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Fallen Out of Love

Fallen Out of Love

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Dear Rachel,

I am married to a good and kind man, though I simply no longer feel the kind of love I should feel toward him. I feel stuck and that I am forcing myself to stay in the marriage, since I just don’t think what is needed is there. Is there anything you can do when you have fallen out of love?

J.M.
Denver, CO

Dear J.M.,

It’s interesting really, this concept of ‘falling’ in and out of love. The very word “falling” implies something hard, fast and inevitable. Unfortunately, so much of how we perceive love is what we have seen in the movies. We’ve heard these romantic tales told again and again throughout our lives with different characters and different background music. But, we often forget that these are fairy tales and have nothing to do with what love really is.

In Hebrew the word for love is “Ahava.” Because Hebrew is a holy language, the structure of the word, down to each letter serves to define its essence. The root of Ahava is Hava, which literally means to offer or to give. It also shares a root with the word, Ahav, which means to nurture, or to devote completely to another. So the essence of the Hebrew word Ahava (love) is not an emotion, it’s an action. Love in its purest form is not something that happens to us, it is a condition that we create when we give of ourselves.

If we look at the Hebrew word for “giving,” it is “Natan.” Which is spelled, nun, tuf, nun. Whether you read it backwards or forwards, it reads the same. Implicit in the Hebrew word for giving, is the essence of what giving is all about. When we give away, we always get back. It is a beautiful circle, and a secret to creating love in any relationship.

In order to cultivate a sense of love in a marriage we need to work at it. And while the work very well may lay with the both of you, we must begin with ourselves. A young boy once asked his Rabbi why man was created with 2 eyes. “With the left eye you should look at yourself, and see where you need to improve yourself. And with the right eye, you should look at others lovingly, always seeking out their best qualities.” We have to be willing to take a good hard and honest look at ourselves and see where our work lies in the relationship.

If you feel “out of love” then, try doing something to help create it. Try performing one loving act a day towards your husband and see what happens. It could be as simple as offering to drive him to work, or making him a cup of coffee, or preparing a special dinner he likes, or buying a little gift, or getting dressed up and offering to take him out for a date… The idea is to do something just for him, without any thinking about what you may or may not gain in return. Just give a little everyday and see if that brings about any changes in your feelings towards him. You can view it as an experiment if it helps you to see it that way, a little “love-experiment.”

We are commanded to “love others as we love ourselves.” And personally, I find it difficult to understand how it is possible to love something more than I love myself. I’d do almost anything for myself. But, I, like you, have a daughter. And I know that there is nothing in the world more important or sacred to me. There is nothing I wouldn’t do or give for her. Loving her, doesn’t take away from my love for my husband, or my mother or my friends, or even myself… because true love is selfless. That’s why we are able to love others as ourselves, because, true love originates from the soul, not the body. When we approach loving another from a deeper place, a place beyond our physical wants and needs, we are able to tap into the very essence of what loving is.

When we look at love as just another of our bodily needs; a need to be cared for and nurtured and a need for intimacy, we may find achieving love difficult and elusive. But when we look at love as transcendence that links our deepest self to G‑d and everyone around us, then, we are approaching love from a soulful place, a selfless place. And that is what true love “ahava” is all about.

You mentioned in your letter that you do love your husband “as a person,” that he is “good and he is kind.” That is a wonderful start; a fertile ground to grow from. This kind of love that you describe is what our Rabbis call a “watery or calm-love,” like the kind of love we share with a brother or sister or with a child; it comes easy because it is innate and predictable and solid. But the love that characterizes the relationship between husband and wife is called a “fiery-love.” It’s a love that is acquired; it hasn’t always been there and it is never consistent, casual or calm. This is the level you are currently lacking and the one you want to achieve.

So again, to work towards that goal, I suggest that you try one loving action a day towards your husband and don’t worry so much about “falling” in love right now. Concentrate on “giving” love. I am very hopeful that the “growing and rising” in love will follow.

Please be in touch and let me know about your progress. I wish you much strength and clarity and success in your endeavour,

Rachel

“Dear Rachel” is a biweekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sarah Zadok.

Sarah Zadok is a childbirth educator, doula and freelance writer. She lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel, with her husband and four children.

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Valerie November 17, 2016

I'm still madly "in love" with my husband, and I think this is wonderful advice that applies to me as well. What better way to love. Sometimes I wish I were Jewish, because there seem to be loving solutions and peaceful standard expectations for families. :( Reply

Crystal December 22, 2015

Thank you for your post, I am in a situation where I love my husband, but I have forgotten that love is a verb as well... I thought the issue was with what HE was doing, or NOT doing, but love is a verb and so now I have the inclination to BE love for him... And to DO love rather than just FEEL it, I will go study PROPER actions of love and bless my home and children with 2 parents who LOVE, in action and in feeling. Thank you. Reply

Anonymous April 21, 2015

J.m.

