The choice to love someone is pretty cut and dry. You either choose to love someone or you don’t. And some days it’s easy. Some days it’s really difficult. Yes, the decision to love someone is binary. You either decide to love someone or you don’t. But that is not what makes love binary in my opinion. First, let’s discuss the other definition of love. Many believe love is a feeling rather than a choice. The feeling and experience produced by the action of loving someone. I was one of them.
Pre- becoming a therapist, I defined love as a feeling. You feel love. In your heart. In your body. In your soul. It is all-consuming. It has no limits. You think about the person constantly. The relationship becomes a blanket you just want to sleep in all day. Then in my early thirties, I learned that love can actually be unhealthy. WTF?! Yup, just because something feels amazing doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Love was suddenly like sugar. It was very confusing.
I learned that love can feel earth shaking but that doesn’t necessarily make it healthy and if it’s not healthy then is it really love? Or is it an obsession? Or a way of coping, hiding, and feeling safe in the world? This is where the road forks and we have people wearing team -love is an action- shirts, and team -love is a feeling- shirts.
Here’s what I know. You can mistake the feeling of falling in love with the action of falling in lost — losing yourself in someone or a relationship. That feels natural, runs bone deep. You can literally ache or become ill from being away from your person. And if there’s conflict, it will destroy your day unless it’s resolved. You revolve around him or her and the relationship becomes your sun. We file this under passion and how much we love someone. But it can actually be an addiction because what we don’t know or see is the sticky dynamic that runs under our consciousness. It’s why we are always drawn to the same type of person, until we realize it’s a problem. It’s not just about types. Our draw stems from our unmet needs in childhood, overmet needs that smell familiar, or desire to be healed. So instead of falling in love, we’re actually falling in lost. The relationship causes us to disconnect with ourselves.
Yes, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve been through a version of this. You’ve gone to Al-Anon meetings. You did therapy. You learned about codependency, healthy boundaries, the importance of communication, and why it’s so hard for you. You’ve worked on yourself and the “types” you used to be attracted to now repel you. Because you’ve changed internally. Now you’re able to see love in a new light and make better choices with new lenses.
But what about all those who don’t have those lenses yet? For them, love may not be a choice. Ninety percent of the decisions we make are from our subconscious. This means many do not choose love. Their story and wiring choose love for them. So in a way, they never had a choice. They didn’t know it wasn’t love. Choice only comes with awareness and many are not aware of what they’re getting into. They just know it feels f*cking amazing.
Here are the chapters of love in broad strokes.
In high school. — Love is a feeling. Nothing else matters.
We have no real love impressions at this point. So everything is potent, new, and extreme. Life or death. This is partly why love feels so powerful. If you fall, you fall fast and deep. And as an adult looking back, you may find it amusing or sad. But when you were in it, you know how it felt. Your entire day could change by just one glance from someone you loved.
In our twenties. — Love is more than a feeling. It defines us. We lose ourselves in it.
We discover sex and body parts and orgasms and have our first real relationship. We think love means sacrifice. We blur the line between compromise and compromise of self. We discover how good it feels to take care of someone.
In our thirties. — Love is a choice. We protect ourselves.
We’ve learned and loved and have come out the other side. We learn about boundaries, codependency, and self-care. With this awareness, we finally have a choice. But as we believe we deserve more, our ocean turns into a plastic swimming pool they sell at the drug store because the masses are not working on themselves and finding someone can feel hopeless at times. So love can become more logical.
In our forties +. — Love is spiritual.
More on this as I continue my journey. I want love to be greater than me, but in a healthy way. I want to put the checklist that protected me in my 30’s back in my back pocket and lean into things like energy, intuition, and touch. I want to believe that we meet people for a reason. They are meant to be in our lives to give us new experiences and change us. I want to discover and explore instead of dissect.
Anyway, back to the topic.
Love isn’t binary because you have a choice to love or not. Because like I mentioned above, for many of us our story and wiring choose love. Not us. We weren’t aware of where the draw was coming from. We didn’t have all the information (awareness). So I slice love a different way.
Love is binary because love is either healthy or not healthy.
Unhealthy love is being powerless, selfish and enabling. It has no boundaries. Unhealthy love has conditions and is contingent. It is an obsession. Comes in a bottle and feels like a shot instead of a slow burn. Unhealthy love is immature, irresponsible and dependent. Unhealthy love is urgent. There is desperation behind it which produces manipulation and compromise of self. Unhealthy love is a pissing contest, a tug of war, a mute silence and a kickstand. It is obvious. Unhealthy love promotes the false self and stunts growth. It is a drug.
Healthy love is a choice. It is something you decide to give as a gift. It is doing life with not at. It shapes the self and strengthens the other. Healthy love is feeling powerful and independent. It is grilled cheese and vegetable soup on a rainy day but not every day. Healthy love is patient, kind and accepting. Healthy love requires a tremendous amount of responsibility which involves communication on all levels and constant reflection. It is building trust, having faith and holding a commitment. Healthy love is about acceptance and always looking inward. It promotes growth and two strong containers. Healthy love is rare.
Before asking yourself if you should love someone or not, ask yourself if it’s healthy. Because if you keep giving yourself unhealthy love experiences, yes it may be powerful and you’ll get your dopamine but there is a tailspin involved and you’ll only know one version of love, a version that comes with four walls and a ceiling.
It takes time to know if love is healthy because it takes times to get to truly know someone. And even when you do, there is no certainty. People change Feelings change. But at least you’ll have a better shot for a real experience, something that changes you for the better and makes you less afraid instead of more.
If you’re currently in something and you don’t believe it’s healthy, it doesn’t mean to end it. The next question is what can you do to turn your love from unhealthy to healthy? And yes, you’re only fifty percent of that equation and it fluctuates. Unhealthy can turn healthy and vice versa. That’s why love takes constant work. That’s the journey. The daily work on self and the relationship it takes to build. And you are either doing that work to build healthy love or you are not.
Love is binary.
This post was originally published here and is republished with permission from the author.
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