Love is not feelings

Eugene Y. Adiong

With the Philippines going crazy over the blossoming love story on noon time TV, let me depart from this spaces usual menu of hard hitting commentary. It may yet be too early to talk about feelings and emotions as February is still five months away, but as they say it love is “trending” nowadays.

If you are young, I would not be surprised if you are shocked with that statement. Every time I say that in various speaking engagements with young people, I get an almost unanimous violent reaction. Until I explain it.

It is understandable for a young person, especially an adolescent, to confuse love with feelings. Adolescence is a special and complex stage in one’s physical and physiological development. One starts to get physiologically attracted with another of the opposite sex. And this brings about feelings of varying degrees.

These are the feelings that are confused with love. But once again, love is not feelings. Love does not reside solely in one’s feelings. Feelings may manifest love, but they are not it.

Where does love reside then? Love is in the will, that inner faculty we have to choose the good.

It is the ability to love, to commit oneself to the good of a relationship, for an example, that distinguishes us from animals. It is the ability to use our reason and free will that cuts us above the level of a beast. Because animals have feelings too.

Hence, our love cannot just be based on feelings. Young people usually say, “feel ko eh”. This mentality leads to a lot of trouble. What if you don’t “feel like it” anymore? Hence, you see a lot of relationships falling apart for very mean reasons.

One day, a group of students in my class, while waiting for their laboratory work to progress, were discussing why some women are called ‘female dogs’ (for the sake of refinement, let me just use this). Very easy. A female dog gets into an affair with a male dog on the street anytime she “feels like it”.

A woman may perhaps experience similar feelings in meeting a man. But if she wants to rise above the level of a female dog, she will use her reason and free will to direct her feelings. She would, for an example, ask herself, “Is he my husband?” The same thing holds true for a man who knows that he is more than a beast.

To those who will wed, remember that love also entails a commitment. Love being in the will rather than in the feelings is understood more clearly when it is committed.

Couples commit themselves to stay together for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in health or in sickness, till death parts their ways. If love is based on good, sugary feelings, it ends when the going gets tough.

Couples have to learn how to love not just the virtues of their spouses, but their defects as well. The husband will not be as physically handsome and “macho” as he was and the wife will not be as pretty and slim as she was.

Hence, a spouse who confuses love with feelings will abandon the relationship the moment it gets trying and difficult. Speak to any couple who have been tested by time and you will learn a lot of lessons on love and commitment.

This reminds me of a song I fondly call the “song of fidelity”, and the chorus goes:

“I’d rather have bad times with you, than good times with someone else… “I’d rather be beside you in a storm, than safe and warm by myself…“I’d rather have hard times together, than to have it easy apart…”

You may apply those lyrics to your relationship with your spouse, or if you are a priest or a nun to your divine vocation, and why not, even in the fulfillment of those acts of piety you decided to do as concrete expressions of your love for God.

When you could sing those words by heart and mean them, then you know what love is and what love means. I sing them myself when I feel the weight of my commitments, and I send an SMS message to a friend who starts to waver in his own commitments with a simple “I’d rather”. Then he understands.

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