LOVE IS A CHOICE
There is a trend that portrays the so called perfect love, on social media, movies, books, and music. One of the things that most of us tend to do when we see such portrayal of love, is to compare our own romantic relationships with those we see virtually, which then leaves us feeling like there is something missing in our current relationship. There is this cultural belief in our society these days, that suggests that love is a feeling that hits you unexpectedly.
From my own personal experience and information gathered from couples I absolutely admire, I’ve learned that real love takes work, sacrifice, vulnerability and understanding.
I want to share some of the things Dr Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, a licensed psychotherapist specialising in relationship has said are important in developing relationships, from an interview that was conducted by the Mormon channel daily.
What are the common misconceptions that people seem to think love embodies?
People tend to think that once they have found right person, things will be easy, that if they find the right match then everything will fall into place. Most people think that the goal is to find someone who will accept them the way they are, adore and desire them, no matter how selfish or self-serving they are.
Then there is the idea that "someone should make you happy if they are the right person". I would say it has an air of irresistable potency to it and is certainly painted a lot by the movies. In most of this cinematic thrills a picture perfect ever after is lived out in bliss with a perfect person as a partner. In my opinion reality might be a tad different.
How are these misconceptions influencing expectations in relationships, especially for those going into marriage?
Often people think “I must have chosen the wrong person”, then they compare what they know about the inside of their relationship, to the outside of other people’s relationships. More often than not, the comparison is between the ones perception of someone elses relationship, how it is potrayed on social media and their ever so real relationship. This then leads them to conclude that there is something defective about their relationship, rather than the reality that the relationship is doing what it’s designed to do. Such thoughts let doubt creep in and people start thinking maybe they made the wrong choice.
The notion that you are suppose to marry someone who’s going to make you happy, I feel breeds entitlement, this notion that you think you are owed love, and you are owed desire, no matter how unlovable or undesirable you are behaving. Marriage is not easy because you’ve turned your life over to some else and their limitations can really impose on you. I believe it is complicated even more by thinking "that you owe me happiness, you owe me accommodation, and if you don’t give it to me there is something wrong with you or something wrong with us.
What’s one of the biggest culture shock most couples go through and how can they work through it successfully?
I believe its at the inception of a marriage, where the couple is only moving in together, beginning a sexual relationship together, thats where they are faced with lot of pressure. As beautiful and wonderful as marriage might be, there is a lot to navigate and I think so many people are shocked and under-prepared for that first year of marriage, and how it can be really challenging to work out a life with another person, especially if it was just about excitement ,desire, and positive anticipation while the relationship was in the dating phase. The dating phase is a lovely one and there is nothing wrong with that, but I think when you move from that stage where you are just gazing into each others eyes thinking how perfect the other person is, to a more side by side phase of a marriage where you have to start working out a life together, it can take a lot of concious effort. How good of a friend are you capable of really being, and can you really make room for another person in your life and how loving are you really, it's questions like these which can then expose ones immaturity when the pressures starts setting in.
What councel would you give to someone to actively chose to love someone without forcing themselves or talking themselves into it?
Part of the challenge is that early marriage often contrasts with the dating period that preceded it, where excitement and hopefulness is abundant. Finding someone who reflects our desirability and specialness is compelling. We often believe we have finally met someone who will understand us, accept us, and even make us happy (no matter how immature or self-serving we may be). As anthropologist Helen Fisher points out, when falling in love our brains are flooded with dopamine—a neurotransmitter that effectively glues you to your partner, magnifies your partner’s virtues, and reduces your capacity to discern his or her flaws. This is what author and clinician Terry Real calls the “Love without Knowledge” phase, which is characterized by what feels like an insurmountable amount of love you have for your partner, you may even feel you have known them for all eternity, but you have no idea yet what they do with their checkbook or dirty laundry. And while you might tell yourself that their limitations won’t really matter, the blindness in this phase makes it fragile.
The illusion of the “Love without Knowledge” stage is usually punctured when we marry and move in together. The high expectations of being adored and accommodated are usually ruptured by the emergence of our spouse’s conflicting desires and expectations. We not only find that our partner is not going to make us happy, and that the traits we once saw as attractively different from our own now irritating, but our spouse may also demonstrate that they are perfectly willing to withhold precisely what we desire. Unlike the “Love without Knowledge” stage, the emerging “Knowledge without Love” stage (where you know a lot about your spouse but are not sure you love all that you are discovering) can hurt. It hurts because our longing for validation and accommodation bumps up against the limitations and autonomy of our spouse. It is an open secret that this phase of a relationship is difficult. Not only does one confront disillusionment, one must confront inherent aloneness in the relationship—the places where we are not understood or validated—and the discomfort of both may lead one to question their wisdom in their marital choice.
So how do we move away from the neediness and entitlement , to a place where we can develop the capacity to love another person out of our strength?
The secret lies in our willingness to see ourselves accurately, repent, and develop. We must do the hard work of confronting our very human, yet selfish impulses that expose themselves in the pressures of marriage. This includes the self-absorbed desire to be adored and validated, as well as to punish, withhold, or resentfully accommodate when we are not. Our self-centered tendencies are what I believe King Benjamin means when he claims that “the natural man is an enemy to God” (Mosiah 3:19). It is natural to be self-focused and to feel entitled, and so are the unloving behaviors that flow from that immaturity. Our self-service only perpetuates our unhappiness in the relationship. It is easy to justify these behaviors against the limitations we encounter in our spouse, but if we are to create a relationship that is an expression of friendship, that is in fact loving, we must reach for something better in ourselves, even when our spouse’s choices make it easy to indulge the worst in ourselves.
The difficult truth is that until we learn how to love, marriage will be hard.
So, in the face of conflict or frustration, here are some questions to ask yourself to engage your spouse more constructively: What would it be like to be in a relationship with me? What are the behaviors I would find hard to live with (for example, pride, a desire to control, an unwillingness to take responsibility for my desires or choices)? How do these actions affect my spouse? How do these behaviors justify the worst in my spouse—meaning how might my spouse use my immaturities to excuse his or her own?
How do you think having a good understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ can help with romantic relationships and love?
If we take a superficial understanding of it, we can do what I talked about earlier which is to think there must be something wrong with us if we are unhappy at the beggining , because if I chose the right one I shouldn't be having this unhappiness , but the bigger picture of the gospel is that were here to grow, to become more God like people, that we are suppose to confront our limitations, repent, grow and evolve and that the gospel is about our eternal progression as relational beings, and so marriage is the perfect institute for that development. While you were in the dating stage of the relationship, your beloved is reflecting to you a wonderful picture of you, that’s why you love them so much. After you get married they behin to see that you too can be selfish and your limitations might get magnified, your significant other choses to mirror your limitations because they affect them negatively and so it’s easy to be upset with them for not accepting you the way you are.
When you really understand that the point of the gospel and marriage is " for me to confront my limitations and grow to be a more loving person, not to justify myself". Everyday we confront our limitations and we reaffirm who we want to be, we try to be a better person. So to understand the bigger picture and to not to presume we are above reproach or above limitations and instead to really be accountable for them by changing those things in ourselves for the benefit of those we love.
“Chose your love, love your chose” Thomas S. Monson