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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.
A few years ago, I spoke to a group of high-schoolers about the Jewish idea of love. By focusing on the good, you can love almost anyone.
" "We're choosing to love him," her mother explained, "because love is a choice." There's no better wisdom Susan's mother could have imparted to her before marriage.
And just as easily, it can spontaneously degenerate when the magic "just isn't there" anymore. Love is the attachment that results from deeply appreciating another's goodness. After all, most love stories don't feature a couple enraptured with each other's ethics. God created us to see ourselves as good (hence our need to either rationalize or regret our wrongdoings). 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. Just focus on the good in another person (and everyone has some). I was once at an intimate concert in which the performer, a deeply spiritual person, gazed warmly at his audience and said, "I want you to know, I love you all." I smiled tolerantly and thought, "Sure." Looking back, though, I realize my cynicism was misplaced.
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." (That was back in 1956 ― chances are he'd be even more pessimistic today.) So what is love ― real, lasting love? What we value most in ourselves, we value most in others.
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 third is respect, "the ability to see a person as he [or she] is, to be aware of his [or her] unique individuality," and, consequently, wanting that person to "grow and unfold as he [or she] is." These three components all depend upon the fourth, knowledge.
The way God created us, actions affect our feelings most.
For example, if you want to become more compassionate, thinking compassionate thoughts may be a start, but giving tzedaka (charity) will get you there.
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.