Is Your Love Burnt Out?
by Rabbi Aron Moss
Do a husband and wife need to be together 24/7? Is it ok to have a life outside of marriage? I sometimes feel guilty if I spend time alone or with friends, as if I should always include my spouse in everything I do. But then sometimes I feel smothered and need some space. That also makes me feel guilty. I am happily married but not sure what's right here. Any help you can offer?
Love is like a fire. It can generate a lot of light and a lot of warmth. But to keep any flame alive, it needs to be fed. If you don't keep throwing logs on the fire, it will fizzle out and there will be nothing left.
The logs that fuel love are time spent together, shared experiences, and emotional bonding. Without this nourishment, even the strongest love can dissipate. If we become too distracted with other things, if we are too busy for each other, the love goes stale and we soon drift apart. Like a fire unfed, a love unattended eventually burns out.
But logs are not all a fire needs. A fire also needs air. All the wood in the world will not be enough to maintain a fire if the fire can't breathe. And the same goes for love. To be able to love, we need space for ourselves, we need some oxygen. Without it, we lose our individuality, we have nothing to bring to the relationship, and we become boring.
Allowing each other to explore interests, maintain friendships and have quiet time outside of marriage is not a threat to the relationship. On the contrary, it strengthens it, because a relationship means connecting to someone else, and to be someone else you need to have a life. For someone to love you, there has to be a you, independent of your partner.
Of course this has to be within reason. The fire needs air, but we don't want to blow out the flame by creating too much space. Most of the time we should want to be together with the one we love. And relationships or activities that our partner is uncomfortable with should be avoided. Our marriage always comes first. But if you truly love someone, you have to let them exist outside of you, and you need to nurture your own existence too.
Make it clear to your spouse that you are not running away, and The Talmud teaches, "If husband and wife are worthy, the divine presence rests between them." This means that for G-d to be there, you need some space between you for Him to rest.
Keep on fueling your flame, but give it some air to breathe. And don't feel guilty about being your own person. That's who your spouse fell in love with in the first place.