Love is Not a Feeling, It’s a Choice

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Contradictory Ideas of Love

Growing up, I heard many contradictory ideas of love. I think we’ve all heard them flying around from person to person, especially amongst little girls with the idea that romance can be found in everything. I heard that love is a battlefield and that love is the most beautiful thing in the world. I heard that someday my prince will come and that all men are only out to get one thing. I heard that when you fall in love you will just “know” and that you have to play the field.

With so many of these ideas about love knocking around inside my head, it was hard to know exactly what love was. I knew what love was like between friends and what love was like among family, but what exactly was romantic love? Was it painful or beautiful? Pure or broken? Obvious or hidden? I came to realize that really only I could decide that. What kind of love was I going to pursue? What kind of relationship was I going to get myself into?

I decided at twelve years old that I wanted to get married. I wanted to start a family. I wanted to love a man with a sincere love that was reciprocated. I decided that, in order to do that, I would only date a guy I could see myself marrying.

Swallow Love Story

Now, this is hard to really, truly see at twelve years old. To know if I was just obsessed with doodling Mrs. Whatever-His-Last-Name-Was inside hearts or if I could truly see him as my lifetime companion and the father of my children. I knew that this was impossible to tell at such a young age, so I made a promise to myself to wait, however long it took until I knew.

Of course, my crushes came and went. I shared my decision with my mom and asked her to help me stand by it. She did – even when that meant making me turn down a guy I really, really liked. I cried and cried and felt like she had ruined my life, but she really did have my best in mind – he didn’t even hold the same values that I did. That would have been a big mistake.

Then, at fifteen, I really did meet the one. I didn’t know at the time – it was by no means love at first sight. I thought that he was loud and obnoxious and extremely gawky. But he made me laugh and he was fun to be with. He had just turned sixteen and was a friend of a friend. He friended me on Facebook and messaged me to ask for my number under the guise of needing it for contact during at upcoming group meet-up. I realize now that I should’ve seen right through that because we were meeting at a movie theater with all of one entrance, but hey, I was fifteen.

After the meet-up, I didn’t hear from him for a while. Then, out of the blue, he started texting me. And he kept texting me. Every single day. We talked about the silliest and most stereotypical teenaged things: music, food, tv shows, parents, siblings, friends, school work. He started asking me a random question which he called an “RQ” every day, and, through this, we got to know each other. After a few months, I could tell you his third favorite color and his potato chip flavor preference. When he turned seventeen, he started coming to church with me and we would often get together to hang out in groups.

 

Swallow first picture

We quickly became best friends. We would send so many text messages a day that our moms actually got together to discuss limiting our texts. It was decided that we could only text from 3 pm until 10 pm each school day and 9 am until 10 pm each weekend. I remember some days sitting there with a message completely typed out, just staring at my phone clock that said 8:59 a.m. I wanted to tell him about every moment of every day, and I wished that he could be there for all of them.

Then one day, I realized that he was no longer loud and obnoxious and gawky to me. He was funny and cute and confident in himself. He was just the right amount of tall that I liked and he liked listening to the rainfall when we snuck in phone conversations under the blankets at two in the morning. He was the dream guy in all my Kansas country songs and the prince from all the 2000’s chick flicks I watched with my friends.

Two months before my 17th birthday, he asked me out. But he didn’t just ask me out – he went to my dad and asked him if he would allow us to date. My dad agreed and we set the date for a week later but changed our Facebook relationship status immediately.

I Knew that I Wanted To Marry Him

For our first date, we played mini golf and ate fast food and dreamed of our future. We decided that we would stay together as long as we wanted to be together – we wouldn’t break up unless we wanted it to be completely over. And we didn’t. We laughed and cried and fought and made up, but through it all, we stayed together.

The time that we dated flew by. We still texted each other regularly, went to all events together, and spent time together with our friends and family. We did all the midwestern dating things – corn mazes, country drives, star gazing, and farmer’s markets. The feeling of wanting to spend every moment with him never changed.

