Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why Do We Fall in Love?

The Mosuo people of southwestern China are unique in that they are the only known society that shuns marriage. Instead, women engage in casual relationships with whomever they wish and raise their children within their own family home, assisted by their male relatives.  But every other society around the world, from Madagascar to Macedonia enshrines the love relationship within law.  The medieval culture of courtly love elevated romance and infatuation as the ultimate expression of love, but severed courtly love from any physical means of expression.  Other times and mores obsessed over the physical but neglected the romantic or attachment components.  Why do we fall in love?  What’s happening in our heads and hearts?
Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University, and author of Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love, says we are “hard-wired” for love. After putting forty people who self-described as, “in-love,” into an MRI machine, she was able to trace the feelings of love back to dopamine flow in the part of the brain called the caudate nucleus.  Dr. Fisher cautions that relationships will still take ‘work.’   You can read more about her experiment here and here.
Torah does not view the companionship, romance and physical components of love as separate and distinct from each other; they are all integral to real love.  Halachah reflects this in the three Biblical obligations it places upon a man toward his wife:  to feed her, provide her with clothing, and have intimate relations with her.  Providing her with food is an act of nurturing and companionship.  Providing her with clothing is more intimate – caring not only for her basic survival needs, but for her need to feel special - romance.  The intimate connection meets her physical and emotional needs.  In a true love relationship, physical, emotional, and spiritual connections are intertwined.
Here’s more from course author, Rabbi Simon Jacobson:

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