Solely In Black and White: Question: What is Love?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Question: What is Love?

I LOVE YOU (247/365)

One of the things I found profusely confusing about dating is this thing called “love.” I am sure I am not the first person to ponder this, especially in the context of shidduchim. Even the philosopher Hadaway, asked “What is love?” Even if you do not subscribe to the notion that love exists in real life dating per se, and it is merely a theatrical element added for dramatic effect; how do you know you’ve found the right one if you’ve never experienced it before?  This question is analogous to asking a blind person (from birth) to tell you the color of the rainbow. They might be able to articulate what it is they want to see, but from a sensory perspective, they cannot truly know the correct answer. Rightfully so, how can one know something which is incomprehensible to them? While I know (not) The Girl Next Door Just posted a similar topic (I do wonder where she got the idea from...? :-P) I have a slightly different set of questions: 

So my questions to you, oh wise readers:

1. What is your understanding of “love” in context of shidduchim?
2. Is love a perquisite for marriage or something that develops afterwards?
3. How do you know you’ve found the right one?
4. How much do you have to like someone before marrying them? 

If you have any (other) links to posts containing answers to these questions please add them to your comments. 


  1. I think there are many different levels to love, and many people wiser than me with more experience have told me that you don't experience true love until after marriage, and I believe that to be true. The longer you're in a relationship and the more you invest in it, the more your love for that person will grow. I do, however, think there is some level of love that exists before marriage.

    In terms of how I define love, having spent some time thinking about it, I define love in three ways:
    1. Wanting to give to the other person
    2. Wanting the other person to be happy
    3. Wanting to be in a relationship with that person.

    I think you can experience all three of these on some level before marriage, and should feel that way before deciding to marry someone.

  2. Ah, love. For me, love is something along the lines of a mother throwing herself under a bus for her child. No offense to my future dude, but chances are I won't be willing to that- at least not right away.

    Marriage, for me, would be based on the best friendship. We have a similar sense of humor, we share (some) opinions, mutual respect. Friendships move to committed relationships with a version of "love." I'm not a romantic, keep in mind - compliments make me suspicious, and I would rather if weekly flowers was instead a yearly bling item.

  3. 1. What is your understanding of “love” in context of shidduchim?
    Love is something that exist, however infatuation is usually more prevalent in shidduchim than love. Many of us have this misconception that we're going to meet a guy and there are going to be sparks in the air or something like that. That's not love. Love is something that is deeply rooted in giving to someone and sharing with him. Love is something that I have for my family. It takes time and effort to develop. So no, it doesn't exist in dating; it exist in a strong marriage.
    2. Is love a perquisite for marriage or something that develops afterwards?
    I think that when someone gets engaged, s/he is not truly "in love." There's probably a very strong attraction to one another, a deep connection, and the feeling that you want to give to this special person. However, do you love him? Would you give up your life for this person?
    3. How do you know you’ve found the right one?
    This is a tough one. I don't know the answer so when you find out let me know :-)
    4. How much do you have to like someone before marrying them?
    For me to marry someone, I think I'm going to have to experience something beyond "like." Will it be love? no way. As i mentioned before, it will probably involve a deep attraction, a connection, and the feeling of wanting to give to that person. This questions is more subjective than the other ones (in my opinion). Some people may only need some kind of connection, while others may feel they need the strong attraction. How much do YOU think you'll have to like someone in order to marry her?

  4. SiBW, it's so nice to see that you only use the most reputable of philosophers. Kierkegaard doesn't hold a candle to Hadaway ;)

    The question you ask isn't very, very complex, not because the topic itself is hard to understand but rather b/c our concept of love these days has been grossly romanticized. What is the famous example of love in the Torah? Jonathan and David. Now were these two romantically involved as some might suggest? I stand with the party that says no. Love is not something that is exclusive to romance, it's something that exists in all relationships. Why are they the paradigm of love? Because they were able to see each other as they were; to see the other they way Hashem sees each of his creations- imperfect yet indescribably valuable.
    The book of Shmuel is a great place to glean Torah insight on love and its place in relationships, marriage included.

