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I Wish People Would Stop Saying “You Can’t Help Who You Love”

There’s a nice song by R&B singer Ledisi titled “Can’t Help Who You Love.”The lyrics include, “You can’t help who you love/You can’t know whose at fault/The heart lives in a world of it’s own no control/You can’t help who you love.”

While I’m sure the song is for entertainment purposes only, it’s an opinion that many people have. The idea that you have no control over who you fall in love with is a popular one. But if you ask me, this is absolutely false. You have many people who argue that love is simply a feeling, albeit a strong one. Here’s the problem with that theory.

Let’s say you meet a nice, attractive man. You exchange numbers and talk (not just text) a lot. Eventually, you can’t wait to hang out with him and do so several times a week. Over the next few months you both grow this intense attraction to each other and find yourselves falling in love. Things are going well until you have that one huge argument, trust is challenged or boredom starts to set in. Regardless of how you feel about each other, the decision to stay in the relationship is introduced.

In her matron of honor speech, my best friend told my husband and I to “choose love” when things get tough in our marriage or when we want to walk away. Of course, we love each other, but making it a priority to choose to love each other on a daily basis, even when we’re upset, is another component that is solely based on our daily actions. These are actions that are not fueled by an emotion in the moment, but rather, by keeping in mind the love that we have for one another and the desire to make it work. To love someone is a choice.

In fact, Dr. Ken Pillemer, author of 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest American on Love, Relationships, and Marriage, said that even choosing to be polite to your partner can be the difference between a long-lasting relationship and one that can quickly disintegrate.

“Relationships are made up of hundreds or thousands of daily micro-interactions where you have the opportunity to be positive and supportive to your partner, or to be dismissive and uninterested,” Pillemer told the Huffington Post.

So what happens when you do meet that special someone who makes your heart flutter and your skin glow? It’s not just feelings, it’s science.

In one of her TED talks, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher describes an experiment that she performed on the brains of people who were in love. What she found was that “Romantic love is not emotion, it’s a drive.”

What happens when a person has an affair? Did they not choose to put themselves in a position to fall in love with someone else? They did. They could help it. Are they held captive to their feelings for the person that they are sneaking around with? I think not. Whether it’s an emotional affair or a physical one, a person has made the choice, every time, to sleep with another individual or to divulge personal information.

When discussing the reasons people cheat, Fisher explained that romantic love, along with attraction and attachment, involve “overlapping but separate brain systems.” As she told CNN in 2012, “It’s not hard for somebody to sexually desire one person, be infatuated with another, and still want to spend the rest of his or her life with a third.” But once again, it’s all about a choice, and we control the choices we make.

If loving someone was solely based on emotions and chemistry, the number of marriages would plummet and the divorce rate would climb, as people would jump ship at the first sign of the smallest issue. So for those of us in healthy relationships, we must continue to choose love, even when we’re feeling less than in love with the way our partners are at times. Love can be great and exciting when it’s with the right person, but feelings are fleeting. You can always help who you fall in love with, just as you can always help who you stay in love with, too.

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