“Love is not a feeling, love is a decision you make and continue to make in order to create an experience that is described as love. Love is not something that happens to you but something that you make happen to you and happen to others. Love is something that grows from your actions and decisions.” ~ Grant Cardone
I wholeheartedly disagree.
When it comes to love, I don’t think we have the slightest say in the matter. It really would be so much simpler if we did. But love doesn’t work that way, at least it doesn’t for me. I just don’t believe we get to decide if we feel it or not, and it is definitely not something we can force ourselves to feel. If, however, we replace love with relationship or marriage, then yes, I completely agree. But my experience of love has never been something I had control over. I have never got to decide who I love. The only decision I have ever got to make is how I love.
I met my ex-husband 12 years ago when I was 30. He was pretty much everything that all of my previous boyfriends weren’t. In other words, he was a really good guy, which is why he was my best friend. He made it very clear that he did not want to be my best friend, but he was patient and willing to wait until I came around. And I finally did. I realized there was a reason why I was spending all of my time with him and not the other attractive, charming, unavailable boys who had come before. We spent the next 11 years together, and it was amazing in so many ways- the wedding in Italy, the beautiful house, adventures all over the world. We liked being with each other. We had fun together. We were seemingly the perfect couple that all of our friends aspired to be.
Except for that we weren’t. He was always my best friend. I truly loved him and still do. But there was something missing. I felt it, but I couldn’t put my finger on. I just knew something had fundamentally changed and that we were no longer bringing out the best in each other. Maybe it was me, maybe it was us, but it began to consume me until I blew everything up.
And just like that, it was over. I was suddenly alone, wondering what the hell I had just done and seriously considering begging him to take me back. But I couldn’t. I had figured out what was missing. It was magic. Magic was missing. And I knew that I desperately needed it. So I summoned it.
“Love isn’t a decision. It’s a feeling. If we could decide who we loved, it would be much simpler, but much less magical” ~ Trey Parker
And just like that, he was sitting in front of me. My first love from the 5th grade, after almost 30 years, had summoned me. It was instantaneous. It was magic. He was beautiful and charming. And he was unavailable. Sort of. I mean he was separated. They had stayed together for the past decade out of obligation. They still loved each other, but it wasn’t this kind of love. This was what he had been waiting for. This was magic. This is what he told me.
So he aggressively pursued his divorce, helped me pack up all of my things, moved me cross country to be with him, and convinced me that we would live happily ever after.
Well that didn’t happen.
Falling in love and staying in love, in theory, should be simple. It is not, it is anything but. There are so many types, shades, and degrees of it. It evolves and expands, it conforms and retracts. It has the power to transform, but also to destroy. Love’s one constant? It most definitely does not wait to be chosen. It’s a bit too cheeky for that. It points, it aims, and it shoots.
It can be a fickle thing, but it can also be relentlessly persistent. It can take hold of us, penetrate our soul and overtake every aspect of our lives. It can prove itself to be as essential as our first breath, but its absence can feel indistinguishable from our last. Love, unrequited, feels like a fate much worse than death.
Unrequited love. God, if this was only a decision we got to make. We could just decide we no longer have feelings for someone who isn’t reciprocating our love, just convince ourselves that we are better off without him or her and let them go. Or on the other end of it, we could persuade ourselves to love the person we so want to, just learn how to generate it or conjure up more, practice it until the feeling takes hold again and we no longer have to force it.
Is this still love? Maybe a version of it. But I think it is a love programmed to stay in a relationship, not an enduring love that will make love stay. It is a residual love, a muted shade of love faded into something that can still appear beautiful, but only when not compared to what it once was. It will always long to radiate beyond the superficial, to expose its texture and brilliance. It is love, but it is not the love I would wish for the ones I love, and it is not the love I want from those who don’t truly feel it for me.
Love as a decision, it’s just so much safer, isn’t it? There is a sense of control with decisions. There is a structured process with decisions. We can assess possible consequences, weigh the options, choose what might hurt less or keep us safe.
Love, as a feeling, however, is terrifying. It is uncontrollable. It is unpredictable. It can hurt us, consume us, and drive us to make decisions out of fear or impulse or a desire to hurt less. But this kind of love can also inspire us to take a risk, to let ourselves feel completely and love unabashedly.
So what happened with him, my first love? I can only guess at this point, but I know he went back to her. I am fairly sure that reality set in and she convinced him, or he convinced himself, that if he revealed his feelings for me that his kids would turn against him. Regardless, in the end, he didn’t have the courage to fight for us, he did anything but. Fear, guilt, resignation- these will destroy magic in an instant. Each will repel it. All will destroy it. But I still don’t believe any can extinguish love.
Maybe I am wrong and completely delusional. In an enlightened state, I hope, with some practice, they can conjure it up and feel it again. But most of the time, it just breaks my heart for all of us. Because I assure you, there is absolutely nothing more painful than knowing you let go of the rarest kind of love- the enduring kind- and you didn’t do whatever you possibly could to make it stay.
So in the end, despite all the pain and heartbreak, I would do it again. Because I got to experience something that most never will, even if it was painfully brief. It penetrated me, it almost destroyed me, but it transformed me. So I have to take the risk, and I will love again. Not a love that can be obeyed or adhere to any rules. It will be a spontaneous and undeniable love, a wild and unpredictable love. It will be the enduring kind, and hopefully the requited kind. And it will be magical.
Because this is how I love. And this is how you convince love stay… if it feels like it.
“Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words “make” and “stay” become inappropriate. ~ Tom Robbins