The feeling of love is the emotion that accompanies the experience of cathecting. Cathecting, it will be remembered, is the process by which an object becomes important to us. Once cathected, the object, commonly referred to as a 'love object,' is invested with our energy as if it were a part of ourselves, and this relationship between us and the invested object is called a cathexis. Since we may have many such relationships going on at the same tme, we speak of our cathexes. The process of withdrawing our energy from a love object so that it loses its sense of importance for us is decathecting.
The misconception that love is a feeling exists because we confuse cathecting with loving. This confusion is understandable since they are similar processes, but there are also striking differences.
First of all, as has been pointed out, we may cathect any object, animate or inanimate, with or without a spirit. Thus a person may cathect the stock market or a piece of jewellery and may feel love for these things.
Second, the fact that we have cathected another human being does not mean that we care a whit for that person's spiritual development. The dependent person, in fact, usually fears the spiritual development of a cathected spouse. The mother who insisted upon driving her adolescent so to and from school clearly cathected the boy; he was important to her - but his spiritual growth was not.
Third, the intensity of our cathexes frequently has nothing to do with wisdom or commitment. Two strangers may meet in a bar and cathect each other in such a way that nothing - not previously scheduled appointments, promises made, or family stabiliy - is more important for the moment than their sexual consummation.
Finally, our cathexes may be fleeting and momentary. Immediately following their sexual consummation the just-mentioned couple may find each other unattractive and undesirable. We may decathect something almost as soon as we have cathected it.
Genuine love, on the other hand, implies commitment and the exercise of wisdom. When we are concerned for someone's spiritual growth, we know that a lack of commitment is likely to be harmful and that commitment to that person is probably necessary for us to manifest our concern effectively. It is for this reason that commitment is the cornerstone of the psychotherapeutic relationship. It is almost impossible for a patient to experience significant personality growth without a 'therapeutic alliance' with the therapist. In other words, before the patient can risk major change he or she must feel the strength and security that come from believing that the therapist is the patient's constant and stable ally. For this alliance to occur the therapist must demonstrate to the patient, usually over a considerable length of time, the consistent and steadfast caring that can arise only from a capacity for commitment. This does not mean that the therapist always feels like listening to the patient. Commitment means that the therapist listens to the patient like it or not. It is no different in a marriage. In a constructive marriage, just as in constructive therapy, the partners must regularly, routinely and predictably, attend to each other and their relationship no matter how they feel. As has been mentioned, couples sooner or later always fall out of love, and it is at the moment when the mating instinct has run its course that the opportunity for genuine love begins. It is when the spouses no longer feel like being in each other's company always, when they would rather be elsewhere some of the time, that their love begins to be tested and will be found to be present or absent.
excerpt from: Scott Peck(1978) The Road Less Travelled.