Hope this is not too late but stick in there and pray for the love to come. In Genisus when Rachel married Isaac it says he married her then he loved her. When your in the place that God has you just like with Israel when they were leaving Egypt there was the sea in front the mountains on both sides and army of Pharaoh behind and yet they could not have been in a safer spot! I'll pray for you!

Blessings! Reply

Anonymous April 23, 2014

Dear Rachel
Sorry I am a man and hope I can be allowed to share.if not please delete my post. I am so great flu for your advice. I have been married for 18 years. I married my wife when I had no children and she had two from two different fathers, one deceased the other was alive then but now deceased. My experience with my marriage is that I have had no separate time with my wife. Because I married her when she had two small children 4 and 8 I immediately got involved in child rearing. My focus became the wonderful children I found the and the exhilaration of seeing them grow. But I guess that made my wife comfortable and probably relaxed. Eventually I had two more with her and spent even more time raising them and enjoying them. In the tenth year I began to feel tired and exhausted and it was as if I was running out of steam. I was in need of something I really did not know. It's like all I needed was a deep hug and I really never got it and despite giving it. Help. Reply

Caring Husband Paris FRANCE January 5, 2013

That was exactly what I needed to hear. Reply

Shirley Coimbatore, India September 24, 2012

Excellent teaching of what AHAVA means in a pure bond of Husband and Wife. Very meaningful and I also understand its a process.... Thank you Chabad for helping me understand this perspective...... Reply

Deaf Ears SUDBURY, Canada September 16, 2012

I have tried the little things for him, the dinners, cleaning, love texts and even out of the blue phone calls. He works out of town a lot and i am a working mother of 4 and at home with them. I believe i am putting a lot of effort but feel i am getting nothing in return. My husband is a good loving soul who feels there is nothing in our marriage that cant be worked out, although he is doing nothing to help work it out. I am not sure what else to do but I am close to believing i may be better off as a single mother. When he is around he works on construction around the house or wants to play video games, either by himself or with the kids. I have made times for us to be alone but i always do the planning. I have expressed my concerns only to have THEM FALL ON DEAF EARS. i NEED HELP Reply

Anonymous via myjewishcenter.org September 8, 2012

I think love is often linked with physical intimacy and desire, which is true in someway. But if you do not feel desire anymore does not mean you stopped love. Because you still care and respect your spouse. Reply

Anonymous Caldwell, NJ July 31, 2012

What a beautiful way to guide someone to a spiritual "reach in / out" It was very touching for me, that after 28 years of marriage,sometimes I wonder where the spark went...Just Lovely! Reply

Anonymous tampa, fl May 12, 2011

Rachel ,
your advice was wonderful and so very logical to me but, what about infidelity, selfishness and disrespect from a spouse?
it's near immpossible to want to give when you feel ashame of him and that you have been taken advantage off. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI January 9, 2011

It sounds more like you got bored with your marriage or something might be missing in your marriage.

Good, kind men are not always easy to find, and you need to talk to your husband about the marriage itself. It's possible he might feel the same way. Talk about problems in the marriage and see if you can solve them. If not, see a marriage counselor. Reply

vogelgesang goodyear, az via chabadcenter.com July 22, 2010

some part of the famous words recited at weddings
in sickness and in health
in good times and in bad times
in joy and in sorrows
for better and worse
for richer and poorer
until death do us apart

does the little acorn go through some changes when it dies under ground?
does that little tree goes through some storms when it grows?

does two different persons coming together as One flesh struggle too? Reply

Anonymous October 28, 2008

...both an noun and an action.

We feel it and we must act on it, do things to keep it alive. It's like a life of its own, and must be "fed" to be kept alive.

I have gone through my own problems in my marriage - my husband fell "out of love" with me.

We are working on it, doing acts of love and changing our behaviours to give our relationship new life, or it seems let it live as it should have been for the first time...

Reply

Anonymous July 14, 2008

Romance is the icing on the cake of the relationship. It is nice but not always possible. Sometimes circumstances just aren't right for the romance part of marriage to blossom.

On the other hand I would give everything for a good kind companion to share my life. I could definately do without the romance if needed.

I was married for 25 years to a man who was all about romance, passion and intimacy. But there was no friendship in our relationship. He was neither good nor kind. He was never someone I could count on when times were hard.

