Many believe love is a sensation that magically
generates when Mr. or Ms. Right appears. No wonder so many people are single.
A few years ago, I spoke to a group of some friends of mine about the Jewish idea of love.
"Someone define love," I said.
"Doesn't anyone want to try?" I asked.
Still no response.
"Tell you what: I'll define it, and you raise your hands if you agree. Okay?"
"Okay. Love is that feeling you get when you meet the right person."
Every hand went up. And I thought, Oye.
This is how many people approach a relationship. Consciously or unconsciously, they believe love is a sensation (based on physical and emotional attraction) that magically, spontaneously generates when Mr. or Ms. Right appears. And just as easily, it can spontaneously degenerate when the magic "just isn't there" anymore. You fall in love, and you can fall out of it.
The key word is passivity. Erich Fromm, in his famous treatise "The Art of Loving," noted the sad consequence of this misconception: "There is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love."
So what is love ― real, lasting love?
Love is the attachment that results from deeply appreciating another's goodness.
Love is the result of appreciating another's goodness.
The word "goodness" may surprise you. After all, most love stories don't feature a couple enraptured with each other's ethics. ("I'm captivated by your values!" he told her passionately. "And I've never met a man with such morals!" she cooed.) But in her study of real-life successful marriages (The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts).
To the Jewish mind, it isn't unexpected at all. What we value most in ourselves, we value most in others. God created us to see ourselves as good (hence our need to either rationalize or regret our wrongdoings). So, too, we seek goodness in others. Nice looks, an engaging personality, intelligence, and talent (all of which count for something) may attract you, but goodness is what moves you to love.
Opening Yourself to Others
The effect of genuine, other-oriented giving is profound. It allows you into another person's world and opens you up to perceiving his or her goodness. At the same time, it means investing part of yourself in the other, enabling you to love this person as you love yourself.
The more you give, the more you love.Many years ago, I met a woman whom I found very unpleasant. So I decided to try out the "giving leads to love" theory. One day I invited her for dinner. A few days later I offered to help her with a personal problem. On another occasion I read something she'd written and offered feedback and praise. Today we have a warm relationship. The more you give, the more you love. This is why your parents (who've given you more than you'll ever know) undoubtedly love you more than you love them, and you, in turn, will love your own children more than they'll love you.
Because deep, intimate love emanates from knowledge and giving, it comes not overnight but over time ― which nearly always means after marriage. The intensity many couples feel before marrying is usually great affection boosted by commonality, chemistry, and anticipation. These may be the seeds of love, but they have yet to sprout. On the wedding day, emotions run high, but true love should be at its lowest, because it will hopefully always be growing, as husband and wife give more and more to each other.
A woman I know once explained why she's been happily married for 25 years. "A relationship has its ups and downs," she told me. "The downs can be really low ― and when you're in one, you have three choices: Leave, stay in a loveless marriage, or choose to love your spouse."