I wanted to tell her on the first date, but I knew that would probably be weird. She kind of gave me this half-shy, half-amused smile. But as time has gone on, I also realized that she knew something that I didn’t. I tried so hard to keep that fire going, to keep that emotion alight, but it got harder and harder. And what was even more interesting was that once I realized this on a conscious level, and started trying to find more opportunities to give, the more we both, almost intuitively, became lovey-dovey. From the excitement of dating a woman I felt like I could marry. Imagine a whole nation of people constantly chasing the emotions they had when they were dating. That’s a recipe for disastrous marriages; for a country with a 50% divorce rate; for adultery (the classic attempt to turn the fire back on); for people who do stay together to simply live functional, loveless marriages. How many people are in pain simply because they’ve been lied to. Like most Hasidic Jews (we both became religious later in life), our dating period lasted a very short time. I mean, how you can feel that burning love when you’re sitting at the table discussing how to use the last twenty dollars in your bank account? How can you feel it when you think it makes perfect sense to put your socks on the floor after you’re done with them, and she has this crazy idea that they need to go in the laundry basket? And now, as I’m a bit older and a bit more experienced with this relationship, I’ve finally come to realize something. When you have weak boundaries, you may sell yourself out in a relationship and put up with treatment that you know is objectively unacceptable.Confident people don’t abandon parts of themselves in order to have a relationship.
And even worse, it seemed that the harder I tried to be sentimental and lovey-dovey, the less it was reciprocated. Or, once we had a daughter, when I shared the responsibility of watching over her. Because as our marriage progressed, I found myself offering to help out around the house more and more. It took me longer than I care to admit to understand what was happening. Through giving, through doing things for my wife, the emotion that I had been so desperately seeking naturally came about. An emotion that, once had, somehow magically stays within a marriage forever. And I’m saddened to think about how much those messages bounced around in my head for so long. And even when I let it out of my chest, it wasn’t love. Telling someone you love them doesn’t mean that you do.Healthy self-esteem is a prerequisite for healthy relationships.Poor self-worth is what traps us in bad relationships, what sabotages new relationships, and what causes us to feel so devastated and broken when a relationship ends.Self-esteem doesn’t come from blowing kisses to your reflection in the mirror or repeating “I love myself” over and over.