Volumes upon volumes have been written on love. The melancholy of heartbreak and the fervent ecstasy of attraction have both driven countless pens to paper. In expressing our love, whether it be in song, poem, painting, or long hugs, we simultaneously attempt to understand it. Despite all of the time we humans spend contemplating the concept, though, it seems we are no closer to understanding it than we were thousands of years ago. Massive sums of time and money go into researching the neuroscience of love, the characteristics of satisfied couples, and the algorithms behind dating websites, yet we are still vulnerable in facing the challenges of romance. All the data in the world doesn’t heal the agony of loss and has yet to make a significant dent in the 50% American divorce rate. The bulk of this exploration of love falls short in recognizing one fundamental truth: Love – deep, unconditional love, is not a feeling, but a choice.
Romantic comedies and media narratives tend to create the expectation that our soulmate (spoiler: they don’t exist) will eventually fall into our laps – and that, following a predictable bit of turmoil, we’ll live happily ever after. Silly or not, this is the notion we often naively carry in our hearts. It’s easy to be shocked, then, when you and your girlfriend have your first fight or you begin to notice the first habit of theirs you don’t like because it defies the narrative of a perfect relationship. Plenty of couples learn to ignore or deal with the friction, though, perhaps believing that the strength of their attraction, the profundity of their love, will triumph over any issues in the relationship. We look at the examples of our mothers and fathers and it seems that their love for each other obscures their imperfections, that my Gamama (Grandma for the unimaginative) and Grampa have been together for 50 years because they’re a fantastically compatible match.
We like to think that we’re incredibly good at knowing who’s going to make us happy, but let’s be honest – our test is passed with something as simple as a smile, a joke, a long conversation. The idea of having a soulmate is laughable – that there are 7 billion people in the world and you’re not only going to meet them, but you’re going to meet them early enough to live your life alongside them? No, no, rather there are millions upon millions of people in the world who could make us happy, but we choose one and decide to make them a promise. We promise to recognize their imperfections and the nuances that make them unique and love them anyway. Unconditional love means making the conscious decision to not only accept but to cherish a person’s flaws and failures, to immerse yourself in their whole being and thrive in it.
Stop waiting for Mr. or Mrs. Perfect, they don’t exist and never did. Find not the person whom you love at first sight for this is mistaking lust for love. Find instead the person you can learn to love and let them teach you how to accept and cherish every last fiber of their being – the back hair, the tiny butt, the obnoxious snoring and the obsession with cereal, the ketchup phobia and the late-night affinity for Rage Against the Machine.
Choose to Love.
“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.”