  5. 1. Love, as it really exists in marriage, simply cannot exist in a dating relationship. The bonds that tie together a husband and wife surpass that of a guy and girl going out or engaged, and that of a longer married couple is leagues beyond that of newlyweds. I heard from relatives, rabbeim, and others who have been married for a number of years that the real love the experience is vastly different from the budding relationship they had after the wedding.

    So love doesn't exist in shidduchim. I once saw an English sefer that described the "love" before marriage as an extreme sense of liking, which I think is appropriate.

    2. See above. Real love can't exist before marriage. But you should definitely have that "extreme liking." I think that SternGrad put it eloquently. I would also add that you should have a sense of wanting that person's wellbeing and happiness to have the number one slot in your life, even above your own. Marriage is all about giving and not taking for yourself, so this is intrinsically important.

    I was recently at a sheva brachos where a friend gave a dvar Torah on the subject. He posted it a few years ago on his old (basically abandoned) blog when he first wrote it for a friend of his: I think he makes some good points.

    3. Good question. I guess it would have something to do with #s 1 and 2, and how much that person has become so central to your life that you have no interest in anyone else, or even thinking about any other possibilities. Your sole focus is giving to them, making them happy, and taking care of them.

    4. I think my answers for 1-3 basically sum this up. You need to be pretty convinced that this person is someone you can devote yourself to entirely and become an ultimate giver, letting them knock *you* out of that #1 spot in your mind for who the most important person in your life is.

  6. I am b"h happily married for almost 3 years. I dated the traditional yesivish way ie: 9 dates+lechaim. I will try to answer your questions based on my experience.
    1. There is not love but a strong attraction, maybe infatuation, which seems like it's love-but not necessarily it is there, as in my case. You are excited to see one another with each coming date. You feel very comfortable and act yourself when you are with him/her. I don't believe you are supposed to "see stars" as I did not. (By the way, I felt I was 99.9% sure it was the right one. .1% was that you never know a person until you live with them.)
    2. Love is not a prerequisite for marriage. Attraction is. Personally, I was more excited to be married to him with each phone call and date after we were already engaged. I kept thinking to myself I really made the right decision. Engagement is never a time to rethink your decision and to over-analyze. Yet, I was increasingly happy during our 3 1/2 month engagement. When deciding to get engaged, I was nervous (nothing to do with him) just bec. I was making a decision for the rest of my life.
    3. For me, our personalities clicked very well. We are different personalities yet it meshed. Our hashkafos were in sync, we wanted the same things out of life, and we enjoyed each others company. But there was no love at first sight. And of course each person needs clarity from Hashem that this is the right one.
    4. This is hard to answer, yet I'll do my best. Like I said before, you should be excited to see one another. You should feel like you want to share with him/her intimate details about who you are. You are comfortable being yourself with all your quirks, etc. You are not afraid to ask him something personal. Although I liked (not infatuated by) my husband very much before our engagement, whenever we took a picture together (by the lechaim, vort,etc.) we did not touch, but I felt this flutter of excitement to be with him physically when we marry. I guess that progression took place from the threshold of seriously dating to engagement.
    I hope these answers were helpful to you.

  7. One more thing. After we were married, our love (true love) developed because we care about one another and go out of our way to make the other happy. You are very happy when you are newlyweds. But that infatuation turns into love which gets deeper with each passing year. So in the scheme of things, our barely 3 years of marriage is nothing compared to the love of a couple married for 40+ years. So what all the previous posts mentioned about love after marriage is 100% correct.

  8. @Everyone:
    Thanks for all your responses. I find it very reassuring that I am not the only one thinking about these questions. But I am wondering: why is that everyone has such a strong definition of love? I understand that in many contexts love can be a deeply rooted emotion, but not always. For example, people love pizza, people love cute posts, and people love BlackBerries, but in most cases (well maybe excluding the BlackBerries ;-) ) that love isn’t a form of complete devotion. So why can’t “love” in the context of shidduchim be the same way?

  9. foncused....why wud you want love in the context of shidduchim to not b a form of complete devotion...........i think love is not really a definable term.....its one of those things you cant describe till you experience it yourself and dont recognize if it was "real" untill later...


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