Whenever times were hard he made them harder by finding a mistress. Reply

Anonymous london, uk May 1, 2008

My relationship went quick too. He moved in after 3 months, now I am pregnant and all we do is argue since the discovery. I am almost 38, have had a number of relationships. Lost out I felt on the men I loved, they neglected me. I neglected myself, the way I acted, the way I stayed. But there was fire. Now I have routine and simplistic expectations from my new boyfriend. I feel a little suffocated, 6 months later and was ready to move on (again). Now I am pregnant, I want a baby, I want a steadier life. I'm turning away from him whilst carrying his baby. Reply

MB CO via jccaspen.com February 11, 2008

I think too often couples do not realize their own part in their unhappiness. If you are both standing on one rung of an old rickety ladder & one pushes too hard on the rung causing it to break, you both fall, not just one of you. Marriage is a give and take and both parties must consider where they themselves are not giving. If you want him to take you into his arms and make you feel like you have never felt, it's probably not going to feel that way if you're not truly open to it. If you laugh it off, does that make him want to try again and make it better next time? Not likely. Humility is important. We tend to think we're always right, maybe women more often than men fight for that acknowledgement. We need to take time to be humbled and vulnerable to them sometimes. Happy marriages don't feel like you picture a movie feels... it feels so much better if you work at it. If you are looking for a screenplay, become an actor. Being OPEN to the passion you're looking for is the only way. Reply

Kristine chicago, il January 14, 2008

i am very happy to have found this blog. i am married to a wonderful man, but before reading the blogs here, i was afraid that i was not "in love" with him and that our marriage would not last. we don't have children yet and i was afraid to have children with him if i was not in love. l love him as if he is my brother or best friend. ( watery or calm love) Infact he is my best friend. we have a wonderful relationship. We are very compatible, we communicate effortlessly, and we genuinely know and respect each other. I have felt warmth but no sparks for my husband. it seems that passion is missing. l like my husband as a person and i enjoy his company but i want to love him as a wife should love her husband (fiery love) and not her brother or friend. I was so happy to have read the comments especially the advice that rachel provided. After reading Rachel's advice and reviewing the meaning of true love i know my husband and i have a very solid foundation on which to build true love. Reply

Lori St.John''s, NL October 16, 2007

I feel I have the same feelings "fallen out of love"I have a wonderful man, he has and still does everything for me the children and our home. Our relationship came as a love at first sight our relationship moved very quickly within 3 months we were living together and 3 months after that I was pregnant with our first child. Shortly after that I began douting what we had but hung on, 4 years later we decided to have a second child because we did not want our first to grow up alone. We talked casually about getting married one night and his family decided it was going to happen and chose the date. I sat back and let it happen, 8 years later not sure were our relatonship is going or even if I want it . I feel like I am stringing him along he knows how I feel that I love him for who he is what he does how he is as a father but I feel like I am living with a room mate not a husband. How am I surpose to feel he is standing by me I know he loves me but I don't know if I love him as a husband Reply

Anonymous new orleans, la September 27, 2007

I think if you are not in love with him, then go, people change throughout their life span, hoping and thinking when you marry them they will stay the same, but they get too comfortable, not needing to put the effort in the marriage. We can do loving things everything, but then it becomes routine as brushing your teeth and is expected everyday. If he is not willing to change or to compromise, then its not worth it. Some people don't want to change b/c they think the work is done. If you put a 100% and if you don't get it back then say good bye. Also think though what's the main reason you our out of love with him? Do you love someone else, has you ideal marriage not what was expected, did you know it was going to already fail in your heart, were you lonely,? Think about it, then do something about it. Don't waste anyone else's time if this is not what you want. Reply

Chaya Augusta, GA May 15, 2007

Although this comes late, I hope that this helps someone. When my husband and I were married, he knew that I did not and was not in love with him. Which has made for the best 25 years so far of my life. At first he did not understand how a person could marry someone they didn't feel love for. When I explained to him that I would grow to love him, he patiently waited. After about 8 years into our marriage I finally said with conviction to him, I LOVE YOU. That is when he realized what I meant when we were first married. The essence of love must be nurtured and cultivated before it will produce fruit. We have produced plenty of fruit, and don't mind the prunings of life. The emotional and sensual feelings I have for my beloved are uniquely ours and I would do it all over again without trading one moment. Remember this, a mighty oak started out as a small seed and took years to grow strong and big enough to provide us shelter. That kind of love will last beyond this lifetime. Shalom Reply