If you are engaged or newly married, don't say i didn't warn you. If you are well into shana rishonah (the first year) and beyond, there is hope. While you probably have been barraged by hyperbole about marriage, either positive or negative, I am here to give you a reality check about what really goes on in relationships. While I work within the paradigm of Imago Relationship Therapy, I believe that these ideas resonate with the spiritual realities of avodas Hashem.
There is no better place to begin talking about love relationships than Pesach (Passover). It is spring time, chodesh ha'aviv and love is in the air. Hashem Himself takes us out of Mitzrayim (Egypt), not because we deserve it, but because He loves us. The Arizal, explaining why Pesach is a loshon of dilug, skipping, says that due to the perilous spiritual situation of the Jewish people in Mitzrayim, Hashem has to pass over the normal order of events to redeem us. While in any developmental process, there is normally a slow, step by step progression, being that the Jewish people were on the 49th level of tumah (spiritual impurity), there was no time left to wait. Even though we were not worthy, the great light of love that shown on that night has the power to cover up all sins, as it says in Mishlei 10:12, v'al kol p'sha'im t'chaseh ahavah. Ahava is m'kalkeles es hasurah (Bereshis Rabbah 55:11). It distorts the normal way of doing things and has a blinding effect. You know the saying 'love is blind' ? Well, the truth is love is blinding. This is a good thing because, otherwise, we would have never left Mitzrayim. It enabled us to leave behind our past life and follow Hashem, wherever He would lead us.
"Falling In Love"
Without the mystery of attraction, you would never get married. Most likely, you would scrutinize the other person to no end. Unless you had no say in the matter of spouse selection or are extremely logical and emotionless, some form of attraction, not necessarily physical, must be present. We have to 'fall in love" so that we can be blinded from all of the reasons we should not get married. (While some of these terms have been abused by society, I preferred to view them as a feeling of connection that draws us to another person, or a 'click'.) How else could you have the emunah (faith) to commit to spending the rest of your life with someone you barely know? I often find that one of the reasons some people have a hard time getting married is that they are too caught up in their head with the wish list, that they are unable to experience another individual. While this is not a license to make a foolish decision and marry anyone you seem to get along with, you will usually not be drawn to just anyone once you get to know them a little bit. Remember that Hashem is m'zaveg zivugim (matchmaker). He is the one who brings the couple together, regardless of logic, because they have a purpose, to become more whole and complete people.
So we get married and then, all of a sudden, things aren't like they were when we first met. What did we get ourselves into? We would have been better off single! If we would only have married someone else! This is not the person we thought we were getting! Sound familiar? This is much like when we left Mitzrayim. Only days after experiencing miracle upon miracles, we start second guessing ourselves, expressing betrayal, and hoping for the good old days. The luster of the lightening quick (b'chipazon) period that led up to the wedding has worn off. The problem is that we forgot about why Hashem took us out in the first place.
On The Road Towards Relationship
When Hashem first appeared to Moshe and said that "when you take the people out of Mitzrayim, you will serve G-d on this mountain" (Shemos 3:13), Rashi explains that the purpose of the Exodus is to receive the Torah. It is more than just "Let My People Go", it is to truly be in a committed relationship to Hashem. Similarly, in a marriage between husband and wife, our initial encounter, the yetzias Mitzrayim, worked in bringing us together, but as the Arizal explains, all of those spiritual illuminations on the night of the Exodus were immediately removed the next day. It is not until after the fifty-day process of Sefiras HaOmer that we re-receive those illuminations at an even higher level on Shavuous, zman Matan Toraseinu.
Shavous is dependent on Sefiras HaOmer. The Torah only tells us the date of Shavuous in the context of Sefira (Vayikra 23:16, Devarim 16:9-10). In order to get back to the connection we experienced in the beginning of our relationship and give it permanence, we must work on our relationship. Marriage is the perfect opportunity to tikun hamidos (correcting our character flaws). More than just a positive spin on dealing with conflict, it is l'chatchilla the reason the two of you were brought together. The very challenges and frustrations you experience in your relationship are necessary to elicit growth. A sociable and outgoing wife wishes her homebody husband would liven up. The husband wishes his wife would give him some space. This situation will replay itself and tension will build until they can engage in a mature and conscious dialogue. After learning tools to relate and manage conflict and develop understanding and compassion, both parties are usually moved to grow towards each other. In doing so, they not only meet their spouse's need; they become more complete and balanced people and more connected to their spouse. Through working on your relationship you will once again reach those feelings you first experienced for your spouse, yet now they will be real, stronger, and more permanent.
The Pesach-Sefiras HaOmer-Shavuous process is a helpful model for couples to understand how relationships work. Most of us get lost soon after marriage, nevuchim heim baaretz. Realizing that the initial excitement in marriage is transient and can return through hard work, helps ground couples as well as provide them hope. While the power struggle is inevitable in any relationship, a conscious marriage and real love is attainable.