Love is a Choice

Comments 94


Stay with the same person long enough and you’re going to feel it.




At times, you’ll feel things much worse.




And this is why I have a low tolerance for people who spend too much time talking about feelings.

Feelings. Are. Bullshit.

Feelings are why people are addicted to drugs. To alcohol. To sex.

Feelings are why people rack up debt.

Feelings are why people commit adultery.

I’ll bet $100 to your $1 that everyone reading this has felt a deep emotional connection to someone before that is now completely nonexistent.

I’ll bet you all felt amazing the last time you got behind the wheel of your new car. The same one you get in and out of every day and don’t really think about now.

The evidence of feelings being fickle is everywhere.

When you’re crushing on someone—that’s infatuation. It’s an amazing feeling.

When all of the blood rushes to one place on your body and all sense of logic and responsibility vanishes when you think about someone—that’s lust. That one’s powerful. And it feels good.

What would happen if all of us did whatever we felt like doing all the time?

Would we go to work?

Would we be sober?

Would we be faithful in our relationships?

Would we have any friends?

Would we be healthy?

Would we be educated?

If people simply did what they felt like all the time, the world would be in absolute chaos. When we follow our feelings in our personal lives, they become embroiled in chaos, too.

We have to make better decisions. Especially in our relationships.

It’s time to acknowledge something that doesn’t jibe with our little, romantic hearts:

Love is not a feeling.

Love is a choice.

What Will You Choose?

Maybe you’re young. Preparing for marriage and a long, happy life together.

Maybe you’re my age. Immersed in total shit. Because every day is a battle. And you’re terrified. And you feel your life falling apart. And you don’t know what three months from now will look like.

Maybe you’re older. Wiser. Maybe you’ve “seen it all.” But maybe you’ve just never really thought about this before.

I hope you will. No matter where you are in life, I hope you’ll think about whether it makes more sense to just do whatever you feel like today.

Or whether you’re going to remember your wedding vows.

For better or for worse.

For richer, for poorer.

In sickness and in health.

In good times and in bad.

To love and to cherish.

From this day forward, ‘til death do us part.

Because I don’t think we should say these things if we don’t mean them.

If you do, it’s all going to break.

Broken vows. Broken homes. Broken people.

If you’ve made the choice to get married. If you’re making the choice to get married. Then make the choice to go all the way with it.

The most-frightening part of marriage is that you have no say in what the other person will do. And if they quit, it’s over.


Marriage is a huge leap of faith that you’re partnering with someone who is always going to pull in the same direction with you. But there are no guarantees in this life.

But you always have control of one thing. You.

You always get to wake up each day and decide what you’re going to do.

And I’m asking you to wake up each day and choose to love.

You’re not always going to want to. Because your partner made you angry. Or sad. Or embarrassed. Or ashamed.

You’re not always going to want to because you don’t feel like your partner is holding up his or her end of the bargain, so why should you?

You’re not always going to want to because you’re a human being and we are all diagnosed with the human condition.

That means you’re going to take things and people for granted. It means you’re going to hurt others’ feelings. It means you’re going to be selfish. It means you’re going to think about and feel things that you shouldn’t in the context of a committed marriage.

But you can always make the decision to love anyway.

That’s what love is.

It’s hugging your child and telling them how much you love them even though you wanted to give them away 20 minutes earlier.

It’s hugging your friend or sibling and telling them how much you love them even though you were just at each others’ throats.

It’s hugging your parents. You know. After all the stuff kids and parents do to push one another away.

If you want love to be like the illusion you see in romantic comedies, you’re doomed to a life of sadness and disappointment. We never get to see Reese Witherspoon or Matthew McConaughey or Sandra Bullock or Ryan Gosling three years later when there are screaming babies and unpaid bills and dying relatives and the kind of disagreements real people like you and me have to deal with.

The Hollywood writers skip those parts. Because those movies would perform shitty at the box office. Because we pay to feel good. Not feel bad.

But you can’t start comparing your life to the movie scripts. Because those actors rarely figure out how to have sustainable relationships off-screen.

