I wanted to tell her on the first date, but I knew that would probably be weird. She kind of gave me this half-shy, half-amused smile. But as time has gone on, I also realized that she knew something that I didn’t. I tried so hard to keep that fire going, to keep that emotion alight, but it got harder and harder. And what was even more interesting was that once I realized this on a conscious level, and started trying to find more opportunities to give, the more we both, almost intuitively, became lovey-dovey. From the excitement of dating a woman I felt like I could marry. Imagine a whole nation of people constantly chasing the emotions they had when they were dating. That’s a recipe for disastrous marriages; for a country with a 50% divorce rate; for adultery (the classic attempt to turn the fire back on); for people who do stay together to simply live functional, loveless marriages. How many people are in pain simply because they’ve been lied to.
Like most Hasidic Jews (we both became religious later in life), our dating period lasted a very short time. I mean, how you can feel that burning love when you’re sitting at the table discussing how to use the last twenty dollars in your bank account? How can you feel it when you think it makes perfect sense to put your socks on the floor after you’re done with them, and she has this crazy idea that they need to go in the laundry basket? And now, as I’m a bit older and a bit more experienced with this relationship, I’ve finally come to realize something.
Why wasn’t I getting reciprocal lovey-doveyness when we were first married? From Disney movies to my favorite shows like “The Office” to practically every pop song released, love is constantly sold as an emotion we have before we’re married.
And that’s why my wife just gave me that half-smile. And now that I’ve tried to change the way I look at love, the more I become shocked at the messages of love I had gotten when I was younger.
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There was no way I could keep that dating fire burning as practicality invaded our lives. Something I haven’t wanted to admit for a long time, but is undeniable.
And even worse, it seemed that the harder I tried to be sentimental and lovey-dovey, the less it was reciprocated. Or, once we had a daughter, when I shared the responsibility of watching over her. Because as our marriage progressed, I found myself offering to help out around the house more and more. It took me longer than I care to admit to understand what was happening. Through giving, through doing things for my wife, the emotion that I had been so desperately seeking naturally came about. An emotion that, once had, somehow magically stays within a marriage forever. And I’m saddened to think about how much those messages bounced around in my head for so long.
I guess that’s why I told my wife I loved her on our second date. But it wasn’t that she wasn’t giving me love, it just seemed to come at different times. I don’t think I noticed this consciously for a while. And after each time, there would be this look she would give me. It wasn’t something I could force, just something that would come about as a result of my giving. And how much I’m sure those messages are bouncing around in other people’s heads as well. Living Disney movies in our minds, and tragedies in our lives.
I had tried really hard up to that point to hold it back, honestly. I think part of me recognized that she was much smarter and more modest than me. This fire was burning in me, a fire that burned just like that second date: I was in love. Marriage, quicker than I was ready for, did this thing: it started sucking away that emotion. In other words, it was in the practicality that I found the love I was looking for. That fire I felt, it was simply that: emotional fire. I think that might be a big part of the reason the divorce rate is so high in this country. It’s time that we changed the conversation about love. Because until we do, adultery will continue to be common.