Writing by Kim Koelmeyer // Photograph by Alessandra Scalogna
In a Youtube video, sex-ed vlogger and all around cool human Hannah Witton was asked whether love is a feeling or a choice. She said falling in love is a feeling, but staying together for decades on end is a choice. I absolutely agree. As they say, falling in love is easy, staying in love is the challenge.
I believe love is a choice. Don’t get me wrong, feelings are definitely involved. But choice is the ultimate driving force that keeps love going—in my experience at least.
I know the popular, more romantic narrative is that we’re driven solely by our feelings, and by asserting the contrary I may seem emotionless and disingenuous. But I think the idea that choice is the deciding factor when it comes to love makes it even more meaningful. Please indulge me as I explain why.
Feelings are of course the foundation for any relationship, but feelings are fickle. Like happiness evaporates and sadness passes, so too does love migrate and change over time. Not to sound like a total downer, but in the end the feeling of love is just a bunch of contingencies—being in the right place at the right time. Because of that, I think with the right variables and circumstances I could fall for a whole number of people. These variables are tricky, far reaching and unpredictable, but choice is not.
Whether we end up with someone is dependent on a whole host of factors, but they mean nothing if we don’t choose to play the odds in the first place. Establishing a relationship in the first place means both parties have chosen to undergo the minefield of dating, put in the emotional labour, and managed to come out the other side. Feelings may have been the motivation, but the choice to pursue them was the catalyst.
Choice is also important because since feelings are so transient, they are susceptible to fading. Over time, the excited sparks you’d get in the honeymoon period tend to dull, and love becomes somewhat mundane. Sure, love is absolutely incredible, but so is a sunrise and we don’t make a thing of it because it comes every 24 hours. It’s a good problem to have—the best thing ever being reduced to an everyday occurrence. So when the heart’s eyes fade, what’s left? Choice. Like I said, we have the capacity to fall for a whole host of people if the conditions are right. But by choosing one person again and again, we preclude those conditions from being fulfilled. We’re saying that we’d rather be with our current partner than whatever potential lies out there. At the end of things, time is the most valuable currency, and choosing to spend it with someone else is perhaps the biggest statement of love than any feeling could convey.
Another reason why choice is tantamount is because of what love represents. Lasting love means two people sharing their lives. Sharing lives means creating a life together. And living a certain life means being a certain person, which is not necessarily the person we want to be. In a Ted Talk relationship therapist Esther Perel said that one reasons that people cheat is because they’re trying to become someone else. They’re trying to get away from the life they have found themselves in with their current partner. As much as we like to think we’re our own people free from influence, our partner reflects and represents the person we are, and will become.And sometimes, we don’t like what we see in the mirror. We’re all out trying to be our best selves, and sometimes we can’t find that in the person we love. No amount of feelings can change that.
Love can exist with and without feeling, but never without choice. Whether it’s in the early stages or decades down the track, every day together is another choice. Feelings fade and people change but the only thing that runs through an entire relationship is the choice to keep going.[share]