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About the Author:
Shmuley Boteach is a practicing rabbi and author of Kosher Sex and Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments. Named Preacher of the Year by the London Times, Boteach is the founder and dean of the Oxford L'Chaim Society. A prominent lecturer and guest on television programs such as Larry King Live and Today, he lives with his wife and children in New Jersey.
My friend Henry has a problem. At the ripe old age of forty, this real estate mogul is already so wealthy he doesn't have to work another day in his life, and neither will his children -- that is, if he ever has any. Handsome and charming, he has a penthouse overlooking Central Park in Manhattan, an enormous retreat in Westchester County, and perhaps another vacation home in Vail, Colorado (frankly, I've lost track). He owns a personal jet and a couple of limousines, collects Picassos, and has just installed a bowling alley at his weekend getaway. He dates so many beautiful women they practically have to take a number to get a night out with him.
We should all have such problems, right? So what could be bothering this fortunate soul?
Every week Henry and I get together and talk about the predicament that has cast a shadow over his otherwise enviable life. A life, he laments, that is missing one little thing: love.
"Why can't I fall in love?" he wondered aloud to me one day after recounting his previous week's experiences with women he'd met. Our visits had taken on a kind of pattern. Each week he would weigh the pros and cons of the women he'd been seeing (and there were usually several a week), going into elaborate detail about their strong points and weaknesses. Henry's a thoroughly good man, but sometimes I get the feeling he reviews the properties he buys and sells with more passion. None of the women inhis life, he invariably concludes, is a keeper. And though the parade of women through his life seems endless, he claims he has never once fallen in love. When I first expressed incredulity at this and giggled nervously, he looked me square in the eye. "Why don't you believe me, Shmuley? I'm completely serious. I have never once been in love."
Laura is another friend of mine with a problem. Though not as wealthy as Henry, this bright and ambitious attorney in her early thirties works long, hard hours to maintain her lifestyle: dinners at hot new restaurants with colleagues, getaways with girlfriends at a Napa Valley spa, membership in a popular health club, ownership, with the bank, of a condo in one of L.A.'s trendier districts. Laura gives every appearance of savoring the West Coast good life she has created for herself. But whenever I see her on my frequent trips to California, her usually bright face turns sour when she talks about her love life.
"What love life?" she exclaims, enumerating the false starts and, dead-end relationships she's had. "Some of them are really great guys," she admits. "But no matter how many times I go out, I just can't seem to fall in love." This man is too short; that one doesn't make as much money as she does; another is perfect, except for one problem: He's married.
For all their success in the world, Henry and Laura are failing at what I believe is life's most important mission: finding someone with whom they can share a rich and life long love affair, someone who will cherish and worship them. Instead, like millions of their counterparts, they have thrown themselves into their careers, hoping that professional success will plug all the leaky holes in their hearts. But for all the many ways they find to fill their days -- from seemingly benign pastimes such as overworking or spending time with friends and family; to the distracting entertainment of TV, movies, and the Internet; to the endless pursuit of material possessions -- they pass every moment with a great empty cavity in the middle of their chests where their hearts are, or should be.
Henry and Laura are not alone. Theirs is an affliction I have witnessed countless times since 1988, when I first started a program for young singles at Oxford University in England. In the intervening years I have served as an adviser for Internet matchmaking websites and a matchmaker on singles cruises; I have met, listened to, and counseled tens of thousands of single people of all ages, religious backgrounds, and nationalities; and I have received and responded to hundreds of sad, sometimes desperate, letters and E-mails from lonely, love-starved people. After fielding countless questions on the lecture circuit, I have come to see that millions of single people share this problem.
These days the question seems to echo everywhere: "Why can't I fall in love?" Even among those who have been married for some time, I hear its variation: "Why can't I stay in love?"
At first I merely felt bad for Henry and Laura. I listened, offered what encouragement I could, tried to understand their individual personalities well enough to advise them wisely. But before long I realized that single men and women like these two -- those aware enough of their problem to express it in the form of that six-word question -- are the lucky ones. They have a problem, and they know it. They admit that the lack of a loving, intimate relationship is causing them pain, pain that ebbs and flows but at times grows unbearable. This pain preoccupies them so persistently that they have taken two crucial steps toward solving their problem: first admitting that they have a problem and then doing something about it.
The unlucky ones, the ones I'm really concerned about, are those who can't see that they have a problem. Along with thoughtful singles like Henry and Laura, I have met countless young men and women in the last several years who appear emotionally anesthetized, who seem almost willfully to have numbed themselves to that emptiness in...Why Can't I Fall in Love?. Copyright © by Shmuley Boteach. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.