I had a middle school student ask me why her parents aren’t in love anymore. “How could they both stop feeling like that?”
As you can see, when she asked me the question, she emphasized the word “both”. In her mind, she could rationalize one parent losing love and the other maintaining it. In my response, however, I emphasized the word “feeling”. This is what I told her;
Love is like a body of water.
Love is something that you feel, but it isn’t a feeling; like water. When you first fall in love; it is overwhelming, like falling into a rushing river. It overtakes you, practically drowning you. You are so enamored with this person that you feel they can do no wrong, they are perfect in every way, you want all your time to be spent with them, you think about them constantly; you are obsessed. Like drowning in that rushing river – you don’t care that some of your behavior is irrational (like fighting the current) because you believe your love can overcome anything. You let yourself be taken along with the river; with your love, where ever they choose to go.
But real love will not always feel like a rushing river. Real love meets obstacles (like reality); logs in it’s path or boulders stacked high. Love will have to flow through and over those obstacles at a slower pace; learning how to overcome them. For many people, this is where the feeling of being ‘in love’ begins to fade, as we come to terms with the fact that our beloved is not all gold-plated and diamond-encrusted perfection. When these feelings fade, when our waters recede; we feel that the relationship is over. Because the entire relationship was based off the feelings and not something deeper. It was based off the speed of the current and the strength of the drag, and not on the depth of the water or the clarity of it’s contents.
“Okay, so they don’t think they love each other because they can’t feel it. But that means they still do love each other, they just don’t know it, right?”
As you can see, she made this analogy difficult for me. It’s not a perfect analogy by any means, just a good mental picture to build on.
To keep a love strong, or to keep a love at all; to maintain a river, we have to build dams. Not to trap it, but to harness it’s power. To pool it’s resources and not let it go rushing through whatever path it chooses only to leave behind flooding and destruction. You let a love go wild and you will end heartbroken or worse. But, if you build up dams to use the water; if you work to keep that love alive, you can achieve anything with that power.
Now, if you build a dam, the water wont go rushing about in chaos. It wont feel the same. But it’s still water. Love wont feel like the first few months or even the first year forever, but it is still love. A love that can collect slowly, as you fall deeper in love in calmer, clearer waters. The rush and flow of that first flood should, if tended to carefully, leave behind it a pool of water. The pool of water will grow a little at a time, to go from a large pond to a great lake. One that has little rivers emptying into it and rains flooding it’s banks. Like a love will have times when you feel euphoric again, when they are once again your prince or princess. And that pool of water will also go through times of drought, even severe ones. Where you cannot stand to see them, talk to them, when everything they do is wrong and irritating and annoying.
You know when you have a great love, or a large lake, when you see the evidence in the people around you. A great love will affect other people. Inspire, encourage, instruct, even create. Like a lake will be covered on all sides by wildlife, and a home to marine life. It should be someone’s hope that, by the end of their life, they have loved someone so well, so deeply, so purely; that they have loved to the equivalent of a vast ocean.
“Alright. So, the feelings go away. I get that. And a real love only works if you work at it. So…what does that mean?”
If we are to maintain love, if we are to maintain our body of water; we have to choose to maintain it.
Love is a choice.
At first, we make it subconsciously. But, after the feelings fade, we have to consciously choose to continue loving someone. Anyone, any relationship. But the romantic kind is the most precarious; the most likely to fail. Because we must wake up, everyday and choose to look past their shortcomings and love them. Despite all the hurt they have surely caused us throughout the relationship, we love them. We choose to.
A love chosen is better than a love blinded. I’d rather be loved by someone who found my “quirks” super irritating than loved by someone who thinks they’re endlessly adorable. I know which love will last.
“So there’s no hope, then? Because they wont choose to love each other? Because they aren’t aware that it’s supposed to be a choice?”
That, of course, was not my question to answer. But it gave her something to think about. And she told me a couple weeks later that she described my analogy, as best she could, to her parents. They were impressed with her understanding of it and praised her for the courage to bring it up to them.
As far as I know, they are still married, and still separated.
My name is Chelsey Mick, and this is how we choose love.