The Persistence of Love
Incidentally, my father proposed to define love as 'expanding one's being/consciousness to include another'. I think this definition has its advantages and describes the psychic and one-ness aspects of the link very well, but at the same time I have a problem with the physical nature of the word 'expand'. Either way, these definitions describe the exact same functionality and are complementary.
Also, since we defined love as an act that can only originate in free-will, it would make sense to claim, from an existentialist point of view, that you can create love every minute of the day by making free-willed choices. This is because the self, or God, is defined only by its ability to continually make non-deterministic choices. Without constant choice, there is no self, and therefore no persistent love. But let's leave these philosophical musings for now and speak of more down-to-earth matters:
A close friend of mine recently told me that in her experience, romantic love only lasts a year. After that, things either fall apart or become practical and enjoyable but dispassionate. My romantic side objected to this vehemently but at the same time felt a sad truth in it. I proposed that with hard work, it need not be so.
To my surprise, I re-discovered a Jewish law a day later that says that a man must remain at home with his wife as much as possible during the first year of marriage. To this important goal, he is even exempt from war.
Which asks the question: What is so special about this year and what are we meant to do with it?
In a previous article, I discussed the necessity of the irrational and magic side of love and how the only reason we would agree to submitting ourselves to the hardships of a relationship is due to this strong attraction and fondness that overrides everything else. I'd like to expand on this idea to include a solution for endless romance.
What if married couples had a year of natural bonding with which to develop a stronger, deeper bond? What if after this free ride that lasts a year, you either managed to build a base for the next 70 years of marriage or you lost your chance? What if after this year is wasted, the only way you could keep the passion alive is through constant and purely rational, increasingly difficult work? Would it surprise you then when Judaism says this year is more important than fighting a war?
Nature provides a year of magic glue which facilitates the task of working out difficulties and building a solid base for the rest of your life. You can lovingly find the compromises with which you can live together, and you have a year to get used to them before you come back to your senses. You work out mutual goals, domestic habits, communication methods, and solutions to important personality problems and obstacles. When the year is done, you have joined at a deeper level and are ready to progress and grow together. Perfect!
With this strong cornerstone and level of comfort, the love will grow deeper and thus allow for the passion to outlive its superficial beginnings. But what about the excitement? What about the lust? Can we keep that as well?
There are several couples I witnessed under certain circumstances that managed to keep the first-year passion and excitement alive for a long time. These circumstances always involve some kind of force that keeps them apart during long stretches of time. Perhaps this has a practical application?
Judaism has difficult laws which some people viciously object to regarding physical time apart during a woman's period. I won't go into the details here, but the powerful side effects of such a demand are as follows:
1. During this time, you must find ways to express love with something other than sex and physical contact, thus undermining all relationships based on lust and forcing you to work on the deeper bond we discussed.
2. The complainers are right that it's difficult and asks for ridiculous restraint. But the effect, as star-crossed lovers show, is one of persistent lust and longing, constantly re-awakened by periods of restraint.
Now why, do you think, aren't marriage counselors suggesting restraint?
To conclude: This is obviously a utopia and a strict and difficult one at that. But I believe it's a practical one as well. It's time to experiment...