BBC News are carrying an article about a former prison officer, Kelly-Anne McDade, who has just been sentenced to jail time for two things. She had a sexual relationship with a male inmate, resulting in her getting pregnant, and she also smuggled in mobile phones for use by inmates.
I’m not going to probe deeply into the case, but what struck me was the excuse/defense that her solicitor was trying to put forward.
Richard Germain, defending McDade, told the court: “There is no doubt it was an inappropriate relationship, but Ms McDade would say ‘You can’t help who you fall in love with’.”
This is a myth. You can help who you fall in love with. Perhaps you can’t help who you find attractive, but love is a completely different thing. Love is not an uncontrollable emotion. Once the impulses of attraction come along, we choose whether to act on them. We choose whether to show love to someone else. There certainly are feelings associated with love, but these feelings themselves are not love. They are merely associated with it. Over all, love is a choice.
If we are attracted to somebody, it doesn’t mean we have to love them. For example, if a married man is attracted to another woman (this itself is not a crime) but he must choose what to do with that attraction. Hopefully he will put in boundaries to remove or reduce the temptation, for the benefit of his marriage. He may avoid that woman and make sure he is never alone with her. Or if he has to meet her and part of his job or something, he could always meet in a public place. He could also confide and be accountable to someone else. There are many ways to reduce the temptation that would inevitably destroy his marriage, and avoid the attraction turning into something else. Each little step is a choice.
We can help who we fall in love with and it is the result of hundreds of little choices.
Update 12/01/12: There is now a more detailed post on the subject here.