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Is Love an Accident or Disease?  

 Since it is the month of Valentine’s Day, I thought I would write a bit about love.  What is love exactly?  Many people simply say they know it when they feel it.  Then there is the special thing people refer to as “being in love.”   When I meet with a couple for the first time, it is not uncommon for one member to tell me they love their partner but are no longer “in love” with them.  This usually goes along with them thinking the relationship can’t work any more.  It’s based on the idea you have to be in love for a relationship to work, but also includes the idea we as individuals don’t have much control over whether we are in love or not.  The lack of control idea is where I think most people get it wrong.

We act as if being “in love” is like catching a disease or having an accident.  We “fall in love” kind of like we fall in a hole.  One of the stories that goes along with Valentine’s Day suggests love is the result of being shot in the heart with an arrow.  Let me suggest love is more like a pet.  It requires attention, feeding, and nurturing in order to exist in a healthy way.  If we want to keep it healthy we also have a responsibility to do those things.  What we do in a relationship determines whether we continue to feel “in love” or whether that feeling withers away.  The nicest part about this is it means what you do in a relationship today can determine whether you feel “in love” in the future. 

I’m not going to get into a big discussion here about what love really is.  In fact, I’ll even accept it if you want to define it as “I know it when I feel it.”  But I do want to challenge you to think you have a lot of control over how much love you feel in your relationships.  As you think about the love in your relationships this Valentine’s Day, let me suggest you think about how to act in ways which result in feeling more love.  There are lots of things you can do to make this happen.  Next month I will write about a few simple things which seem to help this feeling come about at the biochemical level.