Latest update: June 26th, 2012
The Dubna Magid in Safer Hamidos, states that “love is one of the most important midos in a person”. Hashem has given us a most powerful energy source with the potential to grow and heal unresolved issues of the past. But in order to activate this energy source we must first try to understand the levels of complexity love has to offer.
After the Holocaust the Agudah of America traveled to the displaced camps of war-torn Europe. One of the many services they provided for European Jews was to marry off as many Jewish singles as possible. My parents, A”H, were two of them and soon after they were married they came to America. I recall as a teenager asking my mother if they were in love when they got married. My mother stated clearly “no way, how could we have been in love? As with so many other girls in the B’nos d.p. camps, a rov made the shidduch and soon we were married!” At the time I could not fathom the idea! How could this be possible? How could marriage come before love? Yet I never saw a more giving, caring, and loving couple like my parents. What shocked me even more was the fact that less than 1% of this population got divorced.
It was not until I got married, learned more Torah and became a marriage counselor that I was able to understand the stages of love and what this gift from Hashem is all about. Love is a developmental stage of energy that needs to keep moving to a higher level of growth. It’s composed of energy divided into two stages – Stage 1 Romantic Love and Stage 2 Acquired Love. In Romantic Love, the couple may or may not be engaged, but in most cases they are. The couple will shower each other with acts of caring and understanding. They can’t wait to see each other and will do anything for each other. They see only positive traits. Any negative traits will be overlooked. Their infatuation tends to be an idealization accompanied by a disregard of reality. The couple, as the expression goes, is ‘high on cloud nine’ or ‘in seventh heaven’. They feel intense pleasure, exhilaration and excitement. They seem happier, playful and have more energy. In some cases if a person is on medication, they may even stop taking it because they feel they no longer need it. Psycho pharmacologists have learned that the person is high on natural hormones and chemicals that flood the body with a sense of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. You’ve heard the expression ‘love is blind’, well it’s true! The couple will have the illusion that they are in love. In the physical sense, the couple is in love. They are in love with themselves. That’s because romantic love is a master of disguises for something called self love, a love that’s based on ‘what’s in it for me’. In all honesty, people don’t get married to take care of their partner; they get married so that their partner can take care of them!
When the relationship is more taking than giving true love cannot take place. This is why Hashem designed this love drug not to last. When the wedding is over, and the couple begins to settle into married life, the infatuation may change suddenly and unpredictably. Hashem determines how long the love drug should remain in the person’s system. For some people it will begin to fade before the wedding, and for others it can last for weeks, months and years. But one thing is for certain, this energy source will move to a higher level of growth called acquired love.
I recall one case where a chosen called me up the very next morning after he became engaged. ‘What did I do, I’m not sure that I love this person!’ He was confused and scared and wanted help. He knew that his kallah was a great girl but something was happening and he didn’t know why. He wanted me to help him break off his engagement. As I reviewed the process with him, he started to calm down. When we met I reassured him that what he was feeling was perfectly normal. But he was caught between the stages of romantic and acquired love. Boruch Hashem, with a little coaching, a few months later, the couple was happily married.
When romantic love ends, one or both partners may become distant, angry and scared. The transition between stages can be very shocking as one partner’s negative traits become more visible. They may become critical and blame the other partner for no longer meeting their needs. In some cases they may become verbally abusive and project hurtful statements like ‘I don’t love you!’ when it’s really themselves that feels unloved. They think if they hurt or punish the other partner long enough they will return to the stage of romantic love. It’s like swimming in the ocean when the tide is about to change. If you stay calm and let the exchange of waters take place, in time you will be able to swim back to shore and feel safe again. But if you panic you will drown!
Many couples do panic and resist the change as they fight against the current. They will either break off the engagement or end the marriage early. If the couple does not take time to work through these stages of their relationship, they will repeat it again in some other future relationship. The reason it’s called acquired love, is because you have to finish what ever you start. This will take hard work and strong perseverance not to give up, but to keep going until you get to that final stage of giving. It’s like traveling on a train – no matter what station you got on at, you have to get off at the correct stop. If you get off even one stop too early you’re doomed.
The Gemorah states that when a couple divorces the chupah cries. This is because the couple got off one stop too early and misses the opportunity to find true love. It’s also the stage where the Shechinah rests as partners will sacrifice his or her needs for the benefit of the other. When a husband and wife are willing to give what ever it takes to make each other happy, change and healing can and will take place!
My parents, A”H, got on the train at midway and missed romantic love, but because they were willing and determined to stay on the track, they were zoche to find acquired love and build a bayis ne’eman for many future generations.
Moishe Herskowitz MS., LCSW, developed the T.E.A.M. (Torah Education & Awareness for a better Marriage) approach based on 20 successful years of counseling couples – helping them to communicate effectively and fully appreciate each other. As a licensed and highly certified social worker and renowned family therapist, he developed this breakthrough seminar to guide new couples through easy-to-accomplish steps towards a happy, healthy marriage. Moishe Herskowitz holds a certificate from the Brooklyn Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis in couples and marriage therapy. He is an active member of the New York Counseling Association for marriage and family counseling. Mr. Herskowitz can be reached at 718-435-7388.
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