why is a love a choice and not an emotion? Because, it wouldn't be love if it depended on the ups and downs of the emotional feeling we associate with feeling "loving."
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Karla Downing is an author, speaker, licensed marriage and family therapist, and Bible study teacher. Karla's passion is to help people find freedom in Christ in the midst of their difficult relationships and circumstances through Biblical truths and practical tools.
Most of us tend to focus on falling in love and use the feeling of love to determine the duration of a relationship. Falling in love is easy to do, almost effortless, but losing that loving feeling is not that hard to do, either.
Of course, 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 getting cards or flowers or just sending a cute text message.
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 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.
Happy couple photo available from Shutterstock