Love: Decision vs. Feeling

decision to love
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One of the more controversial statements made on marriage (or engaged) encounter weekends, and among some Christian or spiritual counselors is "love is a decision." It is a statement that reminds couples to love the person, not the behavior.

However, many people do not see why a person would have to make the decision to love since they made that decision many years ago when they said yes to one another on their wedding day. The reason comes from the fact that feelings for a partner can waver depending upon many things: getting along, fighting, disappointment, power struggles, decision making and so on. It is normal in married life to have periods of both romance and disillusionment.This cycle is often repeated – sometimes over days, weeks, even months.

“Love is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgment and decision.”
Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving

Breaking Out of Disillusionment by Making The Decision to Love

One way to break out of disillusionment is by deciding to love. Feelings change and are not not easily controlled. Love is not only a feeling, it is more than a feeling. Love is a decision. Action follows emotion. Love comes from the underlying emotions we feel for another human being. 

Love is a decision to be open and to share when you don’t feel like it. Love is a decision when you don't think your spouse deserves your love. Love is a decision to be open to honest when communicating with your spouse. This does not only mean talking, but also listening. It means choosing to forgive when your spouse is remorseful and apologetic after hurting you. It can also mean not carrying a grudge and looking ahead instead of back. 

Making the decision to love includes the everyday, little things that you often do for one another, especially when you’re not feeling loving. From the action of deciding to love, often the feeling of love will follow.

Making love a decision also means allowing yourself to be loved. It is about the choice to be vulnerable and put yourself out there to let another person in. This other person will see the good, the bad, your strengths and weaknesses and so on. 

What "Love is a Decision" Means in an Abusive Situation

Making the decision to love DOES NOT mean you love and accept abusive behavior. 

If your spouse is abusing you, either emotionally or physically, making the decision to love is getting out of the abusive situation. You must love yourself as well and take care of your own well-being. You should never allow someone to threaten your life of put you in danger. Often times, making the decision to love is getting help for both you and your spouse if possible.

Making the decision to love DOES NOT mean you love and accept your spouse's addiction. 

You should do what you can to get your spouse help. If this does not work, your are under know obligation to become as unhealthy as your spouse. You will fall down into the pit right with them. In fact, the most loving thing you can do, often termed "tough love" is to not enable.

Making the decision to love DOES NOT mean you love and accept infidelity.

If your spouse is a serial cheater, this behavior may never end. Your spouse has make the decision to not uphold their vows. Continuing to love someone who will only be unfaithful is hazardous to your well-being and sanity!

The decision to love is a good one if your partner has made that decision as well. It does not mean you both will not make mistakes or take missteps with each other. It does mean that you uphold the promises you made on your wedding day. It does not mean accepting on-gong negative and destructive treatment that can occur with abuse, addiction and infidelity.  

Article updated by Marni Feuerman