This was not then…nor is it now a normal cycle of events and in fact, when I tried to find statistics about remarriage to the same spouse, I could find none. That’s probably because it rarely happens and I can tell you unequivocally—without a doubt—that it would not have happened for Mike and I either without therapy. We attended lots of therapy sessions including individual, group, and community therapy—a monthly meeting that provided concrete coping skills for relationship problems.
The great thing about community therapy is that it is completely non-threatening. In our case, New Hope Family Life Center held a monthly meeting for folks like us….who were either going through a divorce or breakup…or thinking about a split…or were already there. The relationship was over… and one or both of the partners was an emotional mess. At each monthly meeting, Mary McRaith, the coordinator for New Hope, would share at least one idea about how to develop and maintain a healthy, life-giving relationship with another person.
“Love is a choice…not a feeling” was one of those ideas…and while I do address it at length in my book The Amazing Journey of a Relationship, I had no intention of writing a separate article about it here. This idea of love being a choice instead of a feeling was brand new to me in 1988, but a quick google of it today showed seventy-nine references to those exact words. Enough said…was my thought, but then…I found an interesting survey taken in 2003 and 2004 by researchers at the National Fatherhood Initiative. The researchers asked couples why they divorced and 73% of the participants stated that lack of commitment was the primary reason that they split up. And thus…that statistic led me to wonder if there was more to be learned from the idea that love is a choice…not a feeling.
On the surface, this idea is simple….once the romantic love fades, then couples make a choice to either love (or commit) to each other or they split up because the “feeling” is gone. Mike and I stayed married for seventeen years before we threw in the towel and opted for divorce. Does that mean that we chose commitment or love for all those years? Not at all! The statement “love is a choice, not a feeling” goes much deeper than simply choosing real love over a sweat-filled, heart-thumping feeling. For example, every time we had an emotional upheaval in our relationship—whether it was a simple disagreement, a verbal battle or a knock-down, drag-out screaming match, we settled it in one of two ways. If it was minor or our daughters were present, Mike would attempt to lighten the mood by saying something like “look at your mom, girls—isn’t she cute when she’s angry?” The girls would then begin laughing. Mike would join in and it wasn’t long before I was laughing with them. For the more serious issues, we simply walked away and played a silent game with each other. The person who “gave in” and talked first lost this game, thus the partner who remained silent the longest won the battle.
Those unhealthy coping skills that we developed and honed over seventeen years did nothing to strengthen our relationship and everything to cripple it. Each time we chose a feeling—either feeling good in laughter or anger in the silent treatment, we lost an opportunity to resolve an issue and thus strengthen our commitment to one another. Working through issues is not easy and it doesn’t feel good. Being committed to another person in a relationship also is not easy. Both become impossible without the right tools. And so I wonder… if the participants in the aforementioned survey had been given all the tools for a healthy relationship…..would they have used them to grow and strengthen their marriage instead of becoming a divorce statistic.
Love is a choice…not a feeling is one of the tools that Mike and I learned while attending therapy at New Hope Family Life Center. More about this topic and all the other tools that allowed us to reconcile and remarry each other can be found in my book, The Amazing Journey of a Relationship found exclusively at amazon.com/dp/b00awsmbdo. If this article has been helpful, please share it with others as my marketing department consists of only me…your humble author.