Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Love is a choice

About a month ago one of my friends on Facebook posted an article by a young 20-something about how she waited until she was 26 to finally find her true love.  I thought the article might have something insightful in it, but unfortunately it didn't.  It was the standard "I waited until my heart felt completely right before getting married" article.  Honestly, part of me wanted to throw up in my mouth.

Why?  Because as someone who has been married for almost 8 years, I get so tired of hearing about how love is a feeling.  It's aggravating.  My first thought is "I wonder what will happen in a few years when that whole REALITY thing sets in..."  And before you say "Well, you're just being a big stick in the mud!", hear me out.

If love is a feeling, then all marriages are destined to end in divorce.  For anyone that has been married for more than 3 years, you can't honestly sit there and say you haven't had times where you didn't feel so great towards your spouse.  Maybe she did something stupid like buy a 1,000 dollar Kirby vacuum.  Maybe he forgot your anniversary and stayed out late at a bar with his friends.  The point is, your spouse is going to, at some point, do something that will wipe out whatever beautiful feelings you had for him or her.  And if you believe that love is a feeling, then that gives you every reason to get a divorce.

In fact, maybe that's why our divorce rate is so high.  Perhaps everyone has bought into this "love is a feeling" crap that when the feelings go away so does the marriage.  In a psychology class I was forced to take in college (why an engineer has to take a junior-level humanities class is beyond me!) I saw a graph of happiness in a marriage vs. time married, and it started at a high at zero years (newlyweds) and started going down until it hit a low at the seven year mark.  Likely that is due to reality setting in, and it also conveniently coincides with a jump in divorce rate.

The point is, if love is a feeling, then it certainly isn't a good reason to get married based on love.

I don't believe love is a feeling.  Love is a choice.  You choose every day to love your spouse, your kids, the place you work and the Sailors you work with.  Yup, that's right: I said I love my Sailors (and you thought I'd never tie this into work).  You choose to love these people even when they do stupid things, like make you work late and then get you up at 0100 with a phone call from their Chief because they got drunk and did something stupid out in town.

Choices are so much more powerful than feelings.  If I walk into work in a bad mood, I can choose to not show it.  I can choose to be pleasant with my yeoman, my master chief, the random Sailor I walk by and every other Sailor I interact with, even if on the inside I'd rather be a grumpy asshole and yell at folks (and trust me, we all have those days!).  I can choose to be pleasant with my kids, my wife and my dog when I come home, even though I got my butt chewed by the XO most of the day. 

You choosing your actions instead of letting your temporary feelings run your life is one of the most powerful things you'll ever do.  It's that freedom of choice that let's us hold people accountable, even when they put themselves in bad situations (e.g. drinking doesn't excuse you from the law).  It's that freedom of choice that let's you work through the hard times in a marriage because you know that it's worth it and things get better in the end.  It's that freedom of choice that motivates you to continue working through tough times at work because you know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

If we continue to say that it's all about feelings, then we shouldn't be surprised when divorce rates skyrocket, people don't commit to hard work, and everyone works only for their own good.  In that case, we're no better than dogs, guided by smells, hunger and an estrous cycle.  Letting our emotions run our lives is an utterly dehumanizing choice.

I think we're far better than that.  Choose to love.  Love your spouse, your kids, your relatives, the people you work with and your Sailors.  Love the idiot that just cut you off on the freeway (but still be sure to step on the brake).  Even love the guy that takes forever to show his ID to the gate guard in the morning. By making that choice, no matter how small, you grow a bit more professionally each time and put yourself, and not your fleeting emotions, in control of your future.