Is it proper not to love one’s spouse?
Not if one wants to remain married.
The reason I say this is because the glue of marriage is love. If there isn’t a solid connection in the heavy friction of life, it’s inevitable that there’s going to be fighting and bickering. Sharing a life with a person that you’re not connected to is a very bitter and very difficult situation.
Needless to say, the Torah’s perspective on marriage is that one should have tremendous love and appreciation for a spouse. The problem is that knowing how to be married is far less than simple.
Over the past ten, fifteen years I’ve dealt with hundreds of couples and I’d like to share with you that many, if not most, don’t have an understanding of the basics of marriage. For that reason, I’ve recently written a Feldheim book called The Ten Really Dumb Mistakes that Very Smart Couples Make. It’s going to come out this Chanukah.
If a person wants to have a loving marriage you have to understand your spouse, you have to understand gender differences, you have to understand the basic needs of a proper relationship, and you have to learn how to avoid the ten really dumb mistakes that smart couples make. Three things are essential to making a marriage successful: 1) That the couple has a commitment to the marriage; they usually know that Hashem chose the right one for them. 2) That the couple knows how to develop, maintain and foster the love in the relationship. 3) That they know how to live together.
– Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier, founder of The Shmuz
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The Rambam relates that Chazal mandated that a husband love his wife as he loves himself and honor her more than he honors himself. Interestingly the Rambam only says that the Rabbis mandated that a woman honor her husband excessively but does not mention that she must love her husband. Perhaps the mandate is on the husband to initiate the love between spouses and if he loves his wife then “as water reflects,” so too she will reflect that love in return.
Obviously, it is at least a Rabbinic mandate to love one’s spouse in addition to the love one must have for every other Jew. This love, however, is not necessarily the secular romantic infatuation concept of love, but rather one built on mutual giving to, appreciation of, and a bond based on purity and holiness. Hence, it is not proper from a Torah standpoint not to love one’s spouse.
– Rabbi Zev Leff, rav of Moshav Matisyahu, popular lecturer and educator
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Not only is it not proper not to love your spouse, it’s essential to love them. Of course that begs the question, what is love? Sometimes your love toward another person may not be that different from your love of steak. You may love your spouse because of what you receive in return. This form of reciprocal love is not necessarily a bad thing. Because we are self-oriented creatures, we must feel that our relationships are based on a give and take dynamic.
The only problem is, this sort of love has its limitations. What happens when some of those attractive qualities wane, or if you come across someone whom you believe to have superior qualities?
Moreover, and this is key, reciprocal love doesn’t capture the full majesty of which the human spirit is capable. It satisfies the basic human ego but it fails to satisfy the higher neshama created in the image of Hashem. Hence there is another, altogether higher form of love – one which is unconditional. I love the very “you;” not merely the “you” that benefits me, but the very core and essence of your being.
Essentially, the difference between the two loves is that one is for a reason and is subject to change. The other is for no reason at all and will endure forever. Both types of love are appropriate but think of the love a parent has for a child. Regardless of how the child behaves, a healthy parent still loves the child and does not – cannot disown the child. That’s what we aspire to in relationships as well. That’s the sort of love that enables spouses to be soulmates – in the words of the Zohar, plag gufa. It is that sort of love that enables the Shechina to dwell in their midst and bring bracha into their home.
– Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, popular Lubavitch lecturer, rabbi of London’s Mill Hill Synagogue