Love Is A Choice: Exploring What Makes Relationships Last

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated February 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

You may have heard of a couple splitting up because they claim that the spark is gone already. They may say something like, "We love each other, but we aren't in love with each other."

Often, at the beginning of a relationship, people may find it easy to identify and express their feelings as love. However, as time passes and they settle into a more comfortable relationship with each other, their love may feel less exciting.

Challenges in your relationship may also cause you to believe that you're no longer in love with your partner. You may question the relationship, including your feelings toward the person you thought you loved. What is the difference between being in love with someone vs. simply feeling love for them? What do these emotions mean?

Is love a choice or a feeling?

While you may not have much control over who you fall in love with, you may have some choice about staying in love with that person. Love can be a feeling and a choice at the same time. Love often leads to physiological changes in the brain, but you can still decide whether love ends or lasts.

For example, choosing to lean in and work through conflict with your partner may show that you are choosing to love rather than abandon the connection. While the intensity of your feelings toward your partner may change over time, you can still choose to love that person day after day.

the meaning of love

Are you wondering how to make your love last?

Potential misconceptions about love

Many individuals associate love with the feeling of excitement or energy that may exist at the beginning of a relationship. They may describe the flutter in their stomach, the excitement when their heart skips a beat, and other common symptoms that tend to mark the experience of having a new love interest.

These sensations may occur because of a physical and chemical reaction in the brain when it is stimulated by a new relationship. Some individuals may refer to this as the “honeymoon phase” or “puppy love.” These more intense emotions often don’t last forever. If someone believes that these initial feelings are the only form of romantic love, they may become confused or upset when the feelings become less salient.

So, what is love?

People often believe they made a mistake when the initial feelings and symptoms associated with love disappear. Some people are unsure what love feels like, and may believe they weren't in love after all.

However, this eventual shift in emotional intensity is often normal in romantic relationships. It happens because the brain can't keep consistently producing the same high levels of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine; instead, it adjusts over time.

It may be easy to confuse the comfort of a long-term relationship with falling out of love. However, the opposite could be true, and it’s important to not read too much into your shifting emotions. 

a couple holding mugs, sitting next to each other and smiling

How to make love last

Couples in love often want to ensure their love stands the test of time. All relationships can encounter hurdles and require periods of extra effort. Here are some ways you can help your love life thrive even as time passes.

Take care of yourself

You may have heard the expression, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” It’s important to do what you need to do to feel happy, healthy, and safe as an individual before you help someone else.

While your partner may add positivity and joy to your life (and you to theirs), you may benefit from having separate interests apart from one another. Taking care of yourself in this way may help you be a more supportive partner. Studies show that forms of self-care, including practicing optimism, can improve martial satisfaction.

Learn your partner's love language

Gary Chapman wrote a famous book called The Five Love Languages, which discusses the different ways in which people may experience and express love. The five "languages" include:

  • Physical touch

  • Acts of service

  • Gift giving and receiving

  • Words of affirmation

  • Quality time

Knowing how your partner receives love may help you show it in a way they understand.

Focus on the positive

Humans tend to focus on the negative aspects of their lives more than the positive ones. This inclination may cause you to lose sight of the good things in your relationship. A little bit of gratitude can go a long way in helping you to appreciate your partner more.

Spend time together

Couples in happy and healthy relationships often prioritize spending time with one another. Although everyone has different needs regarding quality time,  and personal space, with successful relationships, both people typically enjoy being in each other's presence.

What activities you choose to do together or how much time you choose to spend may not matter as much as making sure you're both having fun. Love may take a lot of work, but many couples find their efforts worthwhile.

Are you wondering how to make your love last?

How online therapy can help

You may reach a point in your relationship when counseling could offer further insight. Many couples find that couples counseling can be a tool to help strengthen their bond. You don’t necessarily need to have a mental health condition to try counseling, and couples counseling is available for people in any stage of a relationship, from casual dating to marriage. 

If you're questioning whether you're still in love with someone, you may not know where to turn with your doubts. Sometimes, friends and other loved ones are too close to you and your partner for you to trust that you're receiving sound advice. Speaking with an unbiased person, like a therapist, may be helpful. A therapist can offer guidance from a more neutral perspective and be a sounding board for your questions.

Online therapy may be a good option for couples, as sessions can be worked around their busy schedules. One study found that couples therapy delivered online was just as effective as traditional face-to-face therapy. In general, both partners responded well to teletherapy and found that their experience was similar to conventional therapy.

Through platforms such as BetterHelp for individuals or ReGain for couples, you may connect with a licensed therapist from the comfort of your own home. Online therapy can help you navigate your feelings in the relationship and allow you to focus on your well-being.


communication, a commitment to continually getting to know your partner, and more.

Wondering whether you're still in love is okay, and you don't have to work through your doubts alone. Choosing to love and pursue your partner is an investment. Consider reaching out to a counselor to gain further insight on this topic.

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