Everyone praises the value of love. This article challenges the the popular culture's emphasis on love as being loved, or at least receiving love in reciprocation for the love one gives. It explains that real love takes us beyond self-centeredness and motivates us to connect meaningfully with another. Loving is really more about relationship partners giving of themselves and making sacrifices for each other, so as to keep their relationship thriving.
Romance novels, movies, and fairytales glorify love at first sight, which rarely leads to a fulfilling marriage, because it is usually based on fantasy. Yes, there are exceptions, but Anna’s experience is more common.
In Hebrew, “the word for love — ahavah — includes the Aramaic word hav, which means ‘Give!’ (And the initial letter alef makes it mean, ‘I will give.’) Loving . . . is not so much receiving, as giving of oneself, and making sacrifices for others.”
Anna, in her mid-20's, met Josh on a dating site. She was so charmed that instead of sensibly limiting their first date to not more than a couple of hours, she agreed to a six-hour round trip drive to a scenic location.
They returned to her place exhausted around 1 a.m. She said he could share her bed but without sex. Their next couple of dates did include sex. Anna was in love — but with a fantasy. He loved recreational sex, not her. Their “relationship” quickly evolved into his texting her when he felt like “hooking-up.” She was heartbroken.
It hadn’t occurred to Anna to find out before getting physically intimate what kind of relationship Josh was looking for, or to know what kind she wanted, until her disappointment showed her what she didn’t want.
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Many people think it’s natural to fall in head-over-heels love. Why suppress what happens naturally?
Many marriage-minded women, like Anna, get involved before knowing what kind of relationship the man wants. They confuse sex with love. Hormones have a way of doing that for many women. Many continue to repeat their mistake in future relationships and become cynical about men and marriage because it never works out.
Before considering physical intimacy, a sensible woman learns what kind of relationship both she and the man want. If he says he hopes to marry, she takes her time to learn if they’re likely to be compatible in the long run, and to see if she likes the real him—his values and interests; his strengths and weaknesses; and his endearing and annoying habits.
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Arlyn’s parents “were always there for each other,” she says. “What I learned from my dad was to be nice to my mother. When she came downstairs dressed up, but late, to go out with him, he wasn’t critical of her for being late. He’d say, ‘Oh, Mollie, you look lovely.’ He always complimented her.
“Not that they never argued,” she adds. “Sometimes they’d snap at each other. Like when they came home from playing bridge. One might say to the other, ‘I can’t believe you played that card.’ But it was always a love story. They knew every relationship has ups and downs.”
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson's explanation of love is stated in Joseph Telushkin's book, The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History. The Rebbe said that what you read in novels is not necessarily what happens in real life. It’s not as if two people meet and there is a sudden, blinding storm of passion. That’s not what love or life is, or should be, about.
Rather, he said, two people meet and there might be a glimmer of understanding, like a tiny flame. And then, as these people decide to build a home together…and go through the everyday activities and daily tribulations of life, this little flame grows even brighter and develops into a much bigger flame until these two people . . . become intertwined to such a point that neither of them can think of life without the other. He said, “It’s the small acts that you do on a daily basis that turn two people from a ‘you and I into an us'."
Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW, author of bestseller Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You've Always Wanted, is a psychotherapist in private practice. A former executive director of a family service agency, she worked professionally in family and children’s services, alcoholism treatment, and psychiatry departments for the City and County of San Francisco. www.marriagemeetings.com