The case for choosing, instead.

By Michael Fenton on Unsplash

Love is one of our most powerful and least understood emotions — especially in the romantic sense. It can hit us without warning. Love can co-exist with conflicting emotions, like anger, annoyance and sadness. Meaning we can be extremely upset with someone, they can hurt us, we can even want nothing more to do with them and yet, somehow, still love them. People exhibit over-the-top, out of character behavior, all in the name of love.

Love is real. So real that a biological anthropologist studied 166 societies and found evidence of formidable, blissful, romantic love in 147 of them. This indicates to many medical professionals that romantic love is an essential element of our biological nature.

Our bodies exhibit scientifically-proven physical reactions to the feeling, such as flushed cheeks, a racing heart beat and sweaty palms. There are also chemical responses happening within us that signify love may be in the air, including the release of Dopamine, Norepinephrine (otherwise known as adrenalin) and Serotonin — the chemical which when low can lead to depression. Research shows that love gives us a sense of happiness! And excitement. It is the ultimate feel-good drug.

Because of these reactions, we believe that who we choose as a partner is at the mercy of our subconscious biochemistry. We can’t tell our “love chemicals” not to produce or our hands not to get clammy. We can’t keep those butterflies from somehow finding their way into our bellies. So, there is a consensus that the feeling of love is beyond our realm of influence.

Tons of clichés exist in support of this theory:

“You love who you love.”

“The heart wants what the heart wants.”

I’m sure you can think of plenty more. We fall in love. Even when we aren’t looking for it and would rather not.

We may not be able to control the physiological reactions that we experience as it relates to another person. But can we choose whether or not to proceed in loving them? Or, better yet, should we choose?

“Falling” indicates a loss of control. And while it is important to relinquish some of our reign in a relationship, plummeting into an abyss of sensory overload can prove problematic. Falling in love is such an emotional experience. Emotions are volatile, and more importantly, fleeting. To be led by them is to follow an impulsive guide that may or may not keep us on the same path from one day to the next.

How many times have you fallen in love and then later realized that it’s not actually what you want? How often have you fallen in love, and then later saw clearly every last one of the fatal relationship flaws that you initially overlooked, because your neurotransmitters told you to? Before we even really know a person, or ourselves, what we need and want from a relationship, we’ve fallen.

Love does not have to be the absence of thought. We can feel emotion without allowing it to control us. There is something to be said for chemistry and connection. If it’s not there, it’s not there. We can’t force it. But there is also something to be said for chemistry without compatibility — of values, personalities and love languages. Those things matter, possibly even more. Because when the initial state of ecstasy starts to fade, that’s what we’re left with.

We want passion. We want to be drawn to someone by forces that appear greater than ourselves. The euphoria of being swept off of our feet and head-over-heels for someone is unmatched. It’s beautiful. I relish it too.

However, personally, at the end of the day I want to be chosen. For someone to see all of you and choose to love you, to love you on purpose, to me says much more than the result of an incontrollable impulse followed blindly that forced us together. Choose to stay. Choose to work, and grow.

The three stages of falling in love are considered to be:
Lust — Attraction — Attachment.

Maybe, the stages should be, with our due diligence:
Lust — Attraction — Choosing — Attachment.

We can’t just pretend that science and our body’s natural responses don’t exist, but we can mindfully incorporate an additional step before we get to the emotional point of no return. This is about adding to the process, not taking away.

The heart wants what the heart wants. But we’d save ourselves a great deal of heartache, and perhaps build more meaningful relationships if we learned to selectively indulge it.

Author of a critically-acclaimed book on women and dating. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1687069786

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