A man told his wife on the second date that he loved her. He quickly married her. But he subsequently realized something important. He didn't love her on that second date, despite the fact that she made his heart go pitter-patter. In fact, he didn't love her during their engagement, never mind that "a fire" was burning in him. And he most definitely didn't love her when they got married, despite the fact that he was "swooning." Because, you see, the man, who wrote about his marriage for The Huffington Post, realized he didn't know what love was. And it most definitely wasn't the pitter-pattering, burning fire of swoon that he thought it was supposed to be.
Elad Nehorai, a Hasidic Jew, got engaged after two months of dating. Things tend to happen fast in that community. But it was only on the second date that he was sure of one thing: He was in love.
For wasn't this love? This swooning, burning tidal wave of emotion? Surely, that's what it was. That's what books, TV, movies, poems, songs ... even our friends and family tell us it is.
So when he told his girlfriend he loved her on their second date and she merely smirked in response, he thought maybe he just needed to try harder. He was super affectionate. He was sentimental and lovey-dovey. He did the dishes and offered to cook dinner. Once they had a baby, he was very involved in her childcare.
And sure enough, his wife's look and demeanor eventually became one of someone in love.
But Elad was going the opposite way. The excitement of the burning swooning soon faded. He wrote:
Marriage, quicker than I was ready for, did this thing: It started sucking away that emotion.
I tried so hard to keep that fire going, to keep that emotion alight, but it got harder and harder.
I mean, how you can feel that burning love when you're sitting at the table discussing how to use the last $20 in your bank account?
How can you feel it when you get into an argument?
Ah, good questions. Surely ones most married couples have pondered.
But unlike some married men, Elad didn't freak out when he realized that burning emotion he called love was getting doused by the cold reality of living together and building a life.
He began to realize that what he had thought was love wasn't love at all. And that what he'd felt had nothing to do with his wife -- whom he barely knew at the time, after all -- and everything to do with some fantasy he had. He writes:
Love isn't an emotion. That fire I felt, it was simply that: emotional fire. From the excitement of dating a woman I felt like I could marry. But it wasn't love.
No, love isn't an emotion or even a noun. It's a verb. Better defined as giving. As putting someone else's needs above your own.
Elad feels like this is a reality most people haven't accepted yet -- hence our ridiculously high divorce rates. As he puts it:
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. An emotion that, once had, somehow magically stays within a marriage forever ... Imagine a whole nation of people constantly chasing the emotions they had when they were dating. A country of people trying to live a Disney movie.
And the hopelessly unrealistic idea of living a Disney movie will, he believes, lead to affairs and divorce.
I couldn't agree more with Elad's theories about love. Love is different from infatuation, from obsession, and from that gooey emotion that comes about when you have a crush. Those aren't based on the person you know. They're based on what you think and fantasize that person might be -- and you know very well no one can be your fantasy, certainly not all of the time. Lots of times, not even a little bit of the time.
Love is an action. It is a verb. It is taking care of someone when they're sick. It is helping with chores and childcare. It is finding ways to communicate that are respectful even when you totally disagree.
There are no movies about this because it's not that exciting. But it's much more precious and wonderful. And Elad and his wife will most likely be married much longer than the "fire burners" because of his realization.
Do you think your love is different after you got married?
Image via BradleyGee/Flickr