When ‘falling in love’ and ‘loving’ diverge

One of my pastimes is watching movies. I simply love recycling those old DVDs which lie there in the cupboard, just waiting to be unearthed. A couple of weeks ago, I came across Moulin Rouge, a musical which is an old-time favourite of mine. At the most crucial point of the movie, Christian, one of the protagonists, played superbly by Ewan McGregor, declares that “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return”. To which I reply, “Amen!” But, this set me thinking about how, in our human yearning for love, we often mix up “falling in love” with “loving”.

Being in love is a feeling – a wonderful feeling at that, but, while this reeks of romance, there is nothing very realistic about it. That being said, who can renounce that wonderful airy-fairy warm feeling which is conjured up at the start of a relationship, that feeling of not being able to go five minutes without wanting to be next to the other person? I’m sure that all those hopeless romantics out there will know what I’m talking about! Yet, being “in love” is a feeling without the benefit of experience.

On the other hand, to love and be loved in return, is all about the experience between you and the beloved. This is rather tricky, because falling in love and loving are very similar at the beginning. But when that initial euphoria fizzles out, what remains is whether we really love the other person or not. If we do, then each day becomes euphoric. This is not to say that it doesn’t require an effort to reach this stage in the relationship. I think that first of all, it’s a question of commitment. It’s a choice. Falling in love is something that happens without intention or consent – for example, it could be that two people are swept away by one another’s looks or by some other appealing physical attributes. Loving someone is a choice, being in love isn’t. Only you can decide to see the beloved’s best qualities, appreciate him or her for who they are, and commit to being a supportive partner to them. So, while being in love is fleeting, loving someone should imply ‘forever’. It means sticking together through the low days, the lulls in the relationship, enduring the differences and quarrels, and all the full-blown existential crises that life throws at us from time to time.

Indeed, loving someone is an uphill battle – but it can be a battle which results in a very sweet victory. Speak to any couple who have faced challenges in their relationship, and most of them will confess that although it’s sometimes hard to live with their better half, they simply cannot live without them. Even if the voice on the inside calls them to leave, they choose to stay, knowing that to leave would lead only to pain and regret. It’s almost as if there’s something about their love which overcomes all else, transcending time and space. Why, on occasion, it even overcomes distance, in the sense that although they accept the inevitable absences of the person they love, they choose their presence. Above all, their love is something which allows them to put the other’s happiness above their own.

This article was first published by Times of Malta.

Christine Galea studied at the University of Malta, where she obtained a Master of Arts in Family Ministry in 2012. She is the Secretary-General of the Cana Movement and teaches Theology of Marriage and the Family at the Institute of Pastoral Formation. Christine is also a Board member of Genesis2 – Institute for Marriage and the Family, which promotes reflection about the person, marriage and family from several perspectives, through training, witness and peer support.

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