When I was in high school, I attended a 12-week Marriage Enrichment Seminar sponsored by my church. It’s purpose was to help teenagers understand the mechanics of marriage and what it takes to keep it going. Each week we discussed a different aspect about this all-important union. One week the topic was “Love is a Decision”. I had a problem with that one and argued with the moderators…two people I admired and respected, whose marriage I thought was perfect (it wasn’t but that’s another story!). Love, I told them (as if I knew anything about it!), was NOT a decision. It was a feeling. You either felt it or you didn’t. End of discussion. No, they insisted, it is NOT just a feeling, it is a DECISION and one you must make on a near daily basis! We ended that session on a stalemate. I just didn’t understand how love could be a decision. You don’t DECIDE to love someone. You either feel it or your don’t.
Oh how naive of me!
Four marriages later, I have learned this lesson quite thoroughly! Though I hate to admit my marital failures, they have made me who I am today. Not only am I happy with the person I have become but I was also blessed with three great kids. Given that, I regret nothing but oh how glad I am that I have finally learned that particular lesson! I’m here to tell you…whatever life is trying to teach you, the lessons involving it will keep on keeping on until you learn them! As to my current marriage, I am proud and blessed to say that it will take me to the end of my life. I know this because I’ve decided it’s worth keeping and nourishing. Praise God! We are eighteen years strong and making the decision to love all the time!
So what have I learned? How is it that love is a decision?
Where to begin. Falling in love is probably the easiest part of the whole process. That’s when FEELINGS are pretty much in charge and steering the course of the budding relationship. STAYING is love is where the problems start and feelings often get in the way! Wonderful though a person might be, as easy and fun as things are between you, eventually the darker side of one’s personality will come through. After all, none of us are PERFECT! It’s a gradual process but in time, the things that attracted you to someone will slowly start to irritate you. Once that happens, it will graduate to MORE than irritation! They will positively grate on your nerves! You know the saying “familiarity breeds contempt”? It’s a well-known phrase for a reason! Not only is it possible to become irritated by traits you initially were attracted to, the things you didn’t like but thought you could live with will become the focus of your discontent, aggravating you to near complete distraction!
Case in point. My first husband, Mr. Friendship, was very thoughtful and understanding with his friends. He was a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen. I thought that was quite wonderful and I admired him for it. Until I didn’t. As time went on and I found myself second, third or LAST on his list of importance, I began to resent that our needy friends (he attracted quite a few of them) were absorbing all of his attention. Even so, I DECIDED to stay with him anyway, thus making the decision to love. Then his temper became a problem, and his morose thoughts and his sulking. It came to a point where I finally decided not to love. I couldn’t go on with the relationship though my feelings were still engaged. In this instance, love was a decision and I decided against it. Now I made that difficult decision because he had decided my feelings didn’t matter and he did nothing to help our floundering relationship. In essence, he had decided not to love me! In any relationship…BOTH partners must make the decision to love! One partner cannot carry the relationship alone. BOTH must be committed to making it work. Since Mr. Friendship thought our friends were more important than his wife and child and he did nothing to control his mood swings and morose temperament, I decided to end the marriage.
Next came Mr. Funny Guy. He was a lot of fun and he made me laugh. I needed to laugh after all the drama of the first disastrous marriage so I was all over that. As time went on, however, his constant joking became tiresome. That sense of humor I used to love made it hard for him to be serious about ANYTHING and I began to resent it. Even so, I DECIDED on the side of love and stayed in the relationship. I figured there were worse things to deal with. That’s when he went on to the worse things and cheated on me with other women. I decided to end the relationship because I couldn’t stay in a marriage that included his girlfriends! In both instances we had decided NOT to love. Now, I have to add here that my feelings were still engaged and making that DECISION was hard for me but I knew I was doing the right thing. I’ll explain in a moment how I knew that!
Next came Mr. Serious. After all the drama of the last marriage, I needed someone responsible and quiet and calm. Surprisingly (not), all those things began to grate on my nerves! He was TOO responsible and serious and far too calm. Boring. Even so, I decided to stick with it. After two failed marriages, I figured I’d made my bed and I was damn well going to sleep in it. Until he became possessive, controlling and abusive. Definitely not loving behavior. I decided quite quickly to put an end to the relationship, especially as he felt justified in being that way! An easy DECISION for me but a painful one. It’s really hard to go through a failure that you’ve already been through twice!