But you can.

And you only need two things:

  1. The will to wake up every day and make the choice to love.
  2. The blessings of having a partner willing to do the same.

That Grass Is Not Greener

Here’s something I’m absolutely CERTAIN of: If you leave your partner for that other person, there will be no fairytale ending.

There never is.

I’m not suggesting you can’t have a lasting relationship with that other person. You can. If you’re willing to choose to love every day, and get the same in return. I submit any two people can make it, given those parameters.

The problem is, you’re so focused on all the bullshit your partner does. And you’re completely infatuated with that other person who has a TRUCKLOAD of bullshit you just haven’t been slapped with yet.

But it’s coming.

We all have demons. Now’s the time to decide whether the demons you don’t know are worth all those broken vows and broken homes and broken hearts.

There’s no such thing as a maintenance-free lawn. They all require a special kind of care, depending on soil, climate, precipitation and seed.

There’s no such thing as a maintenance-free relationship. And if you’re daydreaming about one with someone who’s not your current partner?

I feel so sorry for you the day you wake up and see all the brown spots.

You Can Make It

You can’t control your partner. You’re not promised a long, happy marriage. Hell, you’re not even promised a heartbeat five minutes from now.

But you can decide what you’re going to do.

Have you ever chose love? No matter what? Unconditional love?

Or is your love only conditional? Do you only love them if they love you in exactly the way you want them to? Are you only willing to love them if you feel a certain way?

Because maybe you waking up every day and loving unconditionally is exactly what your relationship needs. The missing link.

There’s only one way to find out.

This is where peace lives. When it’s just you and your thoughts in the dark. Peace will find you if you choose to love. If you give more than you take. If you do the hard, brave, courageous thing.

Humans fail.

Our marriages fail.

But not love. Not the real kind. Not the chosen kind.

Love never fails.

94 thoughts on “Love is a Choice”

  1. My ex told me when he pulled the plug that ‘maybe love was not enough’. I was in for the long haul but he didn’t want to play ball anymore. I believed in the for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part bit, he obviously didn’t. Divorce was the single most painful and traumatic experience of my life beating even recurrence and chemo and that really is saying something.

    1. Yeah. I’m really sorry.

      Divorce is brutal. My marriage ended this year. It was worse than I’d ever imagined, and I’m still trying to sort my life out.

      I wish I knew what to say.

      Divorce is awful. If two people are married, I want them to try harder. So they don’t feel like you do. So they don’t feel like I do.

      With so much at stake, I hope people will choose love every day, regardless of how they feel.

      I believe good things can happen. Really good things.

      Thank you for reading and saying hi. I really appreciate it.

      1. No problem, any time. I remember thinking at the time if love is not enough, then what is? sorry to hear you are going through the nightmare of divorce, it is hell, I know and affects every aspect of your life. Do you have children? It’s worse cos pain is inflicted on another innocent party too, collateral damage under friendly fire! Luckily my daughter is not too screwed up by it and is remarkably resilient and well balanced. Not sure that can be said of her mum.

        1. Yes. A five-year-old son. He’s my favorite. I hope I can make enough good choices moving forward to compensate for all the bad ones that led us here. So he can have a childhood he can smile about. We’ll see.

          1. You have obviously done a lot of soul searching and am emotionally intelligent, so I’m sure you will make good choices and ensure your kid has a wonderful childhood. Personally I was glad our daughter was already 15 when we split, she had a lovely childhood, one that I wished I had.

  2. We all carry a truck load of baggage from childhood through high school into every relationship we will ever have. Trying to shape new relationships based around that heavy load starts a lot of us down the path to looking for something new before we even realize it.

    You are most correct in acknowledging that the grass really isn’t greener. It truly is the difference between love and lust.Those fleeting moments of pleasure are about as long lasting as the pleasure from eating a chocolate bar.

    I am starting to wonder if happy endings really exist.

    1. Thanks for this. Baggage, indeed.

      I think happy endings exist. I just don’t think they look like they do in the movies.

