In marriage and relationships it can sometimes be a challenge to maintain the love you had at the start. The love and affection which often prevail between man and wife are something remarkable in human psychology.
Love in Marriage and Dating Relationships
At first glance we might think that this love has no true personal content. Perhaps it is merely something implanted in us by the Creator as part of His deep-laid plan for the maintenance of the world, just as hunger is given to us to ensure the preservation of the body. But this seems most unlikely. To achieve this end the biological urges of physical desire and yearning for children would suffice. What is the point of this additional emotional attachment?
I have heard it said that this love arises from gratitude. Two people are grateful to each other because they help each other to fulfill their natural instincts. But this idea is mistaken.
There are plenty of ungrateful people in the world, but we do not find that husband-wife affection is necessarily lacking in their case. We must rather say that this love arises between husband and wife because they complement each other.
This fact flows from the nature with which the Almighty has endowed them. Alone, every person is defective and unable to carry out his proper function; as our Rabbis say, “He who has no wife … is not a complete human being.”
Together, they complement each other, and by giving each other this completion they come to love each other, on the principle: the one who gives, loves. Of course, their love, in its turn, will make them want to go on giving, and the pleasure and happiness which each bestows on the other will maintain and intensify their love.
Maintaining a Happy Marriage
On this basis we can understand yet another remarkable fact. Why do we find so often that this husband-wife affection does not seem to last? The answer is simple. People are generally “takers,” not “givers.” When their biological instincts gain the upper hand they become “givers” and “lovers. But before very long nature relaxes its grip and they relapse into a state of “taking” as before.
This change takes place imperceptibly. Previously they were joined together in an atmosphere of love and mutual giving. From now on they are “takers” once again and each begins to demand from the other the fulfillment of his or her obligations.
When demands begin, love departs.
This is why I always say to a couple in the joyousness of their wedding day: “Filling your hearts at this moment is a wondrous desire to give pleasure and happiness to each other. Take care, my dear ones, that you strive to keep this desire always as fresh and strong as it is at the present time. You should know that the moment you find yourselves beginning, instead, to make demands upon each other, your happiness is at an end.”
Avoiding Marriage and Children
There are some people who do not want to enter into marriage. This is because they are unable to shake themselves free of the power of taking, and even their natural instincts cannot turn them into “givers,” even temporarily.
Similarly, there are couples who want as few children as possible—a very prevalent phenomenon in our time. Such people are outstanding specimens of “takers”; they do not want to “give” even to their own children.
The Best Relationships
To sum up: the best relationship between husband and wife will obtain when both achieve and practice the virtue of giving. Then their love will never cease and their lives will be filled with happiness and contentment for as long as they live on this earth.
R. Eliyahu Dessler