With the ending of each marriage, I went through a period of soul searching. I wanted to understand WHY I had to go through those experiences. I wanted to “get it” so I wouldn’t go through it again. Here’s what I learned:
One, find out how your prospective partner treats their parents. A man will probably be the same way with his wife as he is with his mother (I said PROBABLY because there are exceptions) and a woman will most likely be the same with her husband as she is with her father. Again, there are exceptions but this I have found to be a pretty good rule…generally. The three men in those failed marriages of mine had difficult relationships with their mothers! Mr. Friendship was very disrespectful to his (something I didn’t know until AFTER I married him!), Mr. Funny Guy constantly lied to his (again, something I was unaware of until AFTER I was too deep into the relationship to want to out of it) and Mr. Serious had an abusive, alcoholic mother (something I was aware of but thought I could somehow make up for! You know the … oh, you are broken in this area, let me fix it! Ugh!) Side note: You canNOT fix people!
Two, how does your love interest handle anger? If he or she is in a fury but doesn’t get physically harmful, then you are probably safe from future physical abuse. I must add something here in regards to that. It’s important to know how alcohol influences your partner. How does it affect their behavior? I know someone who isn’t physically abusive when he’s sober and mad but when he’s drunk and mad…another story! One thing I have learned for certain is that physically abusive people will continue that behavior unless they undergo serious help (which many DO NOT!) Decide to love YOURSELF in this instance and get out of the relationship before you get in too deep to care! Now, on the other side of it, if your partner is taking steps to control and manage his or her temper (or other bad behavior), then they are making the decision to LOVE and that’s a big deal! (smile)
Three, think about the things you love about your partner and then think about those things happening CONSTANTLY. Can live with that? If not, you might want to get out of the relationship before it gets too serious!
Finally, if there are things about your partner that you don’t particularly care for but think you can live with, think again. If the thought goes through your mind that you’ll change him or her (or they’ll change on their own thanks to your influence!) then forget that too because it’s NOT going to happen. He is who he is. She is who she is. End of story! Now that’s not to say a person doesn’t continue to evolve, but I think it’s safe to say that by the time we reach adulthood, we have pretty much cemented into being the person we are going to be.
When I met my true life mate, Mr. Perfect for Me, he passed the criteria I’d learned up to that point. He had a great relationship with his mother, his temper is quick and noisy but physically harmless (even when he’s imbibed a little too much) and his responsible nature does allow for some fun. Given all that, I decided I could deal with his obsession about getting things done NOW rather than later (I’ve a deplorable tendency to do the latter and thankfully he’s willing to deal with that!). Additionally, I didn’t expect to change anything about him! I loved him just the way he was.
Now the problem about relationships is that no one can be on their very best behavior ALL THE TIME! We are HUMAN and we’ll do HUMAN things. Eventually our relationships become work. When that happens, then both partners must DECIDE whether to go on or not. Meaning, of course, that they must decide whether or not they will love their partner enough to stay. My husband and I have done so. When anger arises, both must DECIDE to either stay mad or let it go. My husband and I let it go. It’s a near daily process, this decision to love. Let me tell you, it’s not an easy decision to make when you are really, truly pissed! In situations like that, love is no longer just a feeling, it’s a darn decision!
Example. My husband will NOT drive more than a couple miles over the speed limit no matter how dire it might be that we get somewhere by a specific time. I’m no speed demon but when I’m running behind, my foot tends to press a little harder on that gas pedal. Not him. Nope. He’s content to be a little late. I have to be honest here and admit that it occasionally grates on my nerves! As I sit beside him slowly seething, I have to decide whether to keep seething or let it go. I might seethe for the duration of the ride but I do eventually let it go. There was a time, however, when I would not. There was a dark period in our relationship when I DECIDED I was not putting up with stuff like that and I’d harp on him and harp on him until we were fighting like the proverbial cat and dog! During that same dark phase, it seemed I was mad at him all the time and he was just as mad at me. I wouldn’t give in and neither would he. We were both at a point where we were making the decision not to love more and more often! It nearly destroyed us. It came to a point where our relationship looked like it was coming to an end. It was then that I realized I didn’t want it to end. I DECIDED our marriage was worth saving! That was a huge decision on the side of love because it meant letting go of all my resentful feelings! Coming to that decision made me view our relationship from a different perspective. I realized my behavior was not acceptable. All those decisions not to love were definitely part of the problem and I was finally ready to do something about it! He came to the same conclusion and made the same decision! From that point on, we entered a whole new phase of our relationship. It continues to this day. Even so, we still have to make the decision to love quite often!