      I think happy endings are two 80-year-olds looking at one another at their 50-whatever-anniversary party and remembering all the mountains they climbed to be able to sit there and clink glasses in front of their family and friends.

      It’s not sexy. It’s not easy. It won’t always feel good.

      But it can be happy.

      Here’s to hoping, anyway. I’m not ready to quit just yet.

        1. Point of clarification: You and I saying people should do something WILL NOT save a million marriages.

          People doing this particular thing we’re agreeing on will.


    1. We do. It’s dangerous when people become dissatisfied based on nonexistent fantasy. It makes an already difficult thing (marriage) even more difficult.

  3. I think this has just become my favorite post. I agree that our society is obsessed with the quick fix of romantic love and we are like a bunch of addicts, unhappy unless we’re experiencing that high. Shows like Bridezilla and Keeping Up With the Kardashians make marriage seem like a trivial excuse to spend a bunch of money. It sets a terrible example. I am lucky I had two sets of grandparents who had 50+ year marriages to emulate. Were they always happy? Of course not, but especially at the end of their lives, it was wonderful to see how much they depended on each other, how they had made the long journey together. Am I always happy with things in my marriage? Not by a long shot. But I AM committed to it.

    1. Thank you for setting a good example for the rest of us.

      Appreciate that you like this post. This is a particular message that’s really important to me. I’ll never marry again unless I believe strongly that she thinks this too.

  4. One thing really stuck with me, the fact that one partner alone can’t make it happen. That’s the truly terrifying thing about it. When one decides that the grass really is greener elsewhere and doesn’t want to even try to choose love with the spouse (i.e. me) then there’s not much you can do but take care of yourself as well as you can. It truly sucks at the time, but in my case it was a blessing in disguise, and yes, there is a possibility of love again. Thanks for this post, Matt.

    1. As sad as I am about my marriage ending, the experience is going to make me a pretty good partner whenever there is another opportunity.

      I choose hope. Thank you for the note.

  5. I was also struck by that point– You can’t control the other person’s choices. My ex chose alcohol over his marriage, and ultimately even over his relationship with his children. The one that walks away is not always the one that gave up first. In my case, I walked away in defense of my sanity. In the words of the great Kenny Rogers, you gotta know when to fold ’em…

    1. I hope this didn’t come off as if I believe people should stay in abusive or unhealthy relationships.

      People make horrible choices. Their spouses and children sometimes suffer. Staying in those instances doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

      1. Oh no I didn’t take it that way at all. I was just trying (not very eloquently) to make the point that sometimes the person who chooses to end the relationship is actually the one who kept trying longer. My ex would have been quite content to remain in our dysfunctional marriage. Heck, why wouldn’t he? I was doing all the work!

  6. No Dawn we don’t have the power, we can’t control what somebody else does or decides. The worst thing about my divorce was the overwhelming sense of helplessness; this thing which tore my world apart was happening but I had no say over it. I wasn’t even consulted or given an honest reason just the usual cliches and finger pointing.

  7. I don’t think the one who walks away is always the one who put in the most work or tried longer. In my case I did the most work and couldn’t have tried harder to keep the marriage going and the family intact and the irony was I got dumped. It really sucked!

  8. I agree with most of your points. I feel the need to reiterate a theme I have discussed previously in this forum: That there must be much more preparation for marriage. This means mandatory study in junior high and high school as well as mandatory counseling prior to marriage. As long as any couple can go before a justice of the peace on the spur of the moment, disasters will continue.

    We also need to recognize that society has changed over the centuries and decades. We are fortunate that there are other alternatives to marriage available today. Marriage is not for everyone, but as you’ve mentioned before, most of us continue to try it. We need to eliminate all stigma associated with remaining single and childless. It is the “What’s wrong with you?” mentality that pushes square pegs into round holes.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with being unprepared to make the commitment that marriage demands. Not all of us wish to do the work involved, which frankly, is understandable. If alcohol or football or online poker or workaholism or whatever is your priority, then go for it. If serial monogamy or polyamory or whatever is your thing, then do that instead of marriage.

