You can’t help who you fall in love with

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’.”

via BBC NEWS | England | Beds/Bucks/Herts | Inmate-sex prison officer jailed.

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.


17 thoughts on “You can’t help who you fall in love with”

  1. I didn’t say it couldn’t be romantic. I choose to buy my wife flowers (although, she would say, not often enough!). Perhaps I was too ‘woolly’ about the issue…

    And yes, I did say probe, Peter.

  2. Ok Peter. How about something more constructive…
    I said you can help who you fall in love with. Do you think you can help whom you are attracted to? Discuss

  3. I don’t think you can help who you’re attracted to. I do think you can help what you do with that attraction. You can certainly help who you “fall in love with”. Love is a verb, not a noun and your post is spot on!

  4. I read this and I still think you can’t help who you fall inlove with … I’ve fallen for a hindu guy and in indian society aswell as relegion wise its forbidden yet I can’t help the way I feel!. You meet someone and you just know its right …

    1. Lots people find them selves in that situation without a way out. Most of us are unwilling to talk about in the setting where we can be hurt by it. I feel for you and I know you have an imposible choice to make. Your family will feel betrayed if you act. You will feel that you betrayed youself, SORRY you know and feel all that. just looked at the date of your post hope it all turned out ok

    2. Do you really know that person well enough to say you love them. A lot of time it is just infatuation, and once you really know them you are no longer interested. I don’t think you can say you love someone unless you have been with that person and know all of the flaws that person has.

  5. Hi Muslim girl, thanks for you comment.

    There are a whole range of things that come from attraction on an emotional, spiritual, physical level, but these things themselves are not love. They are associated with love – sure, but they are not love themselves. Choosing to act on them can begin the process of loving. Love is a verb, not an uncontrollable force. To love someone is to choose to put them first.

    The Bible has an excellent description of what love is in 1 Corinthians 13 – love is patient, kind, not self seeking (read the whole passage here These are all acts of the will, not acts of feeling, and they point towards the character of God, who supremely demonstrated this love in Jesus. As we choose to love, and are given the power to do so by God, we identify with God’s character.

  6. I am a student currently studying broadcasting Journalism in london. I am in the middle of writting a feature piece on love, following the recent news item of the megan stammers case. I am truley inspired by what you have to say on such matters and i was wondering if you may send me your personal email address where i may be able to ask you some question and involve your opinions in my feature, i’d love to discuss this further. Many thanks Aurelia Harris

  7. I am not sure about that. To me, love is associated with happiness. sometimes putting someone’s interests first doesn’t mean that you are happy. Love is about finding a meaning in the the other person and I believe that nobody is the same and when you find what you looking for you fall in love without hesitation.You can’t help who you fall in love with.

    1. Thanks for your comment Nuha. I’m still amazed that this post keeps getting reads four years after writing it!

      I would hope that you are right in some sense – that love is associated with happiness and that we can find fulfilment in the other person. However I would also hope that it is more than that. If love is reduced to ‘making me happy’ then it can end up very self-centred, rather than other-centred. For example, what happens if you are not ‘feeling happy’ or ‘finding meaning’ in the relationship any more? One answer is to simple discard the relationship and to move on. However, when we acknowledge that we choose to love, we are more likely to work at the relationship and rediscover the things we found at the beginning. It is only through commitment that we get true freedom in love – if both people in the relationship are putting the others interests first within a context of mutual commitment, then there is plenty of space for love to flourish. If both are thinking primarily of their own happiness, the emphasis becomes on ‘what am I getting’ rather than ‘what am I giving’. Love required commitment to be fully realised, and commitment is an act of the will as well as the heart.

  8. I think you are 100% accurate. Even if you have feelings of love, you don’t have to act on them. I get tired of people acting like they have no choice. I keep hearing all these stories about teachers talking about they “love” their teenage students and it makes me sick. Everyone is afraid of any sort of sacrifice or going through anything unpleasant. Even if you do “love” the person, it doesn’t justify your actions. Just go through the pain of missing out on that person. You will survive and find someone else to love. People act like there is only this one person who could possibly make you happy. There is no such thing as love of life. If miss out on one person you will love someone else. There are many people who you could love and make you happy. You can’t control your feelings, but you can always control your actions. And love is an action.

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