I was talking with a student about love yesterday.
“Love is a choice,” they mentioned, as we discussed the nature of marriage, love, and commitment. I thought to myself, it is?
Much to the shock of my student, I admitted that I’ve never heard of this phrase before—and apparently it’s quite common. “Love is a choice” ran through my head as I ruminated over the possibilities. After consulting with married, dating, single, divorced, widowed, and forever lost clients over the years, I quickly came to a conclusion in my head—that phrase is absolute bullsh*t.
Of course, I understand the phrase can mean several different things, and I don’t want to dismiss any truth it may contain…but we have to define love in order to understand our newfound choice.
Love is an expression or outpouring of care, affection, and admiration for a person, place, or thing. “We are beings of infinite love,” my guru’s guru would say. And to that I agree, we can always give love toward something—but is that what the phrase suggests? Probably not.
The phrase implies that love between two people is a choice. Your relationship with your partner is now determined to last so long as you allow it, willfully attempting to glue it all back together with hope, determination, and effort. But that’s a pipe dream.
For those of us who have been around human relationships for long enough, we need to start being morally honest—we can have all the determination in the world, but we will never be able to choose love with someone else if it just isn’t meant to be.
Yes, I’m a romantic. I’ve come to terms with my myopic fairy-tale ideas, but I’ve also seen enough to know that love isn’t a calculation. There’s no amount of technique, tutorial, or advice that can make love work. Love between two people remains part dedication and part mystery—and it’s that mysterious part that we can’t control.
Essentially the phrase, “love is a choice,” passes judgement on all the failed unions, and puts a label on anyone unable to keep their relationship together. “Well, you obviously chose to not make it work, or else you’d still be together and in love.” Tell that to newly divorced couple Rachel and Dave Hollis, two relationship “experts,” authors, and public figures who preach about lifestyle and relationship commitment.
Why is it so hard for coaches to admit that love is not something that can be turned on or off with a magical self-development switch. No retreat, course, book, or couples blindfold game is strong enough to create the magical and mysterious energy known as love between two people.
Hold on, I’m not a monster. Love in and of itself is a real force. It’s undeniable and we have the history of saints and sages to prove that love can be discovered inside the depths of our deepest meditations, rituals, and choices. We can absolutely choose love when it comes to the outpouring of gratitude and appreciation. And yes, we can always choose to love someone for who they are. But when it comes to two people living together, making a life together, and seeing if they can mature together—we need to be clear that the love holding that together needed to be there in the first place. It needed to be cultivated and nurtured over the years, and if or when it dies out, it could be gone forever.
There are so many factors that go into nurturing love, and as I tell clients: a relationship should be treated like glass, ever so fragile. Engaging in a relationship, in a marriage, or union, in a family, between two people, means that you are ready to endure the long haul of trying to make it work, even when there’s no guarantee it will work in the end. That’s love.
That’s the mystery behind our life, this adventure of unknowns. It may kill you, or it may make you a better person, and the only way to find out is to try.
Coaches can’t always show you how to get love back or ignite a passion that burnt out long ago. Our job as coaches is to soften the blow of reality, help you back on your feet, and make sure that you find permanent sources of reliability, security, and love right inside yourself.
That’s the one love we can depend on forever, and it is the first one that needed to be developed before you went out looking for it in someone else.