    We also need to make divorce more difficult. We need to recognize marriage as a contract. As with any contract, there must be consequences for failing to meet the terms of the obligation.

    1. Thank you. At first, I was going to respond: “Make divorce more difficult!!?!?” but I know what you meant.

      I appreciate that you take the time to read and think about this stuff. Thank you very much.

    1. Thank you for this nice note. I think this is a really important concept to make marriage work.

      Appreciate you reading it.

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  10. You’re absolutely right.

    I choose to love everyday. No matter the pain or who will love with me. And I think it makes everyday a great one.

    You’re an awesome writer, Matt.

  11. I needed this. I feel my life going to shit. When things aren’t perfect, they’re shit. It is so hard to love people who are unlovable, do unlovable things, or just don’t want to be loved. Between my husband who does unlovable things and the kids I teach who probably don’t know how to love, I want to run away. How much unconditional love can you give before you’re allowed to give up.

    1. Marriage requires two.

      I want to believe that courageous displays of unconditional love compel your partner to give it in return.

      I want to champion marriage. Commitment. Doing the difficult and brave thing.

      But I’m not a masochist. A person can’t take perpetual misery.

      In the end, one-sided partnerships are unsustainable.

      I hope your husband can learn to respect your pain enough to return the love you give. That’s where happy endings live.

  12. I have read this a couple of times as it really is something to ponder at this point in my life and relationship. So many good points were brought up, but mainly, that “love is a choice”. Love is something that turns into a take for granted feeling and it should be a choice–as in you choose to love that person everyday in every way. Like everything in life, it is easier said then done. Actions do speak louder than words. However, I wonder too if love is enough or if I am confusing it with other emotions/needs/wants/desires. Thank you for these little bits of enlightenment.

    1. You’re welcome.

      There are no easy answers. And I don’t mean to suggest that all suffering spouses should merely sack up and love, love, love while getting piles of shit spewed at them in return.

      That is unsustainable.

      I just want people to think about their choices. To put their feelings in their proper emotional filing cabinet. And to make the best choices.

      Marriage takes two. Always will.

      One-sided ones can’t make it.

      I just hope that when the one on the good side chooses unconditional love, that that can prompt their partner to return those actions.

      Two people giving and giving and giving?

      They’ll make it.

  13. One big “AMEN” here. I read the full content of this post today, but yesterday I was tweeting very similar things. We might be different ages, but it sounds like we are learning some of the same things these days.

    “For better or worse” does not imply that there is a choice in the matter. It should say, “For better AND worse.” Sadly, what- half(?) of people make the choice to quit at marriage once they think the “for better” is over with. If they’d only hold on… fight for their marriage, stay in the game… surely “for better” would turn to “for worse” and then would balance itself out to a happy medium. Some good days, some bad days.

    It’s not either or… it’s both.

    That’s commitment.

  14. What a beautiful piece of writing, Matt.
    People don’t understand that emotion follows thought, it’s our bodies’ response to what we’re thinking about. So when we change our thinking, we can change how we feel.
    Choosing to love is choosing where to focus our thoughts, our attention. Moving our attention from how shitty our lives are to what we might be grateful for changes how we *feel.* It’s hard work, but it’s necessary.

    1. Thank you. 🙂

      I think some people can get lucky and make it without thinking about these things.

      But I think most of us need to make this our personal mantras if we want to succeed in our marriages and other human relationships.

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  17. Truly a beautiful post, Matt!
    Love is sticking through all the way, whether the going is smooth or rough. As time passes and the infatuation stage fades off, we begin to come across the annoying habits of our other half, but who doesn’t have such a side? If only we could concentrate on the quirks of the person that initially attracted us to them, we could all try to hold on and not let go when things get choppy. And more importantly, give it time because problems do not disappear overnight. They require lots of patience, discussion and forgiving. End of it, the main factor is communication. Talking as much about the problem as it’s possible and letting it all out is vital to solving anything.
    Wonderful read; thank you once again!

