A young man gets engaged, and his friends ask him, “How did you know that she was the right one?”
“I knew it the minute I saw her,” he answers. “I took one look into her eyes, and I was gone. It was like rockets on the Fourth of July.”
What this young man is describing is infatuation. Infatuation isn’t a sign that she’s your bashert. It is a sign that you are attracted to her. You can be attracted to your bashert—or to any number of people. Just ask someone who has gone out for a while. It isn’t uncommon that a happily married man or woman went out with other people before they were married, and they may well have had strong feelings toward those other people, feelings that were sometimes more intense than what they felt for their spouse when they went to the chuppah. Yet they go on to build beautiful marriages. And equally telling, many couples get married not really being that “infatuated.” Yet they create strong, loving relationships.
The reason these couples succeed isn’t because infatuation isn’t important—it is. But it was designed to play a specific role. To understand that role, we need a deeper perspective of the human psyche.
CHAPTER 6 – LOVE DOESN’T CONQUER ALL
Ask a typical, single guy what he expects his marriage to be like, and he’ll get this far-off look in his eye, and will say: “Oh, it will be wonderful! I will love her, she will love me, and we’ll live happily ever after.”
This same young man may come from a broken home. He may have lived through years of fighting, screaming, and cursing. He may now have a difficult relationship with his parents and siblings, and may have ongoing run-ins with roommates and friends. He may even be aware that he is a difficult person—but it won’t matter. His marriage will be harmony and bliss. “My wife will love me, I will love her, and we will live together in happiness and joy forever and ever.”
Unfortunately, the divorce courts are filled with such couples. But what went wrong? They started out so in love. He was great. She was perfect. What happened?
What happened was that when they got married, they weren’t in love; they were infatuated. That infatuation wore off, real life set in, and they weren’t ready for it.
Infatuation is like a drug. It affects your senses and changes the way you view things. Everything is wonderful. The whole world is smiling on you. Scientific studies show that falling in love affects brain chemistry in a manner similar to cocaine use; the normal balances are changed. The result is that a couple “in love” experiences a rush of adrenaline, a sense of euphoria, and the feeling that they will always be happy together. “Her bad habits will never bother me. She will always be tolerant of my being late. And we will live forever and ever in this state of bliss.”
INFATUATION PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE
Hashem created infatuation to allow men and women to get married and create long-standing, loving homes. But therein lies the problem. To take two individuals from different backgrounds, with diverse natures and upbringings, put them together for a short time, and then ask them to live together for the rest of their lives in peace and harmony should be impossible.
In all relationships, differences of opinions tend to escalate, feelings eventually get hurt, and after enough time, the liaison ends. Most business partnerships end with a fight. Most friendships weaken as people go their separate ways. So the institution of marriage should never work.
To allow marriages to succeed, Hashem gave mankind the capacity to love. When a couple is in love, they operate in a climate of acceptance and understanding. They overlook each other’s shortcomings and ignore each other’s flaws. She is forgiving. He is tolerant. Differences don’t matter. Disagreements are rare. Your way. My way. What difference does it make anyway? And the marriage thrives despite what life throws at it. The heart blood of a successful marriage is love.
But love isn’t instant. Learning to give doesn’t come naturally. And real dedication to another person takes a long time to develop. To allow marriages to flourish, Hashem created certain forces to jumpstart the relationship.
One of these forces is infatuation. Infatuation works like sulphur on a kitchen match. When you strike a match against the phosphorous on the match box, it will ignite into a flame. It gets very hot, very quickly. For a second or two it will flare up, just long enough to light the wood of the match. That flame, however, wasn’t designed to last. It was meant to be a catalyst to start the fire—not to keep it going. If the wood catches, it succeeded in its job. If not, it shined bright for a short while, but accomplished nothing.
Infatuation works the same way. It allows the couple to begin; it starts the process. But they must then do the difficult work of creating a true bond of love. They need to become attuned to each other’s needs; they have to learn to actually care about each other. And the hardest part: they have to change those things that bother their spouse. Change isn’t easy. Unfortunately, many couples never make the transition.
Often, their initial expectation was their downfall. They walked in thinking, “We are in love, so everything will be beautiful and easy. Love will conquer all.” The problem is that they weren’t in love; they were infatuated. When the drug wore off, they woke up the same people they were before, and then the choice was either change or suffer. Many people never make those changes, and their marriages dissolve.
But here is the point. While infatuation is an important tool to help start a marriage, it isn’t the basis for a marriage, and it certainly isn’t a criterion for choosing a life’s partner. It is a short-lived chemical explosion, and if you use it as the indicator that “this is my bashert,” you might well be making a grave error.