Mark and I went to a play at South Coast Rep this weekend called Trudy and Max in Love. It was exactly what I love about a good play – a character and relationship study that makes you evaluate your own beliefs. This particular play explored the themes of love and attraction, as the characters grappled with whether or not love is a choice or a spiritual connection that is outside the realm of our control.  It was a fascinating play – if you are local, I definitely recommend it.

The play left more questions than answers, and had us talking for the rest of the evening. We saw it with friends and each of us took away something different. But one of the main questions explored was . . .  is love a choice? Do we choose the person we are with, or is it something the universe chooses for us? Do we have agency in who end up with, or are we merely acting out the universe’s plan? Does God put us with a soulmate? Does the world lead us to The One? Or do we just use a combination of our head and our heart and make a conscious choice?
I tend to be on the more pragmatic side of this question, and a lot of that comes from working as a marriage therapist for over a decade. One of the most common laments I heard from divorcing couples was “we fell out of love” or “I don’t know if I ever loved them.”  I think that many couples are genuinely shocked to learn that, several years in, love requires some sacrifice, some compromise of self, and yes . . . some choice.

I also think that there are some seasons where that love is going to me more above choosing loving behavior and less about loving feelings.  It’s trite but it’s true: love is a verb.  It’s a feeling, too, yes . . . but feelings are temperamental little buggers, and shouldn’t be followed at every whim.  Some seasons are not as conducive to loving feelings, and it’s in those moments that we have to “fake it till we make it” and work at loving behaviors with confidence that the loving feelings will follow. 

Because I think that long-term love is a combination of feeling and behavior, it’s hard for me to buy the idea that the universe aligns us with someone. As unromantic as it sounds, I don’t think that Mark is my soulmate. I think he is my chosen life partner, and I value that relationship as one of the most important things in my life. But I don’t think he is the only person I could have built a happy life with. In fact, I’m friendly with a few exes and I think that I could have married some of them and had a happy relationship, too. I am so, so glad that I married Mark, but I think I did so because I evaluated my values for a partner and consciously decided that he was the best fit. I still think that he is. But I don’t think the universe, or even God, set that in motion from the beginning of time. I think we have free will to love who we choose.

What do you think? Do you believe in the idea of a soulmate? Do you think there is a force bigger than ourselves that dictates who we fall in love with? Do you think we choose who we love? Or is it a combination of both?