Most likely, whether you believe in love at first sight or not, is largely based on your own personal experience with love and romance. Actually, the whole idea is sort of a misnomer…because if anything, everyone knows we fall “in lust” at first sight. In other words, when pheromones and physical attraction collide, infatuation happens and we humans have labeled that phenomenon – “love at first sight.”
It is this potent mixture that makes us want to be together with the object of our affection..over and over again. Intoxicating and addictive, that crazy infatuation hormonal rush offers the same effect as any drug, a lover’s high, if you will. Then, as fate would have it, occasionally lightning strikes during the lust-filled stage and something mystical happens. Next thing you know, you wake up one day to find yourself deeply in love.
Then Comes Love
This “love awakening” happened to my husband and me over 30 years ago, and not too long after our first kiss. Our connection was quick, deep and spiritual. At this point, we had no choice, no earth-shaking decisions…no, “I don’t know…is he/she really the one?” This whole idea is such a foreign concept to the both of us. We have always told our kids and our single friends who are struggling in relationships, “if you are asking yourself that question before you say “I do”, you already have your answer.” When you have met your soul-mate, the one you intend to spend the rest of your life with…there are no dangling doubts and bewildering questions about your choice. You can’t help yourself! You have to be together. In our case, it was actually painful to be apart (and still is today). So, our reason for getting married at only 20 years old, wasn’t necessarily a decision based on logic, perfect circumstances and financial planning – we got married because we couldn’t bear to spend one more day (well, more specifically, one more night) apart. Indeed… compelled by love – we had NO choice.
Then Comes Marriage . . .and the Baby Carriage
After we tied the proverbial knot, “life” as they say, slowly turned that “take your breath away” high into a comfortable steady state of companionship. In my experience, it’s not that the sexual attraction wanes, but rather the intensity of lustful desire that changes. Because honestly, that type of amped-up sexual frenzy is totally related to “newness”. No doubt there is a honeymoon phase, but no matter how long it lasts, the “newness” inevitably wears off.
Then. . .The Paradigm Shift
Somewhere between falling head over heels in love and taking your firstborn home from the hospital, a paradigm shift takes place. Love is no longer an all-consuming emotion that compels you to do crazy things. In fact, the powerful force that caused you to leave and cleave, quickly becomes a daily, perhaps even a moment by moment decision you make. Love becomes a CHOICE.
Currently, for us, “choosing” translates into a multi-layered plan of action. Firstly, we work hard to speak to one another with a tone of respect. This one – especially in a heated conversation – takes lots of practice. It is so easy to drift into a habit of speaking to one another in annoying, demeaning tones – especially if there are a lot of unaddressed issues. Years ago during a particularly emotion-filled argument, I pointed out to my husband that he would never even think of talking to his boss or coworkers the way he was talking to me – his wife – the one he should love more than anyone. He was stunned with the truth of that statement. He agreed and apologized. Obviously, I also had to be reminded of that “truth” as well many times over our 32 year marriage. Through the years, we have both been known to say, “Excuse me…but I’m not so sure you want to be speaking to me that way, start over again, and I will be more open to hear what you have to say.”
In addition to checking our tone, we have pro-actively declared war on “hot buttons”. Hot buttons are those pesky – relationship destroying – unaddressed issues I referred to earlier. It has taken us years to identify our hot buttons. Interestingly enough, many of them are related to childhood stuff that we brought into the marriage. For example, the perception that I am not being respected or heard (youngest of three), can send me into a tizzy. My husband’s number one hot button is related to self deception…if he thinks that in any way I am not being honest with myself in a situation, he basically loses all patience and goes into relentless, detailed “talk-it-out” mode. Both of these hot buttons relate to “perceived injustices” we experienced growing up. Choosing to love, has meant identifying all of our hot buttons and then doing the work necessary to get rid of them.
Putting things into proper perspective is another “choice” lesson we have learned along the way. For example, is loading the dishwasher the “right way” really more important than loving your spouse in that moment? Do those little stupid things warrant ridicule, criticism and using that “you’re such an idiot” tone of voice? Honestly, do you actually want to elevate your idea of how things should be done above nurturing feelings of love and respect? If each of us took a second to evaluate the situation…of course we would all answer no. Laid back personalities don’t really struggle too much with this one, but controlling, perfectionists have a tougher time, but with a little help, a lot of reminders and much practice. . .proper perspective can be obtained.
On a positive note, speaking words of love throughout the day is definitely a prudent choice, in addition to remembering the three magic words (you so avidly teach your children). . .please, thank you and I’m sorry. After 32+ years of working at this love thing…my hubby and I both agree that in order to truly cherish one another and keep passion in our marriage, we must remain diligent to “choose” to love one another in all situations.
So, is love a choice? In the beginning, when it hits you like a ton of bricks, not so much. But after the novelty fades away, in order to have a thriving relationship, filled with love and respect that will endure and last a lifetime – most definitely!