Love is a Choice
Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. Genesis 24:67
My wife’s father and my father were both pastors, working for the same organization and so, our parents knew each other long before my wife and I met. We occasionally joke that ours was an arranged marriage but it wasn’t. We met, fell in love, and got married like everyone else. It was young love, and I certainly rode an emotional high like most young couples do. If you’d have told me back then that I’d one day choose a drug addiction over my marriage, I’d have thought you were insane. I love my wife. I’d never do that to her. You know our history though. What changed? How did I get to the point where I allowed drugs to hijack my love for my wife?
As I said, like most young couples, I rode an emotional high, misunderstanding love – also like most young couples. I thought that love was simply that feeling, but that feeling was only a dopamine surge. It motivated my behavior for a while, but the high can’t last forever. As the high faded, so did my motivation to live for her needs. Gradually, I simply drifted back to my old behaviors of following my own appetite. When first married, I thought that my intense feelings would dictate that I would never do anything to hurt my wife. I was terribly and tragically mistaken.
Our understanding of romantic love sets us up for this kind of failure. I’m not suggesting that we return to arranged marriages, but I do think the love story of Rebekah and Isaac provides some insight into our problem. In today’s passage, we’re told that the first time Isaac and Rebekah saw each other was after their marriage had already been arranged. They got married and then they fell in love. Again, I’m not suggesting that we should do it this way, but the order of events indicates that love was a choice they both made because they got married.
I don’t mean to reduce love to an intellectual exercise. Love is of course, an emotion. It is also however, a choice. In recovery, I’ve had to learn that my wife’s emotional needs (her love language) are completely different than mine. If I want to communicate love to my wife, one of the best ways is to clean the bathroom – weird, I know. As bizarre as that is to me, if I want to love my wife, it means that I must show her love in a way that she receives it. Loving my wife means making the conscious choice to not simply do whatever I want, but to purposefully meet her emotional needs. In doing so, she chooses to meet my emotional needs. Choosing to meet each other’s emotional needs isn’t natural and it isn’t motivated by infatuation. It’s a choice. In choosing to do so, I can say with confidence that we’ve experienced a far more authentic love than we ever had way back our infatuation phase.