“I’m in love,” says nearly everyone at least three times in their lifetime.
We are all quite accustomed to associating our emotions with love. Since we were young, the person with whom we experience intense emotions becomes our desired lover.
Love begins with attraction, then later manifests as feelings. We might experience actual physical reactions when we see the person “we love,” as a racing heartbeat or butterflies in our stomach—or we may feel happiness, safety, passion, and excitement.
However, is it really what we feel for the other person that defines the authenticity of our love?
The fact is that any emotion that we experience is fleeting.We are conditioned human beings—and just like it is easy to fall in love, it is also easy to fall out of love. In other words, any emotion that we feel for our partner is prone to change according to external conditions.
We might fancy our partner when they cook us dinner, but might feel repelled when they forget to take out the trash. Then, the passion and excitement transforms into anger and resentment in the flick of a switch.
Add to that, everything that we feel right now for our partner is an emotion that we have experienced before (or will experience) with someone else. Emotions are not only momentary, they’re also repetitive.
That’s why relying on emotions to define our relationship is problematic. Yes, emotions are an integral part of love—we can’t separate them from the experience of love as a whole. However, they delineate neither the success of a relationship, nor whether a person is right for us or not.
What I’m trying to say is that while it’s natural to enjoy the feelings associated with love, there’s something else we need to take into account when we’re with someone. You see, relationships are hard work, and challenging times will come ahead. And in order to navigate the difficult times, we need something reliable—something other than our emotions—to make the relationship work.
It all boils down to the values that we share with our partner. That’s why I think it’s easy to get stuck in unhealthy relationships or with toxic partners. What essentially keeps us with them is the emotions they stir within us—good or bad. Because if we shared the same values with them, we wouldn’t stay with them (or be with them) to begin with.
Emotions are addictive and they hijack our perception of reality. Realistically, emotions are brief—often, they don’t last for but a few minutes. What basically prolongs them is when we act upon them. For instance, the excitement we feel when our partner walks into the room only lasts for a few minutes. However, our own expressions, thoughts, and imprints extend the feeling until it turns into an actual reality—the smile we draw on our face, how we replay their entrance in our minds, and the desire to repeat the experience turns the emotion into an actual reality.
But the only reality is the values that should be aligned with our partner’s. To put it differently, are we both looking in the same direction? Values are defined by shared activities, agreement on certain things, healthy communication, and most importantly, who we are outside of the relationship too.
What are our partner’s behaviors, conceptions, and opinions? Are they aligned with ours? How do they deal with themselves and the rest of the world? What are the qualities they live by and demonstrate? How do they respond to life’s toughest situations? How do they treat us? Is all of this in correspondence with our own values?
Matched chemical reactions lead to pleasure, but matched values lead to a good relationship. Emotions aren’t difficult to trigger—we can experience them with nearly anyone. A person who is attractive might stir within us sexual feelings for a few minutes. A highly intellectual conversation with someone might ignite passion within us that keeps us thinking about them for days.
It’s imperative to separate love from emotions. I’ve lost count of how many times my emotions kept me hooked with the wrong people. I have since learned to pause before acting upon my feelings and look closer at the person’s values instead.
We can’t strip away emotions from love—but let’s simply enjoy the feelings that we experience in a relationship, and not let them define its future.
Ask yourself this question: “If my emotions with my partner wear off (which will eventually happen), is there anything at all that stays?” If you are left with no answer, then the values you share together are likely nonexistent.
Remember, it’s not the quality of the emotions, but the quality of the relationship that makes it last.