CHOOSE to love?


In my thread about my troubled marriage, many people say that love is not an emotion, but a choice, and that we must “choose to love.”

As something who is taking baby steps toward saving a failed marriage, I am both fascinated by and skeptical of this maxim.

What are your thoughts on the concept? What does it mean to you?
Are there books/resources where I can learn more?


Go see my post at the end of that thread.


Liberanos is Pulitzer material and she's right on that one. Any character work on oneself relies on trying to act according to the virtue that we want to have in a higher degree than we do. You may even have seen this in career coaching, self-helps, soft skills training etc. If you want to be a responsible person that keeps commitments, you get to that stage by setting the bar higher time and time until you're 100% punctual and keep all your promises. If you want to be impartial and objective, you get there by considering all factors and all perspectives when you make decisions or assessments. We even try to act like saints to become saints. It's like that with love. I suppose in the past you've been able to figure out that if you distance yourself from a guy you like but not quite, it's easier to avoid a relationship than if you keep hanging out with him but just tell yourself to be careful (or tell him it's just friends). To an extent, it may be the same way with people we do love. Same as children attempt to be better children to their parents, parents better parents to their children - what those people are doing is precisely choosing to love another person and acting on it. It's starts with a declaration. One declares himself for something... and does it. It's probably easier to imagine with children's love or parental love or love of one's country, but it doesn't end there. Note that when people are suffering from a strife in their relationship, they do things to rekindle the "old spark". They do that too when they want to make up for something bad they've done. Or for having been away for a long time. Thing is, it doesn't need to happen only in those cases. In can be an everyday thing.


[quote="Augusta_Sans, post:1, topic:177809"]
In my thread about my troubled marriage, many people say that love is not an emotion, but a choice, and that we must "choose to love."

As something who is taking baby steps toward saving a failed marriage, I am both fascinated by and skeptical of this maxim.

What are your thoughts on the concept? What does it mean to you?

Are there books/resources where I can learn more?


what it means to me (besides what you'll find in Church teaching regarding the theological virtue of Charity;)):
I've been married to DH 7 years. We got pregnant on our honeymoon, and though sadly it ended soon in miscarriage, we both found out pretty quick what pregnancy can do to libido. Mine left. Gone. But DH still needed and deserved that physical closeness, so i had to CHOOSE to let him in (no pun intended), and to give myself generously to him even when I'm not feeling so passionate. I've had similar experiences with subsequent pregnancies (we have 4 living children, and one in utero). although i must say it's gotten better over the years... either my libido hasn't been as affected, or like Liberanos said, I've just learned to act first and let the feeling come later.

And though it's very understandable, I do think it's sad (from something you mentioned in your other thread, and forgive me if I misunderstand) that you're writing off marital passion altogether. :( Just because it's not what you expect NOW, doesn't mean that in the future, intimacy will be something altogether different from and more wonderful than what you experienced in your pre-marital past. i think it might be helpful if you tried to stop comparing.

FWIW, Dh and I struggled quite a bit with Chastity (together) before we were married. I do absolutely think that had a negative effect on our early marital intimacy.


I think it depends on how you define “love”. If by love you mean doing things that are in that person’s best interest, and taking care of them, then you can certainly choose to love.

But if by love you mean the emotion/sensation of tenderness/desire/attachment, then it’s not something you can choose. (Though a person might grow on you, and you can fall in love in love as well as out of love.)


I recommend reading C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity or The Four Loves.
Loving someone is acting as if you cared about him or her. You decide what you would do if you loved that person, and then do it.
The emotion of affection is something we can encourage or discourage, but not control completely.


it means exactly what it says, doing loving actions when the opportunity arises, and looking for the chance to do loving actions. Do every day family duties with love instead of resentment. Do not trumpet your actions, expect gratitude or even acknowledgement, just do them. Think loving thoughts, any time a bitter, resentful, recriminating, judgmental thought comes into your mind, deliberately replace it with a kind, grateful, loving, considerate, thankful thought.

Speak lovingly and bite your tongue before you let an unloving, critical or demeaning word pass your lips. Read the letter of James, every night if you have to. Express appreciation, quietly not fulsomely, at every opportunity, and never let a chance go by to make a positive comment, but don’t turn that comment into dig. “It was so nice to come home to a neat and clean room, thanks for that.” NOT “I see you finally remembered to pick up your dirty socks.”

Focus on any positive quality, word, action or attitude of your mate, no matter how small in the scale of things, and start to tune negative things out, beginning with the most annoying. However if the negatives are things that require outside help to change–alchoholism, addiction, anger management etc. we move to a new level and you need, in love, to insist they get help and that you get help as a couple. Refusal to deal with a situation that puts you or your children–or spouse–in danger is not love but the opposite.

If you perceive that all these changes are about your attitude, your inner life, and your words and actions, you are exactly right.


Lots of insightful (and inspirational) comments here. Thank you!


just to add, you cannot choose your emotions, they just happen, although you can at times control circumstances that arouse certain emotions, but you can control your own actions and amend your own attitude. It should go without saying, but you cannot change another person, you can only change yourself.


