General Topics

Love Hurts


Having anything, means that one risks losing it. That is true of possessions, of life, and of course of love. But because one risks losing something, surely that does not mean one should never try to achieve it. As Lord Tennyson said (yes, Lord Tennyson and not Shakespeare), “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Indeed, it was Shakespeare who said, “For violent fires soon burn out themselves” (Richard II).

This does not seem to deter us from falling or trying to fall in passionate love. What is remarkable about the loss of love is that it can be particularly debilitating and difficult to overcome. It often remains within one’s psyche as a bleeding wound even when a new love has replaced it. Some people never recover.

Losing one’s health, death, the collapse or deterioration of material possessions–these are either inevitable or beyond one’s control. They are not necessarily personal insults. They are not a statement about how lovable, desirable, or attractive one is or not. And that is why the pain of lost love is so intense. One is negated, rejected, rubbished. And even the old excuse, “It is me not you”, does not seem to help.

Yet the fact is that powerful and passionate as love is, it is still an emotion. Very often another part of our brain countermands the emotion and counsels logic, opportunism, or simply concession to other people or other demands. (Not to mention the other parts that press the claims for lust and excitement). Most of our lives are led trying to find a balance between the logical and the emotional–what we want and what is appropriate to the given circumstances. Still, we humans tend to want everything. We either strive for possession or perfection.

Even God started out as an idealist. He wanted unconditional love and obedience. He only gave Adam one command, but that was enough to highlight the fault line. Any statement “you can’t” seems to invite betrayal. Love is not control. Control, domination, exploitation is a denial of genuine love. Having created humanity with the capacity for choice, God was in a way forced by the very willfulness of man to set him free from his Garden of Eden. If you love someone you must let him go.

The prophet Hoseah describes the relationship between God and Man. “When the Lord spoke through Hosea, He said to ‘Go, take a wife who is a whore and will have children of infidelity, for the people (land) has committed adultery in departing from the Lord'” (Hosea 1:2).

Hoshea asks us to imagine the awful pain that a betrayed lover feels, even when he knew from the start what the outcome would be. In this case it is God. It is the nature of love, spiritual and physical, to yearn for a perfect merging of two souls. The ideal is a marriage based on love, not just contractual obligation. “And it shall be on that day, says the Lord, that you shall call me my “Man” (“Ishi”); and no longer my “Master” (“Baali”)” (Hosea 2.18). The relationship of “Ish Ve Isha”, a man for a woman and of course vice versa, is a relationship of total commitment. The relationship of a husband as a master “Baal” is just a contract. So if God can aspire to a passionate devoted relationship, of course that must be what He wants for us too!

Yet most of us fail in our relationships to some degree. I was selfish and self-centered as a young man. What I thought was “love” was really “desire.” I had an agenda for my life and that was going determine my choice of partner. Later I came to understand that love is a very different, much more profound phenomenon because it is based on “give” rather than “want.” It is something very few people are privileged to experience. In most cases, marriage is either the mistaken next step from desire and passion or, on the other hand, an arrangement between families or individuals.

If in either case it succeeds it is because both parties want it to. And wanting it to succeed, requires a degree of agreement, shared values, and aspirations as well as the decision to remain faithful. Not unlike the decision to be religious, interestingly. The amazing thing is that to the Western mind it seems inconceivable that an arrangement can actually lead to as much love and as deep a passion as falling madly in love at first sight.

I have met people who have been scared of love simply for the fear of losing it and being hurt. Just as some fear being completely honest about themselves for it leads to vulnerability. And just as some shy away from marriage because they think a successful marriage must be founded on ‘love at first sight.’

The fact is that love and marriage do not always “go together like a horse and carriage”. If they do, it is a blessing. But they are two very different processes. There is sexual attraction and there is compatibility. That’s why a couple having lived and slept together for several years, then get married, may still break up.

And that leads me to the next installment. If marriage is an arrangement, does the pain of infidelity inevitably mean it is all over, forever?

16 thoughts on “Love Hurts

  1. Shakespeare seems to have distrusted youthful passion in matters of the heart. He said something very similar in Romeo & Juliet, via Friar Laurence:

    "These violent delights have violent ends
    And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
    Which as they kiss consume: the sweetest honey
    Is loathsome in his own deliciousness
    And in the taste confounds the appetite:
    Therefore love moderately; long love doth so;
    Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow."

    Shabbat shalom.

  2. Hollywood has a lot to answer for. My generation was brought up on its notion of romantic love which was about as far from reality as it is possible to go. The girls were all searching for a Gregory Peck or Marlon Brando and the men for Marilyn Monroe or Ava Gardener. Who was to know that a Toulouse Lautrec or Molly Picon lookalike might be just as loveable?

