Falling in love, being in love, loving for eternity -- these are individual states of being, but they're also impossible to separate from each other. Each phase is necessary for true love to happen and to continue. If you take any of the variables out of the equation, what you're left with isn't love.
This is the problem. How do some relationships fail from the start, and others take years to fall apart? Why do some relationships never fail?
I'd point to people not understanding the importance of each "stage" of love. I say "stage" because these things tend to progress in order. You have to fall in love to be in love, and you have to be in love to commit yourself wholly to someone -- to love for eternity.
There are no shortcuts. This is the natural order of things, and it is the way it will always be.
Most people believe love must be found. I disagree. Someone worth loving must be found. But love itself isn't something you stumble on. It's not something that even exists when you and the love of your life meet. It comes later.
It takes time to develop, to nurture and maintain. Love doesn't come easily. And the belief that love should be constant and effortless is the reason why people get their hearts broken so often. It's why relationships and marriages fail. It's why some of us lose hope in ever finding true love. It's why some of us give up on it altogether.
In the end, love comes down to a decision. You have to consciously decide that you love your partner, and you need to decide this every day for the rest of your shared life.
Love isn't something you find; it's a choice you make. And I can prove that.
1. Falling in love
Meeting the right person is a beautiful thing. It's not easy to find someone you feel comfortable around. It's exciting not to be alone anymore, to no longer have to go through life without holding someone's hand. It's exciting to believe you've met someone you can fall for.
Excitement and mystery make falling in love possible. And these emotions bring us to the first "stage," or as I call it -- falling in love.
But before you know you've fallen in love, you have to first think you're falling in love. And the difference between thinking you're falling in love and actually falling in love comes down to your choices.
2. Being in love
Being in love is life's greatest teacher. You're "in love" once the excitement of falling in love (the first stage) begins to wane. The storm begins to calm.
Of course, you still think about your partner all the time. You care for him or her and want to spend time together. But the intensity you felt in the beginning of the relationship is no longer as strong.
This psychological and hormonal change is what most often scares people away. This is when most people begin to question their love. They wonder if they're with the right person. They wonder if what they have is "true love" -- or if their feelings were not simply a result of a chemical high. They wonder if they still love their partner.
They used to feel so excited, but now they're comfortable. And even though people generally aim to be comfortable in life, being comfortable in love is scary.
Many people want stability in every area of their lives except for love. They want love to sweep them off their feet, day after day. But love doesn't work like that. Sometimes love is quiet.
Only people who reach the uncertainty and self-doubt inherent in "being in love" (the second stage) get to the last one, which is simply "loving." This is the kind of love that lasts, the one that weathers storms and bumps and bruises.
The people in the last stage have realized love is a choice. They know love wanes only when we let it. It disappears when we stop being conscious of our choices in love.
It's a shame that we're taught to believe that love should make things easier -- that meeting the right person is enough to make us happy.
Because if we were taught that love takes work -- that it takes conscious effort and devotion -- hearts wouldn't break nearly as often as they do. The world is in shambles because people don't understand what it means to love.
And unless you decide to love -- unless you choose to love -- you'll never be happy.