When you are in the midst of a disagreement, ask yourself this question: Is it worth hurting your relationship to keep fighting? If you keep on with the argument then you’ve decided not to love your partner in that moment. I can tell you this…once you’ve made a decision on whether your relationship is worth saving or not, making future decisions like this are easier to make! When I finally made the DECISION to end my first three marriages, it was a HUGE relief! Those relationships were draining me emotionally. Equally important, when I made the decision to stay in my current marriage (during that dark phase), that too was a huge relief! Big decisions like that…to stay in a relationship or not…help you make future decisions…like whether or not you should continue an argument. Once I made the decision to end those first three marriages, all their tears and empty promises and short periods of perfect behavior did not change my mind. When I hadn’t yet DECIDED to end the marriages, all those things kept it going. I gave in to the tears and the empty promises and the brief periods of good behavior. Conversely, when I decided to end the marriages, those things did not sway me. Why? Because I knew in my heart that the decision I made was the right one.
Although you are constantly having to make the decision to love or not, especially when disagreements arise, don’t make any MAJOR decisions while you are emotionally upset! When it comes to deciding things like whether you should go on with a relationship or not, you need to be in a calm frame of mind. Go somewhere quiet, somewhere that instills peace within you. Think about the issues at hand, the relationship as a whole, and put the question “out there” into the universe. Do I stay or do I go? Once you’ve done this, put your focus on something else, the area around you, for instance, and its calming affect. Think about anything but the relationship and the answer you are seeking! Enjoy a moment of peace and know that your answer will come to you when you are ready to hear it. When that time comes, it will just pop into your head and filter gently into your heart. You’ll just KNOW that decision is the right one because you’ll experience a sense of relief for having made it. I believe moments like these are when our soul is talking to us (or God) and that is why we feel such conviction, such a sense of relief! Armed with your answer, go forth and act on that decision accordingly!
I see so many relationships fall apart and it saddens me to witness the heartache that often accompanies the disintegration. To save yourself from heartache and to keep a relationship going that you WANT to stay in, you must be willing to make the DECISION to love when things are not going smoothly. If you go on the attack, you are deciding NOT TO LOVE. Conversely, walking away from your partner and ignoring their feelings is also a decision NOT TO LOVE. Walking away to calm the situation down is one thing, walking away because you refuse to deal with the situation is something else altogether! Just be sure that if you do walk away, your partner knows it’s because you are doing so in order to calm down the elevated emotions and not because you are refusing to deal with the issue and pursue a resolution to it! Again though, I must caution you…don’t make a MAJOR decision about your relationship while you are upset! If you go with your FEELINGS in the heat of a moment, you are probably going to decide not to love and you may even end the relationship (which you might later regret). Upsetting situations are when you most need to make the decision to love, regardless of how you are FEELING in that moment. This I can’t stress enough…if the relationship is worth saving, then DECIDE to love and act in accordance with that decision! Name calling and demeaning comments are both done when you have decided NOT to love! Bringing up past problems and mistakes is a decision not to love. Walking away from a confrontation that is spiraling out of control is a decision to love (just remember that the issues still must be dealt with!). Compromising is a decision to love. Standing firm on an issue regardless what your partner wants is a decision not to love. Now, in regards to that last, if your partner wants something like another lover (for instance) then you should decide to love YOURSELF and end the relationship! This does lead me to one final point….if you are constantly making the decision to love YOURSELF and not your partner, then you’ve made your decision about the relationship and you should end it. Don’t keep your partner hanging in a relationship that you’ve decided not to love! It will only hurt BOTH of you and it will hurt MORE the longer it goes on!
I think it’s worth noting one more point about unacceptable behavior…make sure you and your partner knows what they are! This way, you both know what behaviors and actions are possible relationship enders! For me, cheating and physical abuse are definite relationship enders!
I got into a discussion on Facebook recently where someone said that evil people are not born that way. My response to that was “Love is a decision. Evil is a decision.” So no, people are not born in any particular way…they DECIDE how they will be as they go through life. All of our behaviors and actions are the result of a decision we make…and all those decisions are based on LOVE or not. Try to be cognizant of where your decisions are coming from. If your decisions are NOT based on love, don’t be surprised at how terribly wrong things can go from there!
I really wanted to share this message with you because I believe it’s an important one to share. I would welcome others to leave comments in regards to this issue. Have you examples of Deciding to Love or Deciding Not to Love? Do you agree or disagree with any of the above? If so, why?
So that’s it, my post in a nutshell…love is a decision. Based on that, I’ve decided to love you all and send blessings out to everyone!
Peace be with you.