I have been reflecting lately on love and how it happens. I do not believe in love at first sight. Instant attraction at first sight, yes – oh, HECK yes. I can fall into want in a freaking heartbeat. But, that isn’t love. I can know that I’m interested in you as an object of my personal desire at first sight, oh HECK yes. But, that isn’t love.
So, what is love? It quite obviously, given the above scenarios, isn’t physical desire – although physical desire is a part of love. A delicious, exciting, inspirational, wonderful, tremendous, amazing part of love. But, it isn’t love. Neither, by the way, is physical proximity necessary for love to exist. If you can’t be faithful apart from each other – guess what? It isn’t love. Physical desire is a fabulous thing, trust me. I am a dedicated, convinced, transformed witness! But, it isn’t love. And personally, I don’t recommend that you base your long-term relationship on that foundation, either, from bitter personal experience. It isn’t love.
So, what is love? It is a choice made over time, developed with experience of, and careful thought about, the object of your desire. How much time? That varies. Sometimes you know fairly quickly, and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it takes more time than you really have patience for, but it is disastrous to rush it. That old axiom about marry in haste, repent at leisure is spot on the money. Unfortunately, I have a bitter personal testimony about that, too.
So, so, so – what is love? It is a choice – to do, and not to do, what? Well, what are the vows you speak when you marry? Whether you marry or not, those are the choices you make when you choose this particular human as your significant other, your heart’s desire, your soul mate, your husband or wife (religious or legal ceremony notwithstanding). That should give you a frame of reference for the choices that you make when you decide to “fall in love,” whether you make the choices consciously or unconsciously, formally or informally, in private or before witnesses.
“I, ______, choose you, ______, to be my life partner, to live together in holy matrimony, and these things I promise you: I will love you, I will be faithful to you and honest with you. I will speak truth to you in love; I will encourage your fulfillment as an individual through all the changes in our lives. I will respect you, trust you, help you, and care for you; I will forsake all others and share my life with you; I will forgive you as we have been forgiven; I will remain steadfast to you through the best and worst of what is to come, as long as we both shall live.”
Those statements are not feelings. Those are decisions, choices, commitments, oaths, vows. They are not feelings. Let me say that one more time. Those are not feelings. Feelings lie. They come and go. They are not choices you have made. Feelings are not love.
So what is love? Love is a choice you make, regardless of your feelings at the time. Regardless of how your feelings change. Choices remain – like love remains.
Even if you are not Christian, the Bible (as literature) is still profound, like all great literature that had endured the test of time.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New International Version (NIV)
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.