‘All you need is love,” sang The Beatles. And the sentiment persists, pervading
popular Western culture – books, films, advertising – like a fine, perfumed
mist. But is it true?
Reaching back into my earlier, more impetuous years in
Jerusalem, I pull up a memory that has remained accessible not so much because
of the personality of my date that evening, but because of a conversation we had
over coffee about relationships.
I asked him what trait he thought was
most conducive to a happy union.
Still young and starry-eyed, I expected
him to name a quality like love or passion, excitement or romance, possibly
commitment or devotion.
When he answered “tolerance,” I felt let down,
and thought him a bit of a cold fish. To my heightened sensibilities back then,
tolerance sounded like much too drab and prosaic an attribute to head the
requirements for wedded bliss.
Today, I applaud his wisdom because
tolerance feels like the cozy tent that protects our most meaningful ties from
the chill wind of disillusion and disappointment.
We try to be tolerant
where our friends are concerned. We are realistic about their sometimes annoying
quirks and foibles, and accept them with as much grace as we can muster –
because we like those friends and want our relationship with them to
We also, if we possess any self-knowledge, realize that we have
our own quirks and peculiarities and expect our friends to accept them with the
same good grace.
NOW LET’S look at love. Amid its wonder and joy, the
process of falling in love tends to raise the love object to heavenly heights,
obscuring the ordinary human aspect, including those quirks and flaws. Reality
takes a back seat, along with tolerance – for who needs tolerance in Paradise?
Hooked on the “in-love” drug, many trot happily to tie the knot with that
“When I fell in love with my ex-husband,” a friend told
me, “I thought: ‘He’s perfect.’ And I really believed he was, in every possible
way. I was on Cloud Nine.”
Very soon, however, he revealed himself to be
only too humanly imperfect – a reality for which, she wryly admits, she was
mostly unprepared. She feels she fell in love – or was it chiefly physical
attraction? – before she had really gotten to know this person with whom she
would be living in such close proximity.
“When the passion cooled down,”
she recalled, “I took another look at the man I had married, and realized that I
didn’t really like him that much. He wasn’t a bad person; just not who I had
thought he was.
“I was swept away by romance,” she said. “I realized I
had missed out on an important stage in getting to know
someone.”“Falling in love with love / Is falling for make-believe; /
Falling in love with love / Is playing the fool…”
– Rogers and Hammerstein
LET’S put love aside for a moment, and consider “like,” which opens the door to
real life, recognizing that tolerance has an important part to play.
brings me to the psychologist who tells his female clients: “It is more
important to like your husband than to love him.” And to the friend who has been
happily married for 38 years and replied, simply, when I asked her how she had
known that this was the man she should marry: “I felt that he could be my
“It is so important to like the person you’re with,” a newly
married acquaintance confided to me. “It’s more important to be ‘in like’ than
to be in love,” he added.
Finally, I found this poignant comment posted
on an Internet chat site: “Love without like becomes a cold love born of
It seems essential here to define, and refine, one’s terms, which
is to say that there exists a truer, deeper love than the initial, heady
sensation of being “in love” – important though that first rush of attraction
and excitement is. This deeper love is born of knowledge and appreciation of the
other, and of shared experiences and goals.
In stark contrast to modern
culture, which idolizes sex and romance, this deeper love is the only kind that
some communities – haredi Jews, for example – recognize as valid. For them, it
is considered good and fitting that a young couple who meet should be attracted
to each other; but the true love, the real love, comes after marriage, and not
before. It’s a conviction that cannot be blithely dismissed by a secular culture
in which the divorce rate is alarmingly high, and rising.
TO GET a better
handle on what being “in love” and “in like” signify, I drew two columns and
jotted down the associations that automatically came to mind in connection with
Under “In Love,” I wrote: romance, sexual attraction,
giddiness and infatuation, idealization of the other, clinging – compare
child-mother symbiosis; weakened judgment. The “In Like” column
comprised: friendship, enjoyment, respect, tolerance and space.
elaboration on the above: When I saw that I had instinctively linked
“infatuation, obsession, clinging and child-mother symbiosis” to being “in
love,” I reflected that the all-encompassing initial sensation of being in love
may in some respects mimic the first immature bond of a child to its mother, in
which the child experiences itself and mother as a single entity. “In-lovers,”
carried away by the strength of their reciprocal feelings, may experience
themselves as “two bodies with a single heart.”
If that suggests
abounding mutual affection and caring, it’s great; but if it means both partners
expecting to have the same thoughts, the same ideas and opinions, desires and
aspirations forever, it’s doubtful they’ll remain together for the long
Further, scientists have been able to pinpoint actual physical
changes in the brain that result from the powerful chemical cocktail produced by
falling in love; as a consequence, the lovers’ hearts (i.e., their emotions)
dominate their heads (i.e., their judgment). This explains people’s initial,
willful blindness to any flaws in their beloved, and the harsh thud of reality
when the “love drug” begins to wear off.
UNDER THE heading “In Like,”
friendship, enjoyment and respect together suggest a relationship that includes
having fun and finding pleasure in each other’s company, together with a genuine
appreciation of the other person’s qualities.
“Space” introduces the
element of allowing the significant other to be him- or herself; and tolerance
implies accepting that way of being, even when it differs from what we were used
I didn’t add “communication,” both because I think it is
implied by “friendship,” and because it is clear that stable couples have found
a way to relate that is pleasant, productive and, above all, free of
None of this is intended to denigrate love – romantic, sexual
or any other; merely to state the belief that “like” is possibly a better, saner
and more clear-sighted start to a relationship one hopes will be loving and
POSTSCRIPT: The young man who so long ago cited tolerance as
paramount in a happy union might have been having an off-day on the occasion the
two of us went out.
I remember that we dropped into a hotel that was
showing in its lobby an exhibition of Frank Meisler silver sculptures. As we
walked around, I noticed an oddity: Someone had placed an egg in a ring that
formed part of one of the figures. It looked quite incongruous balancing
“Look,” I exclaimed, idly wondering whether the egg was
hard-boiled or raw; the latter, as it turned out. When I gave it a gentle prod,
it fell out and broke – as chance would have it – over my date’s
Do you know, he never called me again.