On many occasions, I have described Real Love as a choice we make. We DECIDE to love another person unconditionally. In a recent conversation, however, I learned something about how romantic love—falling in love—can also be a choice.
I was speaking to Doug, who has never had a meaningful or lasting relationship with anyone, despite a great many attempts. He’s been attracted to a long line of women, but no matter how fun the initial experiences were, he could not develop the kind of relationship he really wanted. “When I see a woman,” he said, “sometimes I just feel this great chemistry. It takes over. Do you believe in that?”
“Sure,” I said. “It’s undeniable that in the first few seconds we meet someone, we can make an assessment whether they would be highly desirable to connect with. In their smile, words, tone of voice, movements, physical features, and more, we see how that person might make our life more enjoyable. We recognize their tendency to flatter us, to be compliant, to not be a source of conflict, to provide sexual excitement, and so on. We call that entire package ‘chemistry,’ and it’s mostly automatic.”
“Right, I can’t help myself.”
“You really can’t do much about the initial thoughts, which are involuntary, but within a second or two you really can make a choice about whether you will continue to indulge those thoughts and feelings.”
“I’m not so sure. The pull of chemistry is pretty strong.”
“Let’s see if I can illustrate this. Suppose you’re walking into a bank. On your way in, two security guards pass close by, each carrying two heavy bags of what you reasonably suppose to be large amounts of cash. It crosses your mind that it really would be nice to have all that money. That thought might flash into your head, yes?”
“And then you might have thoughts about the cars, houses, vacations, and free time that all that money could buy?”
“But would you then grab one of the bags from the guard? Or rob the armored car outside? Or would you plan a future bank robbery?”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because I’d probably end up in jail. Not worth the risk.”
“So, even though having the money would be very appealing—the chemistry is great—you’d pass on the chemistry because the price is too high?”
“And thus you have proven that even though you might have an initially exciting thought, you can also stop that line of thinking if you recognize that the price is too high. It’s no different with the ‘chemistry’ or romance with a woman. You have experienced that chemistry on a number of occasions, haven’t you?”
“And was that chemistry EVER enough to sustain a lasting and rich relationship?”
“In fact, didn’t many of those relationships end up in considerable pain for you and for your partner?”
Real Love is a choice. But—contrary to conventional wisdom—so is romantic love. Sure, the initial excitement of meeting someone may be involuntary, but then we can make a conscious choice about whether to allow those thoughts to continue.
I first chose to unconditionally love my eternal partner, my wife, Donna. After making that choice, and after practicing it for some time, I chose to allow myself to experience the excitement of romance and falling in love. Adding romance to Real Love is easy and effective. If we fall in love first, however, and indulge all that excitement, adding Real Love to that mix can be far more difficult.
There are many ways to arrive at the beautiful combination of Real Love and romance, but the first step is realizing that both are a choice. If we’ve never seen or felt Real Love, our choices disappear, and we find ourselves at the mercy of chemistry.