Love Is a Choice: How to Make it Last
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated February 13, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Fawley
You've probably heard a couple explain the reason why they're splitting up is that they simply aren't in love anymore. They may even say something like, "We love each other, but we aren't in love with each other." You may have even felt this way yourself before. However, love is a choice. It's not just a feeling like most people think and it's something that you can decide to do.
If you are really struggling in your relationship or if you feel like you've just grown apart, it can be easy to think that you simply aren't in love with the other person anymore. A lot of this has to do with the way society and the media portrays love.
If you watch romantic comedies, they almost always end up the same way. The girl is choosing between the person that she was with in the beginning of the movie and the person that she has met along the way. Somewhere throughout the movie, she realizes that the feelings that she had for that initial person are gone (or were never really there) and that this new person is the one for her.
The story plays out time and time again in real life as well. Long-term relationships end because one or both individuals decide that they simply aren't in love anymore.
Misconceptions of Love
Stages of Love
One of the reasons why so many people think that they aren't in love anymore is because we just don't understand what love really is.
Many people associate love with the feeling that they get at the very beginning of a relationship. They think of it as the flutter in their stomach, the excitement when their heart skips a beat, and all of the other symptoms that come in the beginning stages of a relationship. These sensations occur because there are physical and chemical reactions that happen in the brain when stimulated by a new relationship or exciting life changes.
So, when these feelings and symptoms of love start to go away, people think that it must be because they had mistaken that it was actually love in the first place. However, this is perfectly normal for relationships. Every relationship that is going to last for the long haul goes through this type of change. This is because the brain doesn't keep producing the same high levels of feel-good chemicals; it adjusts over time.
There are different stages of love that relationships will move through. Couples wouldn't be able to succeed in other areas of their life if they were constantly in that state of what love feels like in the beginning. You can't think of anyone but the other person. You wake up thinking about them and go to sleep thinking about them. And you want to spend all your time with them. No one can sustain this type of feeling forever. Somewhere along the way, your relationship starts to deepen and the feelings of love start to change.
Looking for the One
There's also a misconception that there is one person out there for everyone. Many people call this a soul mate. So when the relationship starts to get hard, they think that they simply found the wrong person. Then they start to think that their soul mate is still out there somewhere.
As soon as someone's thinking starts to go this way, they start looking for a way to get out of their current relationship. They think, "Why should I stay in the relationship when my soul mate is still out there?"
There is not one person for everyone. If this were true, think of how many people would not be with the right person. If just one single person chose the wrong one, it could throw off the entire world of relationships. It doesn't work like that. The truth is, we are capable of loving different people; the choice lies in who you commit yourself to.
Relationships are hard because in them are two individual people that think differently. If your relationship is hard, it's not because you aren't married to your soul mate. It's because you're human.
Thinking That The Grass Is Greener
Every couple goes through difficult times, but no one wants to make that obvious to other people. So instead of sharing their relationship story, they put on a smile and try to make their relationship look as perfect as possible in front of other people. Social media has made this even worse by constantly showing us the highlight reel of other people's lives.
When you're constantly looking at what you think are perfect relationships all around you, you start to think that there's something wrong with yours. Why are you constantly fighting when everyone else is so happy? Why does her husband bring home flowers for her and yours doesn't for you? Why does his girlfriend constantly praise him online and yours doesn't?
The comparison game is a dangerous thing to play in relationships. It's easy to think that the grass is greener on the other side and that if you were just with a different person your relationship would be easier as well. However, if you see a relationship that is more successful or happier than yours, it's not because the grass is greener. It's because that couple is working on their relationship.
It's not easy, and relationships require work. The ones that look like they're doing so well are either hiding their problems or they have been through them and have learned the skills that they need to know in order to improve their relationship. Instead of giving up on your relationship to find what you think will be easier, start working on it. If you end your relationship and try to find someone that it will be easier with, you'll eventually find yourself in the same place again.
How To Make It Last
Focus on Yourself
One of the best ways to improve your relationship is to make sure that you're doing what you should be doing to be healthy and feel happy. It's very easy to point the finger at the other person and blame all of the problems on them, but there are two sides to every story. If someone were to ask your significant other who was responsible for the majority of the problems in the relationship, they would probably blame it on you - the same way that you're blaming it on them.
If you want to have a happy relationship, start looking at what you could do differently. Don't try to play the game of "if they do this, then I'll do that". Just start doing what you know is right.
Learn Your Significant Other's Love language
Gary Chapman wrote a very popular book called The Five Love Languages. In this book, it talks about how there are different ways that people experience and express love.
The five options include:
- Physical touch
- Acts of service
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
If you are trying to show your significant other love with words of affirmation but what they really long for is quality time, they're not going to feel loved. The same goes for you. If you experience love through receiving gifts and your significant other doesn't know that and doesn't meet that need for you, you're not going to feel loved.
Improving your relationship can be as simple as learning how each of you long to feel loved and how you show love. This will help you make small corrections that can make a huge impact.
Focus on the good things
It's easy to get stuck focusing on all the negative things in your relationship. There are bills to be paid, a house to clean, and schedules to maintain. When your focus on so many things, you lose sight of those that are good in your relationship. It's often easier to focus on the things that you wish were different, then to appreciate the things that you have right now.
Take some time to list out all of the things that you are thankful for in your relationship and that you appreciate about your significant other. Go all the way back to the beginning of your relationship and think about all the things that they've done for you over the years.
Get Away Together
Many couples don't take the time together that they need. This is especially true when children enter the picture. If you want to improve your relationship, make time for each other. This could be going out for a date night once a week or making sure that you can get away overnight once a quarter.
Find what works for you, but make sure that you find the time. Time spent on your significant other should not be something that comes after everything else you want to do. You need to prioritize your relationship if it's going to last and be something that you're happy with. The last thing that you want is to stick it out and then have the children leave home and you end up with nothing in common with the person that you're with. You have to make the time for each other and spend time doing things together.
Don't be ashamed about reaching out for professional help from a therapist. Relationships are very difficult, and many couples go to couples counseling at points in their relationships.
A therapist is going to be able to help you see what trouble spots you have in your relationship and what you can do to improve them. They will help you learn important communication skills that can make arguments shorter and easier to get through. And they can help you reconnect with one another and remember why you're together in the first place.
Love is not something that just happens and lasts on its own. If you want your love to last then you need to invest time into it. It's worth every little bit of investment that you make into it.