Love is a Conscious Choice!

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Love is a Conscious Choice!
By Maria Veloso, Certified Life Coach

Why doesn't love last?

If you're like most people, you've probably asked yourself the above question -- not just once, but several times.

With about 50% of marriages ending in divorce, and pre-marital relationships failing at an even higher rate, I'm certain you've seen your share of failed relationships among your friends and family members -- and even in your own life.

It's enough to make you believe that true love no longer exists in the modern world, doesn't it?

Contrary to popular belief, true love is alive and well -- but you're not going to find it where you're looking for it.

Our culture perpetuates unrealistic romantic expectations - and women, in particular, are predisposed to these expectations because from the time we're old enough to think, we dream that one day a Prince Charming will come along, fall in love with us, and we'll live happily ever after.

What's wrong with that picture?

Well, first of all, when we look to someone other than ourselves to be the source of our happiness or completion, that's a recipe for dysfunctional co-dependence, not true love. It trains us to hold off being happy until that perfect someone, soul mate or Mr. Right comes along.

A better strategy would be for you to be happy first -- whether you're in a relationship or not. And above all, love yourself first (i.e., hold yourself in high esteem) -- and you'll find no trouble finding men who'll want to love you. After all, how can you expect someone to love you if you don't first love yourself?

The buzz phrase, "You complete me" (popularized by Tom Cruise, who said those famous words to the character of Renee Zellwegger in the movie, Jerry McGuire), is based more on romantic sentimentality than truth. The concept of one person completing another person is just another example of an unrealistic romantic myth perpetuated by the film industry, media, and society in general.

Married couples sometimes call each other "my better half," insinuating that one is not whole without the other. This contributes to what I call the "free radical" approach to love, using the metaphor of an unstable atom with unpaired electrons scavenging another atom's electron to complete itself. Likewise, a woman oftentimes looks to a man to complete herself -- and that's an unhealthy way to enter into a relationship. She needs to be complete in and of herself, and enter into a relationship with a man who is also complete.

Two unstable halves make an unstable whole. Building a stable and whole relationship requires two whole people coming together.

Going back to the subject of expecting love to be a happily-ever-after state of being, nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the time, the feeling of being "in love" dissipates from your relationship. When that happens, you become dissatisfied with your relationship, and you experience unnecessary pain and heartbreak as a result.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons you can ever learn about being, and staying, in love for life -- and for keeps -- is this:

Never confuse the feeling of being "in love" with love. True love is a choice.

Those who know me know that I prefer dispensing relationship advice through storytelling because I believe the fictional approach is a more effective way of teaching lessons about life and love than the textbook approach. The "medicine goes down" more smoothly when wrapped in the cushions of a story well told.

For example, on the subject of love being a choice, here's what a leading character in one my novels said:

"Love is not just a feeling. It's a choice, a commitment, a way of behaving toward another. Love is not simply an event that happens to you. Rather, love is something you choose to do. The state of being in love is simply a prelude to love. But most people make the mistake of thinking they're one and the same thing. We are all given circumstances by which we can exercise the choice to love. That's the thunderbolt that God supplies. It's that instant attraction to another person, those warm, fuzzy feelings, that fever akin to drunkenness or madness that causes you to know that you're in love. But it's what you choose to do after that thunderbolt has passed that matters. You choose whether you're going to continue loving the other person after the drunkenness has dissipated, after the frills of romance have fallen away. You choose whether you're going to continue to seek the best interests of the other person, and care about him or her through any and all circumstances -- and for how long. Love is a conscious choice." -- Excerpt from Midwinter Turns to Spring

A successful relationship between a man and a woman is not born but made. If you allow romantic love -- or feelings -- to become the basis for marriage and happiness, the foundation is likely to be unstable because you or your mate are likely to seek new emotional highs as time goes by. Feelings and emotions are fickle, and the circumstances that give rise to them, even more so.

A personal adage of mine that I live by is this: "True love is the ability to choose one person above all, and the ability to celebrate that choice for as long as you live." If both you and your mate are able to mutually live by this adage, then you're on your way to a fruitful and enduring relationship.

Isn't this a more empowering way to love and be loved? This way, you won't have to fear the volatility of love as you presently know it.

After all, even if you're in the best relationship, there will always be days when you feel you love your mate -- other days you may not. Some days you could feel loved, and other days you don't. Even if you met someone who you imagine is your ideal mate, would he still love you five, ten, or twenty years down the road -- or would you still love him?

Love is an ongoing choice you make every day of your life. You wake up every morning and you say to yourself, "I choose to love this person today and every day of my life" -- his imperfections notwithstanding. And you rejoice in the knowledge that "I get to love this person" and expect to be loved the same way in return.

Love is a privilege, not an obligation.

Given this truth, how would you apply it to your relationships?

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