Love is everywhere.
Our culture bombards us with the idea of love, from music and movies about falling in love to articles teaching us how to make someone love us. The usual premise is that once we are ‘in love’ our problems will be solved and life will be grand! But what if being ‘in love’ isn’t enough. What if there is more to love than just the butterflies in the stomach, or the flowers on Valentine’s day?
What do we do if those fleeting ‘in love’ experiences aren’t enough to keep us going?
First let’s acknowledge how important love is. We know from psychological research that emotional intimacy is a basic human need, helping us feel connected and valued. We also recognize that how our families showed love when we were growing up is often the basis for our understanding of love. If our parents attended every soccer practice or parent teacher conference the chances are we felt loved by their presence during important moments. In the same way if one of our parents often travelled for work and brought us small gifts when they returned, we most likely felt loved through that. It is clear that love is both something to be understood in the mind as well as a feeling in the heart.
So if love is all we need why is being ‘in love’ not enough?
Why is it that we have more couples marrying for love than ever before but the divorce rates are still high? Well according to Dr. Gary Chapman there is a difference between being ‘in love’ and choosing to love. In his book “The Five Love Languages” Chapman describes the difference.
Chapman says the ‘in love’ feeling can last up to two years and with this experience comes an infatuation and idealization. Dr. Chapman presents three reasons why the ‘in love’ experience isn’t even real love. The first is that when we fall in love it rarely is a choice. Falling in love often happens at inopportune times and with unexpected people. Secondly, falling ‘in love’ is effortless, with a willingness to do outlandish things for the person we love. Lastly, the ‘in love’ feeling isn’t concerned with the other person’s growth or helping to foster it.
Where we often get confused is thinking that the ‘in love’ experience can fulfill our emotional need for love, when in fact they are two different things. Real love takes discipline and effort. The ‘in love’ obsession doesn’t last forever and we run into issues when we think that it will sustain us. The good news is that if love is a choice then couples who have lost that ‘in love’ feeling are not a lost cause.
So what sets the ‘in love’ experience apart from choosing to love?
The objective of choosing love is doing something for the wellbeing of the other person rather than focusing on yourself. When we frame love as an attitude and a choice, then we desire to truly understand how to provide emotional love and support for our partner. To some this may seem unexciting but understanding how to love and support our partner can open up new doors and can become an exciting new chapter of growth and opportunity.
One of the best ways to begin to act on love as a choice rather than an obsessive and fleeting feeling is to learn your love language and the love language of your partner. Understanding the love language your partner speaks can help you change the emotional climate of your relationship. Here are some ways you can begin to identify your love language.
What is your love language?
What are the things your partner, friends, or relatives do that make you feel most loved? One way to find out is to ask yourself these three questions.
- What does your partner do or fail to do that hurts you most deeply? The opposite of what hurts is probably your love language.
- What have you most often requested of your partner? The thing that you have most often requested is likely the thing that would make you feel most loved.
- In what way do you regularly express love to your partner? Your method of expressing love may be an indication that that would also make you feel loved.
Find your Love Language – https://www.5lovelanguages.com/
Join us on March 23rd 2019 as Dr. Gary Chapman himself will be in Toronto talking about the five love languages and more. This might just be what we need as a society to regain the spark in our relationships by actively choosing to love our partners well.
Read more about all of this and more in Dr. Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages. Northfield Publishing, 1992 ISBN: 1-881273-15-6