For the week ending 28 May 2011 / 23 Iyyar 5771

Good Looks Go; Goodness Grows

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Jason

Dear Rabbi,

Until now I’ve been in a series of casual relationships without any commitment. Recently, I’ve started to think that since I’m getting older, it may be time to start thinking about getting into a more serous relationship in order to get married. I am just really having a hard time dealing with the idea that you could be with the same person for the rest of your life. And also, how could you possibly not be attracted to other people while you’re married? What do you think?

Dear Jason,

It sounds from your question that the types of relationships you’ve had are based on physical attraction and mutual convenience.

It’s no wonder, then, why they’ve been casual and why you have trouble seeing how a relationship could last and be fulfilling for the rest of your life.

As far as convenience is concerned, today’s convenience is tomorrow’s burden. So how could you stay with one person for so long? And as far as “looks” are concerned, 1) looks get old and 2) as one gets old, good looks go. So how could you not look around?

Before eyeing the alternative, let’s play out your scenario.

Be assured that as her good looks grow old, or as she grows old and her good looks go, the same thing is happening to you. For the very same reasons, you’re becoming less attractive to her. So you’re not the only one looking for “greener grass”. Just as you’re looking at others, so is she. And what’s more, you two aren’t the only ones. Just as the two of you are eyeing others, so others are eyeing you – and “yours”. In fact, in a society whose relationships are based on your model, everybody is tired of every body they “have”, while desiring everybody else. That’s sick. Breakdown!

Furthermore, even if while looking around, theoretically, you would change pasture to the other side of the fence, leave one relationship that started with attraction to another which currently seems more attractive, then what? Eventually, what happened to the older would happen to this newer. Namely, it would get old, and the same person you looked toward with such interest, you’d now look away from toward another. So what was this newer relationship worth in the first place? And where will such relationships take you? Out of the meadow and into the swamp!

So what’s the alternative?

Take the advice of our Sages who said: Love which is based on external factors, when the externals go, so does the love. Love which is not based on external factors, even if the externals go, the love remains.

Healthy, long-lasting and fulfilling relationships must be based less on good looks and more on good character. Good looks go; goodness grows. This means that while physical attraction diminishes over time for the reasons mentioned above, good people generally become even better people over time. They mature well, their good disposition inclines them to refine themselves, and they actually become more pleasant and attractive as time passes. Love for such a person for such reasons will not wane but only grow with time. And in a society where it’s every person’s responsibility to be such a person, good, wholesome, productive, stable and lasting relationships thrive.

This doesn’t mean that if you merit finding and building such a relationship that you would never be challenged by looking over the fence, but recalling how distasteful and even harmful that deceivingly “greener grass” is should keep you in home pasture.

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