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Making a conscious decision to love


Acting with love: The columnist and her husband Yuri exhanging vows at their wedding three years ago while Theravada Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm looks on.

Acting with love: The columnist and her husband Yuri exhanging vows at their wedding three years ago while Theravada Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm looks on.

At the end of the day, what matters most is how one behaves and reacts in a relationship

LOVE is one of the best things in the world to give and certainly, to receive.

It is hard to not have expectations of love. We see the love between our parents (or lack thereof) from an early age and that defines a big aspect of love for us.

Then there are songs written about love, lyrics that describe every emotion available when it comes to being or not being in love.

Movies depict love in all its splendour, magic and wonder, along with its anguish, pain and grief.

With all this information filed away, it is not surprising that we grow up subconsciously conditioned to associate love with certain things and expect people in love to behave in a certain way.

Falling in love is undeniably one of the best feelings in the world, making the experience one of the most important aspects of love although it may very well be a tiny part of the big picture.

We want the excitement, adventure and desire of love but we also crave the stability, safety and comfort of love.

They lie at the opposite ends of the spectrum and some might say one cannot exist in the presence of another. For example, the thrill of an adventure comes from the perceived lack of safety.

So there lies the eternal question that many of us debate: Do we have to give one up in order to have the other? Is there no middle ground?

Everyone says communication in a relationship is important but they sometimes forget to mention, “Oh, by the way, I’m talking about the importance of communication when you are angry, when you don’t feel like talking or when there is a problem.”

When problems arise in our work, we automatically grit our teeth, put in as many hours or as much work needed to try to find a solution. We don’t give up or we find alternatives to plug the holes.

So, technically, when there is a problem in a relationship, there is no reason why we cannot be as determined to solve it as we do work problems. Instead, we get increasingly frustrated and lament if we “really need this” in our lives.

When does work become something we really need and relationships something we can so easily give up on?

Perhaps expectation plays a big part in this. When we enter the workforce, we do it with the mindset that it will be fraught with challenges and that success can be obtained if we do not give up.

The paradox of falling in love means that we enter a relationship with feelings of hope and happiness, which, while wonderful, also unfortunately brings about this subconscious expectation that it is how love ‘should be’.

Therefore, our ability to handle work and relationship problems can be the same but the way we end up managing both can be quite different.

I have always half-kidded with my husband Yuri, that I needed to have experienced past relationships in order for him to have a better version of me.

I needed to go through the ups and downs of a relationship, to evaluate and re-evaluate my definition of love in order to be less selfish and more giving.

We had the honour of having Ajahn Brahm, a Theravada Buddhist monk conduct our marriage ceremony and he asked if we knew the difference between before marriage and after marriage.

“Before marriage, you are only involved. After marriage, you are committed,” he said.

Yet, one of Ajahn Brahm’s best advice was not about devotion or loyalty. He emphasised how we should not act like a married couple just because we were married.

“Act like single people just enjoying each other’s company, going out and having a great time together,” he told us.

And that, as I have discovered, is a big part of the magic of love — when you can simply enjoy being together.

Three years into our marriage, I slowly realised that it does not really matter what love is or isn’t. What matters is how I behave and react in a relationship filled with love.

Yuri recently wrote down his thoughts on love and I’d like to share it with you.

What is love?

We can say we love someone for their smile, their intelligence or even their dress sense. What we love about those things are how they make us feel, and to me, that’s not love — that’s the “feeling” of love which changes, dulls over time and eventually dissipates, to return again when the wind blows.

What if that aspect of what you love were permanently gone? What if a “loved” one suffered a stroke and become immobile and unable to smile, lose their intellect or even the ability to dress themselves?

Would you stop loving them?

What if they did something to make you mad?

To me, love is a decision. A conscious choice to love is the decision to be kind, compassionate, affectionate and understanding towards someone.

The decision to be joyful in bringing someone happiness. And the more you love them, the more you would be those things for them. So even if the things they were that made you feel love for them weren’t there, it’s your choice to love them that counts.

You can’t always feel the love, but you can always make the choice to act with love — Yuri Wong

Reading that was the perfect anniversary gift. Here’s to always choosing love.

Xandria Ooi is a Malaysian TV & radio personality. She’d love to hear your thoughts and stories on love. Email her on star.sights.sounds@gmail.com or tweet her at www.twitter.com/xandriaooi.

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