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  25. Matt!

    This is so spot on that I may need to reblog it on my other site: myabandonedself.

    My marriage ended due to adultery and I know what that can do to a person. I recently saw my Ex and he told me he never loved me but that he “truly loves” his new wife. (Yep, it’s true: he married the woman he was cheating on me with.)


    I agree with you Matt. Love IS a choice. We all make choices. My Ex made the choice to search for a new partner, behind my back. I definitely feel he suffered from Grass is Greener Syndrome.

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  29. So right. Love is a choice. Unlike happiness, anger, sadness, frustration, and such. Letting my feelings run things happens to (from) me more than I’d like to mention. Jealousy and anger are probably a couple of those, I’m ashamed to say. I’m working on it though. Looking at situations rationally or logically can really help. It takes the emotion out of the equation. Obviously, don’t become a robot, but think about things without letting feelings cloud your judgment.

    Good advice. Admittedly, easier said than done. Always trying to be better.

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  32. Once again Matt your wisdom is so spot on. If only more people would adopt this philosophy our worlds would be so much open and loving. Being responsible for anything just isn’t in some of these peoples reality. This hurry up, I want more more MORE world is devouring a lot of good people, chewing them up and spitting them out and then they wonder why? things are so screwed up. Must be somebody else’s fault of that I am certain. Change human behavior for the better-slow process, one mind at a time. You have convinced me!

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  37. Matt,
    I am consistently I’m awe of your posts. Seriously, deep meaningful awakenings that often have occurred to me but I never made the time to clarify.
    I have a quick story I want to share. Just out of college I took a position as a casino host as I had just gotten a degree in Communications and thought it sounded like fun (read young, impetuous and no awareness of what I really wanted to be). As a casino host at a decent sized local casino in the midwest, I had ALOT of elderly clients I served. Elderly people who were desperately LONELY. In getting to know these people, who wider culture would consider sad pathetic gamblers, it occurred to me…that virtually none of them actually ENJOYED gambling. They enjoyed being ACKNOWLEDGED as a human being, talked to and cared about by frankly ANYONE. Their children didnt care, their spouses (if they had them) didnt care, society didnt care. They felt expendable. This was when I developed the real world skills of LOVE BEING A CHOICE. As a 22 year old girl my heart was swollen with love for these old, (often drunken) surly individuals, who were broken and hurting. They wanted a friend, not a slot machine. My love and concern for them, turned many of them away from gambling entirely (I know, I was not being a great casino host) but I was being a great HUMAN BEING. Many of them reconnected with family, with community activities where they could make relationships not based on taking their money and some even returned to God. Needless to say I soon left the casino industry and have worked in human services at a drug rehab, homeless shelter and Welfare for the past 10 years. I have built my career on loving the unlovable. It had been extremely rewarding. For those colleagues I have had who did not choose to love it was their nightmare. Interesting contrast, when you choose LOVE AND EMPATHY life (personal and professional) is rewarding and rich.When you choose apathy and contempt…everything is a nightmare. You get to choose. We all get to choose. The greatest lesson of my life. God bless you Matt for reminding us again!

    1. I really enjoyed this comment and your story, Dana.

      Thank you very much for sharing it here, and being here, and caring about these things.

      It’s really easy to sit at a computer and write about these things. You’re out there doing it. Giving more than you take.

      I’m flattered you took the time to read any of this stuff at all.

      Thank you for the kind words and support, Dana.

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  48. This. This right here is exactly what I tried to articulate to my ex- husband. He was in the throes of depression after losing his dad and his career just months apart. He found someone who made him feel good. (Spoiler- it wasn’t me) He ended up moving in with her and they are still together six years later. They have major financial issues and, according to the kids, they fight quite a lot. There are other rumors from mutual friends about what he’s up to now, but hey, she made him FEEL good, so it was totally worth putting all the kids through this, right? The happy ending for me is that I found someone who gets it, and I am better off in so many ways now. I just still feel bad for my kids that they had to go through it.

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