Along the way, I had friends who had many relationships or no relationships. The people that I worked with and spent time with didn’t understand us. They brought back to mind those conflicting ideas of love, telling me one moment that it was so sweet that I was still with my first boyfriend and the next that I couldn’t possibly know he was the one if he was the only one I had dated. But I always knew. I could close my eyes and so easily see him at the end of the aisle, then holding the keys to our first house, and then cuddling our babies. I knew that I wanted to marry him, and I was pretty sure that he wanted to marry me, too.

Two and half years after we started dating, he knelt down on the porch step of my parents’ house and asked me to marry him. I remember wishing I felt more emotional or that I could scream or cry, but I was just happy and speechless. Three months later, almost exactly four years after we had met at the theater, I met him at the end of the aisle.

Trust Even When You Can’t Believe

Brandon was the first guy I dated and the first guy I loved. He is also the one that I married. Now we’ve been married for seven and a half years. We have three kids and we live on the other side of the world. Throughout these years, we have had good times and bad times, easy stretches and long struggles. There have been a few times that we’ve wanted to throw in the towel, but we’ve always come back to that decision we made when we first started dating. We won’t break up unless we want it to be completely over. We will love, even when it’s hard, and we will trust, even when we can’t believe. And that’s because of what we have learned from our relationship over the years – love is not a feeling, it’s a choice.

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Laura Swallow

Laura Swallow

I’m a teacher from the USA currently living in Japan with my husband and three kids. I blog about mom life and living as an expat.

This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. 😭 I truly wish more people could read this: love isn’t a feeling, it is a choice. Thanks so much for sharing! Man, marriage would look totally different today if everyone believed this.

  2. What a wonderful story!!!! I am so glad you got your dream – that is amazing!

  3. I really feel you are so right when you say the love is not just a feeling , it is also a decision we make wilfully to love a person unconditionally like we do love our children.Lovely Post !

  4. I loved reading your love story! Love is so powerful and mysterious.

  5. I agree. Love is something that you have to decide upon. What we think are feelings are actually our brain figuring our what we should do.

  6. I mean it depends, I wouldn’t really say it’s a decision because love is something beautiful, marriage is a decision, dating is a decision, but love is much more than that, love is that feeling that you get before you go to bed after texting, that jolt of excitement when you go to your first date, then kiss, the silence when two people are together.

  7. Wow! What a beautiful love story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  8. Thank you for your kind words, Ashley! It’s made such a positive difference in our marriage. 🙂

  9. Thank you, Preeti! Yes, that’s a great comparison – we undoubtedly have to love unconditionally.

  10. Neil – totally! And when our brain figures it out that love feels different, so we have to choose to continue in that. Thank you for reading!

  11. Thank you for reading, Beth! And thank you for your kind words. 🙂

  12. I agree. Although it’s maybe a hard choice to walk away from, I do think you’re right.

  13. This is so cute, like a real life romance novel! Thanks for warming my heart with your story.

  14. What a beautiful story. I think there are different types of love out there. Romance love is nice but I think love for my students, coworkers, and family are important too. (I am a teacher) I am single but I cherish those types of love.

  15. So cute story. I can feel the love through this post. My blessings are always with you and you get so much love day by day 🙂

  16. Your story is beautiful. I love the fact that you guys chose to stick through the years and make it to say ‘I do’. I pray that your love story would continue and would inspire many people around the globe.

  17. I love the story. An example of a they-lived-happily-ever-after. Congrats to both and keep the love strong.

  18. Lovely story dear! Love can be learned and give 🙂
    Congrats for finding each other.

  19. This is great, what a fun read to have this morning. Very refreshing

  20. I love that the couple is strong. They took their vows seriously. Every couple should be together for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. That’s how every marriage should work

  21. This is one of the most impressive post about love, I have read in this year.

    Thanks for sharing buddy.

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