After the Fall: Falling in Love
Use your head to narrow down the possibilities, use your heart to recognize your one and only. The Torah recognizes the schism between the logic of the brain and wisdom of the heart which is deemed preeminent.
To illustrate the wisdom of the heart, let’s get to the heart of the matter. Let’s talk in the language of the heart. From the bottom of my heart, I would like to offer some heartfelt advice. In my heart of hearts, I believe that if your heart goes out to somebody, your heart is in the right place, you will love with all your heart to your heart’s content; a love which will warm the cockles of your heart. Don’t go to a date half-heartedly, but whole heartedly. Don’t be quick to have a change of heart. Your heart knows the truth and deeply understands. Talk from your heart. On dates have heart-to-heart talks. Have a heart. Never ever break someone’s heart. With a heart of gold, you will find your heart’s desire. There is the right one at the right time. Follow your heart. When you meet your one and only, your other half, trust your heart. Only your heart can recognize your soul mate. Only your heart compels you to become one with your other half to become whole. Once you find your better half, you can’t live without them. Only your heart can love. Love is the heart’s blood and as long as your heart beats, love makes life worth living. Take this to heart and you will not find love, love will find you.
When you’re in a loving relationship, you’re happier and healthier. You learn to see and be seen, to give and to receive love. When you choose love, you move past your selfish desires, you tap into a higher love, a love that shares neural connections with morals, empathy, and unconditional love. You learn to give because you learn that through giving you experience the ultimate reward—real love.
When you fall in love, you get to experience the magic — a crazy, euphoric ecstasy, a place you can only hope to live in for the rest of your life, because this enchanted moment is ephemeral. When you fall in love, without the critical verdicts of your Judge, you view your beloved as the greatest, most amazing creature that ever graced this planet. Your love grew as your beloved basked in your admiration. When you fall in love, you are crazy about each other and you feel that indubitably your destinies are irrevocably intertwined.
Biologically there are differences between falling in love and being in love. This is what happens when you fall in love. Certain neurotransmitters increase and some drop. For both men and women, your cortisol level, the stress hormone, increases causing you to feel nervous, and dopamine goes up which makes you feel excited – while afraid. For a woman, oxytocin level increases causing her to feel more trusting while her testosterone goes up causing her to be more aggressive and amorous. For a man, instead of oxytocin, his vasopressin goes up so that his heart goes out to her. When he commits, his testosterone drops causing him to be more passive and tempers his desires to prevent the relationship from degenerating into a fleeting romance. And in both, serotonin level drops causing both to be obsessed with each other.
These neurotransmitters and hormones turn off certain areas of the brain. This is what makes you blind to faults and deliriously stupid. So, love is mixed and contradictory emotions: a combination of stress, fear, excitement, heart throb for the man and blind trust in the woman, obsession, and mutual attraction. And stupidity.
When this insanity wears off, it then becomes a choice. At some point, your brain starts to work in much the same way it did before you fell in love. Areas in the frontal cortex that prevented you from being rational starts to work so now you see faults and can think clearly. Norepinephrine depletion, which made you obsessed with each other, is restored so gone is the obsession. Suddenly, it feels like the rug was pulled from under you.
This is the point in which it becomes a choice. You can choose to grow apart and eventually divorce, to stay in a boring loveless marriage, or to enter into another world, a warm, stable, and nurturing world that provides you with someone caring and trusting.
If you are a religious Jew, loving your wife is not a choice, but a religious obligation. A man is obligated to intensely love his wife. (Pela Yoetz) If you are a religious Jew, respecting your wife is not a choice, but a religious obligation. A husband has a religious obligation to love his wife no less than he loves himself, and to respect her more than he respects himself. How? By “positive illusions” which generate “positive emotions” including the feelings of love, hope, joy, forgiveness, compassion, trust, gratitude, and awe. Long-term love hinges upon mutual admiration.
People in love see only the good in each other. Yonasan Eibishitz, as a boy, when asked why Hashem created crooked thinking, answered so that we can judge each other favorably. While Torah Jews characteristically lead their lives using the razor-sharp logic they use when learning Torah or deciding every nuance of Jewish law, they have a Torah obligation to distort reality to sustain “positive illusions” in order to maintain a Jew’s love for a fellow Jew. Love is not just blind, but insane. From a Jewish perspective, loving your wife means you are crazy about her.
The key to sustaining love is observing Jewish Law. You can’t help but love someone who adheres to those Jewish laws that regulate how we treat each other. The Torah commands him to take care of her, protect her and satisfy her needs. The Torah forbids both to ever hurt the other’s feelings, ever to take revenge, falsely suspect, slander, embarrass, cheat and over 40 other Torah commandments that regulate how we treat each other. Anger is akin to idol worship.
Actually, from the Torah perspective, recognizing that ultimately it is Hashem that modulates the relationship throughout life, love is neither blind, insane nor stupid, but is driven by a higher wisdom, the wisdom of the heart.