Some months back I let Bob read my very first diary, written when I was nine. He quickly found his favorite page, memorized it, and now recites it to me regularly.
Dear diary,” I had written,” let me tell you a little about myself. I'm tall, with blonde hair and blue eyes and a lot of boys like me.” I followed that by listing all the boys I liked and rating them. Alongside each name I had written “love” or “like a lot” or “kind of like” or “not sure”. I'd have to go back and look (or ask Bob), but I think I might have rated them on a star or heart system.
Let me tell you about myself,” Bob said to me the other night.
I was NINE,” I replied.
Lots of boys like me,” he repeated.
As I think back on what it was like to have wild crushes in my childhood, I wonder about some of the ways we find “love” as adults, and I suspect that:
First.....a good dose of infatuation, childlike playfulness and romantic preoccupation is needed.
Second....all of of the above categories of “romance,” now apply to the one person we're sharing our life with, and
Third.....we're losing spontaneous connections.
Number one. It doesn't take many months into a relationship for romantic preoccupation to dissipate. We quickly begin to take the other person for granted and we fill our lives with everything BUT the other person. To counter this, Bob and I have a lengthy lunch together followed by a hike nearly every day. On Shabbat, some evenings and part of Sunday, we carve out time for each other.
Infatuation could also be seen as respect. I'm appalled by the tone of voice I sometimes use with Bob when I would rarely use it with anyone else. I also need to learn to respect his decisions. Before we married he took over management of my healthcare marketing business so that I could return to my writing and concentrate on my rabbinical studies, and while he still needs my assistance and training, he needs it less and less – yet I'm often reluctant to trust him with authentic management. Because of these things, I try to listen more intently to how I sound when I talk, and to allow him to learn my business, to some degree, through his own trial and error.
Playfulness. In the past few months, Bob and I have slid down hills on inner tubes, skied, had a snowball fight, laughed until our stomachs hurt, sang and danced, played games where I cheated my butt off, and concocted a few new meals which we cooked together. It's a challenge when we're in the same house working together all day every day, and it's beyond tempting to talk about business over meals, as well as during the evening, but we've been successful at moving through one portal into another (symbolized by standing together at one of our mezzuzot after work), and we create time and ways to have fun.
Number two. A successful relationship involves accepting that our feelings will fluctuate. When Bob works up the courage to try something new, or when he literally falls off of some chair laughing, I really, really like him. When he puts lotion on my back and tickles my arm, I like him. Okay, that's in the really, really like category, too. When I have to tell Bob something six times, I kind of like him, which I classify as not locking him out of the house for a week. When we've been tense with each other, though, I have trouble getting through the day because I always love him.
Number three. Internet dating can and does work, but be careful. Before I met Bob, I married a man who fit my list of everything I was looking for. We met and there was chemistry, but I never loved him. After I divorced him, I decided to stay off the internet and go to parties and get-togethers and not worry about meeting anyone, but within a few months, I'd met Bob. He didn't have a lot of what I had once listed (that piece of paper having been ripped to shreds), but we knew right away we were right for each other. A few crucial relational components can be vastly more important than a page full of smaller ones.
I can't speak for everyone, but for me, internet dating has it all backwards. Finding a perfect mate isn't accomplished by making a list of all the things you're looking for in a person. It at least begins with one similar to the one I made in my childhood diary. Do I really like him? Sort of like him? “Love” him? Then I'd see what we have in common, what our goals in life consist of, and if we have what it takes to make a marriage.
Dear diary, I kind of like the old way of finding love.