    My late husband, of blessed memory, always said that in his case it was love at first bite, the bite being of my mother's strudel without which I doubt I should have found a husband at all!

    Most of the poets and philosophers covered all aspects of love but I think my favourite is Browning's
    "Where my heart lies, let my brain lie also."

  3. Leila, you said: "Hollywood has a lot to answer for."

    And who had the biggest influence in creating Hollywood? Exactly !

    What happened to all their Jewish heritage? Was it considered ok to sell treif notions to the gentiles?

    The law of unintended consequences as their fellow Jews became just as messed up as the goyim because of the "Hollywood" effect.

  4. Might be Chaim Yossel the honig kvetcher, Jeremy, or Mary had a little lamb.

    Sorry, I have to plead ignorance on that one.

    Good Shabbos. (I'm in Yiddish mode today)

  5. Rob, I don't think the Hollywood moghuls made movies with the intent of selling them only to gentiles – and I don't for one moment think there was anything deliberately subversive about what they did. You're right, for the most part they forgot their religious lives but they always supported Jewish causes and never denied their heritage.

    They led us down the path of happy endings and we all followed willingly both goyim and yidden our brains sodden with dreams.

  6. Leila & Rob,

    It is hard for me to relate to this idea of mistaking regular men for the characters in movies. But if it is happy endings that cause the problem, we shouldn't be blaming Jews, but Catholics. After all, the Hays Code was specifically designed to support Catholic values, which included a clear-cut good vs evil, with good always winning out in the end.

    Personally, I like that kind of thing, because it gives me a feeling of hope and optimism (but I am American, not British). Also, it hearkens to the whole messianic ideal.

    Gut Shabbos,

  7. ss, Thank you so much for the information about the Hays Code which I had never heard of but have now looked up. Isn't it wonderful to be able to blame the Catholics? – just joking.

    Gut Shabbos.

  8. Leila,

    Yes, the Hays Code is usually referenced with respect to the fact that "one foot must remain on the floor" during a love scene (among other precautions). But there really was a lot more to it than that, and it is interesting to think how much these Catholic notions shaped the thinking of Americans growing up with the movies of the 40's and 50's. 🙂

    Shabbat Shalom.

  9. Leila,

    "but they always supported Jewish causes" …

    Documentary Examines How Hollywood Ignored Holocaust
    By ROGER CATLIN; Courant TV Critic | April 5, 2005
    Because films that in recent years have tackled the Holocaust have been high-profile award winners, from "Sophie's Choice" and "Schindler's List" to "The Pianist," it may seem that film is a medium that's best kept the memory of the Nazi extermination of the Jews. But an important new TV documentary shows how Hollywood ignored the growing Nazi threat and was slow to criticize its leaders, in part because 10 percent of movie grosses came from Germany. Even after major Hollywood moguls were invited to the liberated concentration camps, little of the Holocaust was reflected in movies, according to the exhaustive and enlightening "Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust"

  10. I rather prefer comedies about love and relationship. Since Hollywood started with too much sex in lots of films I am less interested in serious films about relationships. They show too much nudity that should be kept private. What has it to do with Catholic or Jews? We are supposed to be modest. I thought the catholic even forbid relationships as they are shown in films leave alone showing naked bodies.

  11. Anonymous:

    Well, the Hays Code fell into disuse in the 1950s, and things have indeed gotten worse and worse since.

    And the meanings of the ratings has changed dramatically. When I was a child, my parents took me to all kinds of movies, including many R-rated movies. I do not think that was the right choice, but the R-rated movies of that day are nothing like the R-rated of today.

    I watched a 1951 movie version of "The End of the Affair", a Graham Greene novel with a strong Catholic theme, in spite of dealing with an adulterous relationship. Then later I saw that there had been a remake in 1999, so I decided to watch it, to compare, even though it was rated R. I was absolutely gobsmacked to see complete simulated sex acts, with partial nudity (man's rear, woman's breasts).

    So clearly standards have changed, and when light movies are supposed to be an escape or diversion anyway, I appreciate modesty and an uplifting ending. And if a movie is more serious and supposed to make you think and deal with philosophical or moral issues, I still don't need to see other people's private parts and fake orgasms. 🙂

  12. Rob, I wasn't actually referring to the Holocaust, as the article was about love rather than hate and affiliation rather than neglect. I did not know that film makers "ignored the growing Nazi threat…" but I can understand that it took a long time (perhaps too long) before the atrocities were portrayed on the screen as so many who had survived were traumatized by the horrors they had witnessed or the the families they had lost during the war.

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