Dear Rabbi Bernath,
Love is like a roller-coaster. It’s not always the same. How do you deal with the feeling that your feelings will not come back; that life, kids, work, or something has sucked the life out of the relationship?
What a great question, I really appreciate your trust with this very difficult matter in your life.
So many of us are on auto-pilot when it comes to long-term, important relationships. It happens that some of us are married for years and don’t realize that we are growing apart; and then we’re surprised by how far we’ve gone once we look back. It takes a lot of bravery to admit it – so thank you for that.
I also really like how you asked how to deal with the “feeling that your feelings will not come back.”
So often, we don’t realize that the “issue” itself isn’t the issue. The way we feel about the issue – our perception – is what it’s all about.
And when something goes wrong, the first reaction is to think that the problem will never go away.
Whenever we realize there is an issue in our relationship – it doesn’t matter when it is – we must always look at it in a positive way. The first question you need to ask yourself is how can we repair this? How can we get the “feelings” to come back?
I believe there is a solution, with a bit of wisdom from the Jewish tradition.
In Jewish life, we have a yearly process that is designed to reinvigorate our personal relationship with God. It’s called the month of Tishrei, when we lose more days of work then perhaps any other religion in the world!
Let’s go over the holidays, kabbalistically, as steps, along with how they apply to a relationship:
Step One is Rosh Hashanah, the day when God takes a step back from the world and re-evaluates whether every aspect of the relationship is worthwhile. This is similar to what you’re going through – although your step back was involuntary. The first question is, do you want this relationship? If yes, move on to the next step.
Step Two is Yom Kippur, when we attain a fresh start in the relationship by realizing why we’re there in the first place. For you, this involves going back and asking: how did I know we were meant to be together at the outset? Make your list. Is your origin story still valid? If it is, move on to the next step.
Step 3 is Sukkot/Simchat Torah. The point of these very happy (and under- appreciated) holidays is to bring life back into the relationship by translating common goals into tangible acts. So sit down with your partner: based on the “whys” of the relationship, what are your common goals? What activities could we do that would meet them and bring us together?
Finally, we have Shabbat Bereshit, the recounting of the story of Creation. Kabbalah teaches that Creation isn’t in the past. God is creating us at every moment. If He would stop, we would stop.
For us, the reality is that relationships are only there because we will them to be. We recreate them every moment. And if we were to stop creating a relationship for even a moment, it would disappear. With that message, you can confidently head into a year of sweet, happy and lively relationships.
P.S. If the answer to any of the steps was no, or you otherwise got stuck, consult a marriage therapist. I think every couple should visit a therapist at least once a year, even if their marriage is awesome.
Have a question for Rabbi Bernath? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org