When the butterflies fade, love is a choice.

I’ve heard people say that real love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person. It’s true. When all the butterflies have fluttered away and the beginning of your relationship becomes a distant memory, you will discover that you’ve committed to someone who is just as imperfect as you. And they, in turn, will come to learn that you have problems, insecurities, struggles, and quirks —just as real as theirs! Then you will realize that real love isn’t just a euphoric, spontaneous feeling—it’s a deliberate choice—a plan to love each other for better and worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health. Of course, you don’t choose who you’re attracted to, but you definitely choose who you fall in love with and (more importantly) who you stay in love with.

Our society places a lot of emphasis on feelings. We are taught that we should always follow our feelings and do whatever makes us happy. But feelings are very fickle and fleeting. Feelings do not matter. Real love, on the other hand, is constant, sure, and true. Whenever we’re lost and confused we can find strength in the love that we have chosen. Most of us tend to focus on falling in love and use the feeling of love to determine the duration of a relationship. Falling in love is easy to do, almost effortless, but losing that loving feeling is not that hard to do, either. Of course, when a relationship is new, it is fun and enjoyable courting or being courted. In the beginning, we are constantly thinking about the new person in our life, and wanting to spend all of our time together and share new experiences together. We constantly want to show the other person how we feel.

No one seems to want to talk about how those feelings can fade, that it takes work to keep the love alive, and that choosing to stay in love is a choice we all must make. Who we love is as much of a choice as it is a feeling. Staying in love takes a commitment. After the rosy glow of the new relationship wears off, we have to make a decision: Do we want to love this person and commit to a relationship together, or are we going to let this person go? Once we have made the decision that we have found the person we want to be with and commit to, the work begins. A big part of that work is making many other choices. It is a choice to see the good in our partner every day, rather than focusing on the negative things that bother us. We have to accept them and love them as they are. If we go into a relationship thinking we can change someone, we are setting our relationship and ourselves up to fail. We all have flaws and quirks and are weird in some ways. Accepting those differences is part of love.

We can choose to ignore the petty, irritating small things our partner may do. If our partner forgets to take out the garbage, or leaves the cap off the toothpaste, we can choose to talk about it, but we also can accept that they may have genuinely forgot, and choose to move on instead. Trying to change our partner into us is one of the biggest mistakes people tend to make in relationships. When we are unhappy with how things are in our relationship, it is easy to overfocus on what we are not getting from the relationship. Instead, a healthier response is to see what we could be doing for our partner, rather than focusing on what they are not doing for us. We should always try to be supportive of our partner, because we cannot expect anything from our partner that we are not willing to give ourselves.

Another important choice you can make is to choose to remember the reasons why you committed to this person. Your relationship will not always be pleasant and there will be times for serious discussions and disagreement. There will be trying times and even bad times that we will need to work through together. You simply can’t abandon ship every time you encounter a storm in your relationship. Real love is about weathering the storms of life together. The key to surviving these times is to remember to be respectful, acknowledge your commitment, and work through whatever is you may be going through, together. Love is all about choices. We choose to see the good, ignore the petty, look for what we could do for our partner, and remember why we love our partner. Choosing to put in the effort to do these things is what love looks like, and with that work comes the wonderful reward of staying in love.

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