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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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Discussion (21)
January 5, 2013
AMAZING
That was exactly what I needed to hear.
Caring Husband
Paris FRANCE
September 24, 2012
Pure AHAVA
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......
Shirley
Coimbatore, India
September 16, 2012
all the right things
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
Deaf Ears
SUDBURY, Canada
September 8, 2012
Love
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.
Anonymous
myjewishcenter.org
July 31, 2012
Great advise
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!
Anonymous
Caldwell, NJ
May 12, 2011
Not so proud wife
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.
Anonymous
tampa, fl
January 9, 2011
Fallen Out of Love
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.
Lisa
Providence, RI
July 22, 2010
commitment
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?
vogelgesang
goodyear, az
chabadcenter.com
October 28, 2008
Love is...
...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...

Anonymous
July 14, 2008
Romance
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.
Anonymous
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