Marriage 101: Love Won’t Last If It’s Just Feeling

I am proud to say that I am a happily married man. My wife and I just celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary. I’ve discovered that with each passing anniversary, people are more surprised that we are still together. And when they ask our secret, they are equally surprised by the answer. They are surprised to learn that love doesn’t last if it’s just a feeling.

Emotions are an essential part of our marriage. But our marriage is not built on them. It revolves around them. Our marriage is built on a foundation of love. It is maintained and made stronger by love. Yet the kind of love we put into our relationship has nothing to do with feelings. It is a matter of choice followed by action.

How Do You Feel About Your Kids?

My wife and I have talked to a lot of people about marriage. We have talked to so many struggling with this idea of love. If that sounds like you, ask yourself this question: how do you feel about your kids? Maybe you don’t have kids. If you have nieces or nephews, how do you feel about them?

Parents naturally love their children. It is built into them. Yet at the same time, they don’t always like their kids. There are plenty of days when the kids drive mom and dad absolutely batty. And yet those same parents wouldn’t think twice about laying down their lives for their kids. Why? Because of love.

Parents make the choice to love their children daily. They follow-up that choice by doing things like feeding the kids, clothing them, keeping them safe, etc. Moreover, they do such things even when they are experiencing some pretty negative emotions.

We know that loving our kids extends way beyond emotions. So why do we treat marriage any differently? Why do we associate marriage love with emotions despite what we know about loving our kids? It is one of those mysteries that escapes logical explanation.

How Far Are You Willing to Go?

The real measure of how much I love my wife is the extent to which I am willing to go to ensure her best interests. If I’m first in my life and she is second, I love myself more than her. If I place my job or the kids in front of her, she falls further on down the list.

What does your list look like? How far are you willing to go to ensure the well-being of your spouse? That’s the real measure of your love. It has nothing to do with how you feel. The problem with feelings is that they are fleeting. They change as quickly and as often as the weather. If you are trusting your feelings to tell you how much you love your spouse, you’re asking for trouble.

Are You Willing to Try Counseling?

Perhaps you are in a troubled relationship right now. You love your spouse enough to try anything to save the marriage. That’s great. Are you willing to try counseling?

Relationships & More is a Rye, New York clinic that offers marriage counseling, couple’s therapy, adolescent counseling, and more. There are similar clinics all around the country. If you would prefer faith-based counseling, nearly every local house of worship offers counseling of some sort.

The one thing to remember is that true love is not an emotion. It is not a feeling. True love is the result of combining a free will choice with regular action. You choose to love someone and then you go do it. Unlike emotions, that kind of love doesn’t die.