We have all heard the saying, “the heart wants what the heart wants” implying that we have no choice about falling in love. It’s just this uncontrollable, sweeping emotion that takes hold and overwhelms us.

But is that really true, or do we have a choice when it comes to falling in love?

That depends a bit upon your of definition choice. We make connections with people all the time — people who we find interesting, attractive, and with whom we have a lot in common. Yet we don’t fall in love with all of them. But, occasionally there is a person that we are more drawn to than anyone else. So what’s the difference between that person and all the others?

The answer to that is most likely you.

There are undoubtedly specific attributes that person possesses that makes him or her more appealing to you than others are. It is also true, however, that when falling in love you are in a unique position within your own life to allow this to happen. The combination of timing, compatibility, attraction, and your choice to be open to love makes this all possible. Being in that position is a choice you make, even if it is an unconscious one.

To get to know someone and allow them to get to know you well enough to establish a “love” connection you have to be in the right frame of mind. You have to be open and vulnerable enough for those feelings to initiate and grow. If you aren’t, then the passing attraction you feel is likely to fade or be forgotten.

Consider newly married couples. They are at the start of what they hope will be a life-long commitment. As human beings they are able to see others around them and recognize attraction, common interests, and enjoyment of people other than their spouse. Because of their frame of mind, however, they are not in mentally or emotionally open to establishing a “falling in love” kind of connection with others. They made a choice to be with the person they married and find happiness and satisfaction with him or her. No matter how intriguing another person is, they are not likely to fall in love with them.

There is also a difference between falling in love and staying in love. Falling is the easy part. Assuming you have allowed yourself to be open to the idea, the attraction to and enjoyment of someone with whom you connect doesn’t take much effort. Eventually, however, that new relationship high wears off and now you have to make the choice to keep the love alive.

People in successful, long-term relationships recognize that choice and make the effort to reinforce their connection to each other and the feelings of love and appreciation that are needed to keep their relationship strong. When that choice is not actively made, and it feels like the love is gone, then they become vulnerable to developing feelings for someone else. Remember, choosing not to make a choice is a choice in and of itself. At some point in a relationship you have to choose to do the work to make things work.

So is falling in love a choice? Yes. And staying in love is as well.

Although portions of the love experience feel mysterious and out of our control, on some level you make a choice at each stage. Whether you have chosen to be emotionally available for a connection to someone else, or you have chosen to maintain the love you created, in the end you have made a choice.