Choosing a marriage partner is a seriously important decision, and we are all super-conscious of the need to get it right. On the other hand, we know that it is more than possible to get caught up in the moment and imagine that our strong desire for the other person is evidence that we have met our bashert, our soul-mate.
Chemistry between two people.
But what if that is not the case? What if other things are happening inside our heads? This is not at all far-fetched. When someone experiences the interest of another person, it can be truly exhilarating. There is much scientific evidence that when we know or see that someone likes us, it makes it much more likely that we will like them too. It is actually an explicit passuk (Mishlei 27:19): “Like water reflects back a person’s face, so one person’s heart reflects back the feelings of another person’s heart.”
In addition, a range of brain reactions leads to intoxicating feelings. When we feel understood and accepted by another person, especially if of the opposite gender, our minds generate extremely pleasurable feelings. Combine that with physical attraction, and what results is the release of very powerful chemicals into the brain that change many things about how we think and feel. The effects can be profound, including feeling less pain and experiencing an intense longing for our love-interest.
Sometimes that chemistry is infatuation.
Overall, these reactions are healthy and positive, but can they be trusted? The answer is: not entirely. It is possible to have those reactions, even though the partnership is a lousy one and will end in disaster. It depends entirely on whether those feelings are the signs of budding love or merely the product of infatuation. The problem is that when someone is in the thrall of those heady feelings, it is very difficult to tell apart love from infatuation.
Mixing up love with infatuation is highly risky. A relationship based on love stems from a profound respect and affection for one’s spouse. A love-relationship draws on a deep reservoir of common values and shared goals, along with compatible personalities. With these core underpinnings, the relationship is fit to withstand the inevitable challenges of life and the changes that people undergo as they grow older.
By contrast, an infatuation-based relationship derives its strength from the way the other person makes us feel. We are, in essence, in love with ourselves. We bask in the interest we get from our date, and we revel in the excitement of a new relationship. But those will invariably wane and revert to regular levels of enthusiasm, and we will then have to face the relationship without those intense feelings.
Date productively so you don’t fall into that trap.
That is why it is so important that people begin the dating process in a carefully thought-out manner. There will be time for the emotions to do their thing later. First, carry out your due diligence before even going on the first date. Then, go slow on the first few dates and really get to know the person you are dating. What are their views on key issues, how do they respond to situations, what are their life goals, and what are their priorities? Check that you are a good fit for each other: do you interact well, is there mutual respect, and do you complement each other? Finally, when it comes to making your final decision, take a moment to reflect on – with your head – whether you are confident that you have met someone with whom you can truly build a lasting union.
Here is the most important to remember: You may meet someone you are so excited about that you say to yourself very early on in the dating process, “That’s it, I’ve made up my mind. There is nothing more to think about. S/he is the one I was looking for.” You may be right, which would be wonderful. But please understand that this is a very risky approach. It would be best for you to continue dating seriously and thoroughly as if you were lot already wildly enthusiastic.
Ask all the right questions anyway – even though you say you are already sold on the person. You owe it to yourself to be certain that you are truly suited to each other, and that your essentials line up well. This is your only chance to do so; don’t give it up so easily. If in the end, you are just as convinced that this person is your soul-mate, that is wonderful. You will be even happier in the knowledge that you are dated with the appropriate level of rigor and are confident that what you are experiencing is real love and not superficial infatuation.
What to do
When you are dating, speak with someone objective who can help you make sense of your feelings and thoughts. They can ask you questions to help you think about the fundamental cores that are integral for a successful marriage.