"Love is the transcendence of the soul over the body" — The Rebbe

A young unmarried woman was discussing with the Rebbe some prospective matches that had been suggested to her, and she explained why none of them appealed to her.

The Rebbe chuckled. "You have read too many romance novels," he replied. "Love is not the overwhelming, blinding emotion we find in the world of fiction. Real love is an emotion that intensifies throughout life. It is the small, everyday acts of being together that makes love flourish. It is sharing and caring and respecting one another. It is building a life together, a family and a home. As two lives unite to form one, over time, there is a point where each partner feels a part of the other, where each partner can no longer visualize life without the other at his or her side."

Does anyone really know what love is?

Love is the single most necessary component in human life. It is both giving and receiving; it allows us to experience another person and lets that person experience us. All too often we look at love selfishly, as something we want and need; but true love, because it is part of our relationship with G‑d, is selfless.

One of our most fundamental spiritual principles is "Love your neighbor as yourself." How can this be possible — don't we love ourselves more than anything else? The answer lies in the fact that true, selfless love stems not from the body, but from the soul. On the soul level, it is possible to truly share yourself with another person.

To achieve selfless love, you must first learn to love yourself, to create harmony between your body and soul. 

The difference between selfish and selfless love

The two types of love — selfish love and selfless love — are diametrically opposed. Selfish love is conditional love; you simply want your needs to be met, and if the person you have chosen to love doesn't serve your needs, you reject that person and search elsewhere. Although it may seem beautiful for a time, such love is bound to be fleeting. When the person you love wants help, you may give it. But once the price becomes too high, if you feel you are giving more than you are receiving, you simply stop loving. After all, there is only so much discomfort that you are willing to tolerate for another person.

Selfless love, though, means rising above your own needs. It means going outside of yourself, truly connecting with another person's soul and therefore with G‑d. There are no conditions for such selfless love; when G‑d is the focus of our love, we do not constantly redefine our wants and needs.

How can you achieve selfless love?

To achieve selfless love, you must first learn to love yourself, to create harmony between your body and soul. This means understanding who you really are and what you have been put on this Earth to accomplish. If you are in conflict with yourself, how can you expect to reach a comfortable love with another person?

If you don't find a way to love G‑d, to love G‑d that resides in your soul, you will be on a constant search for love. We often turn to unhealthy forms of love to replace this lack of inner love.

What makes a successful marriage?

The key to a successful marriage is appreciating its sacred nature. When a husband and a wife introduce G‑d into their relationship, they become one, with an unseen hidden bond that makes their unity, their marriage, far greater than the sum of its parts.

Two people may love and care for each other, but without a shared higher vision, they have nothing to bond them eternally. Such a bond is necessary, for, besides being two strangers with different personalities and backgrounds, a man and a woman differ biologically, emotionally, and psychologically and will undergo many transitions in their lives.

Trust in marriage

A successful marriage must include trust. Trust does not come overnight; it takes years to build. But once it is in place, it serves as a solid foundation that will support a marriage through any crisis.

Trust does not come from perfect behavior; it comes from accountability. No one can be expected to be perfect, but they can be expected to be accountable, to acknowledge an error. Trust means that you have demonstrated that your spouse can depend on you, that you have the integrity to act properly even when no one but G‑d is watching.

Dedicate time with your beloved to spiritual activities — to study together, pray together. Once a week schedule time to discuss the emotional and spiritual paths you both travel on. Share your goals, your visions — your aspirations. Make sure that you commit time to discuss not only your monetary and domestic issues, but ethereal and eternal ones.

Commitment is based on a mutual vision. But sometimes it is the small things that matter, that prove to your spouse that you are committed. Going shopping. Cleaning up the house. Asking if there is anything you can do to help when your spouse's hands are full. When one spouse travels, he or she should bring back a gift for the other. Even when you are working on something independent of your home and marriage, you should try to involve your spouse as a constant partner in your life.

The crucial and central element in achieving a loving marriage is learning to cultivate peace at home, learning to communicate and handle the variables that will arise in any marriage. Learning how to get around an argument, how to reconcile, how to cope when things aren't going well. Above all, a loving union is Whenever one spouse is having trouble, the other should remember that they are two halves of the same soul. Not caring for your spouse is the same as neglecting yourself, or neglecting G‑d.