Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The "you can't choose who you love" lie.

The “you can’t choose who you love” lie.

Recently in an article on, a young man explained the relationship he was in by saying “You can’t choose who you love.” That’s not true. It’s pretty. It makes for good fodder in romance novels, but the reality is it really doesn’t make sense. Here are three simple reasons why:

1. Love is a horrible God.

If you buy into the idea that you can’t choose who you love, then you are ultimately saying that love controls you. It’s a power bigger than you, a force that guides your actions and your attitude. You turn love into a God and yourself into a slave. And what a horrible god it is. Always fleeting, always changing it’s mind. Never making it’s intentions clear. Always drunk on emotion. Raging like a storm one day and laying calm and cool the next.

2. Love fades.

If you’ve ever had children or been in a long-term relationship, you know that the mushy, romantic, high feeling of love fades away under the harsh glare of reality. Love, by itself, is not sufficient to sustain a relationship. There are many days that my wife does not wake up thinking, “Once again, I find myself intoxicated with love for Jon. I will shower him with my love.” On the contrary, she must choose to love, even in my foolishness and ugliness and mistakes. She has to be deliberate. Same with my two young daughters. When they’re trying to recreate some Ultimate Fighting Championship moment at the mall, it is not some deep pool of bubbling love I tap into to keep from transforming like David Banner into Angry Dad. It’s my decision that I am going to love them because they are mine. I am their father and I choose to love them.

3. Love is not an excuse.

In 1992, as justification for having a relationship with his adopted daughter, Woody Allen said, “The heart wants what the heart wants.” In one stroke, he made love his God and threw it under the bus as an excuse for his actions. But love isn’t an excuse. True love is just the opposite. It makes you responsible for someone else’s heart. It makes you intentional in the way you treat someone else. And it doesn’t offer you an excuse to explain why you are the way you are. It offers you the freedom to be who you are without fear of losing that person when they look behind the curtain of your life. You no longer need excuses. Love covers your flaws, it doesn’t try to justify them away.


Anonymous said...

I agree with what you think about love, but I disagre with how you think this disproves homosexuality. Yes, you do in a sense choose to love someone. Or at least, to continue loving someone, after the intial love/lust is gone. But you do not CHOOSE who you want. Or what your looking for. Or what your "type" is. Its what naturally compliments you, and sometimes, for some people, that complimenting personality is typically found in a member of the same sex.

Prodigal Jon said...

I really appreciate you taking the time to sort through the site and read some of the older posts. Honestly, very cool. But I have to confess I'm not sure why you took the homosexuality angle. I didn't mention that in the post. The post wasn't about homosexuality or people that are homosexual. If anything it was about love. Gay, straight, true, false love. The CNN story was about homosexuality but my post wasn't. And although I understand where you are coming from I still don't think it's good to be a slave to what your type is. I still believe you get to choose who you want. I don't want my wife every day. There are times when she doesn't naturally feel like she complements me. But my desire for her is not subject to a mood or a type or a feeling. It's a decision.

Again though, thanks for reading and caring enough about your point to share it. We might be on different sides of this issue but I appreciate your willingness to expose your own ideas.

Anonymous said...


I do not believe we choose who we love. However, I do believe responding to someone in a loving manner is a choice. I have been married to one man for 30 years, but in love with another for more than 35 years. Right now, today, I still love him. I have tried to no avail to love my husband instead of this man. It hasn't worked. Finally, after 30 years fo marriage, I am in the process of divorcing my husband. I do not believe it is fair to continue on, knowing that there is nothing in me for him as it relates to being his wife. I believe there is someone out there who can really love him, but I am not that one. I may never be with the object of my affection; however, I would rather be alone than continue in this loveless relationship. I believe the most loving thing I can do for my husband is release him, and pray that he will find true love. This is kind of what I mean by being 'loving toward' someone.

david said...

I want to believe that you can choose who you love, but I don't know. How can you knowingly be with someone for whom you don't have "that feeling"?

I've been with my girlfriend for 2 years. I know she loves me. The problem is, I don't love her that way. I want to, but I don't. How can I make a promise to God to love her if I don't?

Does it not eat at you that you don't feel "that way" about your wife? You never got the "butterfly feelings" right?

Anonymous said...

Prodigal Jon, based on your ideas about love, I think you're a complete a**h***! How stupid to say that you can "choose" to love someone. I think you're confusing "choose" with "pretend!"

Theo said...

Love you can't choose, it's who you like.

Anonymous said...

Old post, got here by Google. But to point out the obvious: these are all reasons you would like to be able to choose who you love, not arguments that you are, in fact, able to choose who you love.

Anonymous said...