One comment that really hit home for me is the analogy chevalier made. Of course when I've reluctantly ended past relationships, I've distanced myself to try to "get over" the feelings I had. It totally makes sense that choosing to get closer to my husband would lead to me "getting into" the feelings that I wish I had. :)


puzzle annie,

i attempted to put my hand to a similar response several times. somehow, i could NOT get the sheer, beautiful objectivity of the thing. your response is everything i wish i had been able to write, in both threads started by augusta s.

and it bears out my experience completely. i became a better wife by behaving like a better wife. i loved my husband and*** then ***fell in love with him.

in AA we say "bring the body. the mind will follow.’ and “this is a program of ACTION.” and “you may not be able to change the way you feel, but you sure can change the way you act.”

Jesus said, “if you love me, keep my word.” (that’s action, there.)

in the other thread, Augusta you asked if making love to your husband while not passionately in love was essentially a lie? no. it’s telling the absolute truth. when i am romantic with my husband and I’m running on less than a quarter tank of passion, it says CLEARLY and honestly, “this means FOREVER. because of our sacrament, we belong to each other completely. amen.”


I heard a very smart and holy priest address this one several weeks ago in a very simple way: Take our love of God. We as Christians all profess to love God. Yet we have never seen God. Our knowledge of God is entirely indirect. We hear about God’s works, read the Bible, and maybe marvel at His creation, etc., but never experience Him in person. So to love God is to make a choice, a leap of faith.

Love of a person is like this. If we can choose to love God, surely we can choose to love a person we see every day, speak with, etc.



Just another example to show the difference.

Perhaps the greatest action of love ever witnessed in history is the Crucifiction of Jesus Christ. Why did he do it? To save the failed and disobediant created creatures that He created.

Do you think he felt warm fuzzies at having his flesh stripped from him during scourging, having been forced to walk with a cross on his shredded back, and then at having being nailed to a cross and left to slowly die of suffocation and slow torture? No, I can imagine he didn't like it one bit and did not have warm fuzzies of emotions.

But it was love. The highest form of love. Christ Himeself said that "no greater love has a man than to lay down his life for his friend." Thus, Love incarnate Himself told us what true love really is - an action that is not based on the warm fuzzy of emotion.

Therefore, true love is a choice and not an emotion. The irony is that the greatest peace and sense of well being comes when when first chooses to love, especially when doing so is difficult.

God Bless,



totally agree here, and I’ll take a simple example
we made huge progress when, for example, i decided that, instead of being hurt that DH didn’t listen to me, hug me and kiss me passionately right when we came back from work in the evening, I accepted that he needed telling me his work day in every detail before being able to “shut it off” and be available for me.
Every evening where I’m tired, I choose to love when I choose to listen carefully to what he tells me prior to making any demand.
And guess what ? When he’s finished,

  • listens to me
  • feels like hugging and kissing me
  • suddenly notices a few dishes need some washing up
    and I
  • feel that I know and understand him better
  • have been able to see how wonderful he’s worked all day, and feel more admiration and love for him


Its great for people in denial. You fake love then life should be ok.


[quote="exan, post:16, topic:177809"]
Its great for people in denial. You fake love then life should be ok.


I've read quite a few of your "contributions" to this forum. You appear to be a very unhappy person. That attitude doesn't inspire confidence! Thanks for chiming in on this topic, but I choose to follow the advice of people who are happy with their lives, rather than someone who appears to be so negative and discontent. I hope that you find what you're looking for.


That’s where you are wrong. Love is never fake. Not real love. We’re talking about choosing to treat people in a more loving manner than our fallen human natures would deem to be “deserved” or “warranted.” Sometimes that brings about a corresponding response of increased love in the other. There is no denial here.

In a situation of abuse, this doesn’t work. And you can tell it doesn’t work because the more you try to treat the person lovingly, the angrier and more abusive they become. And the situation doesn’t improve.

The testimony of people here is from normal marriages with healthy people. You can see the situation improves.

If you are with a narcissist, you can tell they’re a narcissist because they take advantage of what you are doing and their behavior doesn’t improve. They act like they “deserve” this treatment and owe nothing in return. They make comments like “It’s about time you started behaving like a real wife.” They see that love and surrender as weakness to be exploited.

We’re not talking about that here.

We’re talking about how normal, emotionally healthy people respond when we choose to love them as Christ loves us.


How do you think arranged marriages work? I mean, I know people from other cultures who are happy with their arranged spouses.

They work for the common good of the family, in some religions they are working to get their spouse to heaven, they build a life together. They grow in affection.

It's pretty interesting. I will echo the posts that talk about feelings following actions. How many times have you noticed a couple that are rude to each other and then, surprise, they announce they are splitting up?

You can indeed learn to care about someone by acting like you care for them, or learn not to care by acting that like you don't care...


This is a great way of thinking about a marriage after the warm fuzzies (butterflies in your stomach) feelings waiver off and you are finally comfortable with your spouse. I have often heard in many homilies, the terming of marital love as, "Love is a decision, a commitment." This entails a lot of responsibility in the connection. It is definitely a freeing and refreshing way to look at it.

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