I dont think you married your soul mate. I think you settled. I don't think you know what true love is. I agree with some things you have said about woody allen and how true love teaches you to be responsible for someone elses heart but i still your love is a lie. but dont worry, you are not alone. there are many people out there longing, wondering.. if that is really the life they were cut out for and if love was meant to feel so alone and empty.

Anonymous said...

I want my husband. Every day since I was 15 (now 33). I don't believe you can choose who you fall in love with. You can choose who you decide to be with. Decide whether to honor those feelings. My husband and I may disagree but I always love him and want him as my husband. I did fall in love with someone else at the sametime I was falling in love with my husband and I still love him. I really don't want to love him. But I choose to act on the love I have for my husband even after 3 kids and 15 years of marriage.

Bob Stein said...

Jon, thanks for the fresh, courageous, contrarian viewpoint. I hope you feel more encouraged than discouraged by all it has stirred up.

I relied on your insight into excuse and abuse for my latest post in where I express my take on the lies and truths in that saying.

Write on, man.

MarteZ said...

I agree with you Jon. Because before i began my first and only long term relationship so far, i had several girls i liked but i chose one and only one of course. After we started our dating, kissing, the usual, i still didn't feel any love for her but i chose to love her and in a matter of days, weeks, even months i don't really know, i just couldn't stand being apart from her, it was amazing. I wanted her and only her in this world, that's why i proposed to her and she accepted. I felt like the luckiest guy, to me she was the most beautiful person in the world but somehow after 5 years of being a couple and 1 year engaged planning our wedding, she somehow found love on a co-worker, a married also. At least she told me, but i couldn't resist losing her and tried to make her fall in love with me again with no success though, kinda sad. I asked myself can that be "love", something so destructive, hurting me, my family, her family and even her new love's family. And the answer is "NO". Love isn't something that causes pain to others, people that confuse attraction to love and don't appreciate what they have cause pain to others. In the end, i can't choose who i am attracted to, but i can choose what to do about it and of course i can choose who to love without listening to people that say it can't be controlled, well that's you and i am me. And i have the FREEDOM of choice! Thank you to whoever reads this.

Anonymous said...

Your assessment may work for you, but it's not universally true; on many points. #1: I have loved our or five women in my adult life...when it really counted. My feelings for them were certainly based on desirable and good chraictristics-but also on deep psychological elements of their personality. In some cases they coexisted with frankly bad qualities for a partner. A paradox, but "sense" might dictate I "choose" how to feel, and not love them. Regardless, I loved them for the good things, and accepted the bad things. I paid the price. In hindsight, tempered by decades of experience, I was NOT, as the peddlers of psycho-babble, in love with them because of the drama their problems and inadequacies created. I loved them for valid, highly selective traits. Would that I could choose, I would have moved on. But emotions are not thought, nor reason. One may try, perhaps succeed in ruling (or far more likely) blunting and imposing a totally artificial rein on emotions, but love is a deep, abiding attraction. It's not subject to total, rational understanding, or justification. It is a paradox, in some cases.
In some cases, there's no conflict; one loves a great partner which they also desire highly, and are abidingly drawn to. I have had that. One can also love and be very deeply attracted to, admiring of, and loyal to, someone who makes a lousy partner...and still love them for valid reasons. The feeling can last many years, and not fade, despite trials and great pain. One can also wish very much to love a person who would make a great partner...but the full package of what constitutes attraction, the will and the interest to be totally committed, the ability to be totally satisfied by that person can be hopelessly absent, defying reason. It's because it's not a matter of reason. One's "heart", or to put it more coldly, that desire to mate with, bond with, and abide by a mate, operate on some very deep factors for some people. It's not the stuff that sells books by doctor Phil, et al, but those people are charlatans and full of crap selling junk science and fortune -cookie solutions to people desperate to control what they instead have to gradually understand and roll with.

Anonymous said...

It's ridiculous to read a very young person's (17-maybe220 year-old's post on what love is about. Sure, their perspective is all they know but give them ten or twenty years, and then they're a bit more qualified . People talking about their first love..please.
You might be amazed what you come to value, and it really rarely happens before the age of 30. You're just leaving adolescence then. Love can get far more intense, at the same time you realize what's more important to you...the stakes get higher, the selection of partners becomes a serious process, even if you were ALWAYS selective. Spare the laughter and don't pontificate about your first relationship. You have a LOT to learn.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I see some sense in not being your emotions' slave, but on the other hand, if you are in total control over who you love, why not love someone whom no-one else would normally want? Life isn't fair to many people, so why not choose to love a very ugly, very deformed, severely disfigured or in some other way impaired person? Would you? What is it better to be: a slave to your emotions (and instincts) or a selfish bastard who could but won't love a reject?

Anonymous said...

Jon has never been in love

Mr Wipopo said...

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[Sign off]