“And Adam knew his wife, Eve.” Knowing, in the “Biblical sense”, refers to the act of cohabitation between man and woman, but the Torah speaks in delicate terms and avoids describing the matter directly. But why this term specifically? Why would the Torah take an act so purely related to the physical body and couch it in terms of the mind? What does intimacy have to do with knowledge?
The answer may be found in the research of Dr. John Gottman, an expert marital therapist and author of the best-selling book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” Gottman speaks of the importance of what he calls “Love Maps,” a working knowledge of one’s spouse replete with information about who they are and what makes them tick.
Investing time to create Love Maps allows us to establish and nurture a deeper, higher quality relationship. Think of the knowledge of your partner as the surface area of the relationship. The wider the surface, the more points of contact that exist, and the more opportunities to understand, appreciate, and love. We move beyond a relationship predicated purely on superficial infatuation – or even worse, mere convenience – to one that is characterized by a true understanding of who he or she is, their thoughts, dreams, and life story.
As Dr. Gottman writes, “Without such a map, you can’t really know your spouse. And if you don’t really know someone, how can you truly love them?”
Perhaps this is precisely why the Torah uses the term “knowing” to connote intimacy. If physical intimacy has become the peak of what a relationship offers, we’ve veered dangerously off course. The Torah reminds us that it is knowledge of the other that offers the most satisfaction and creates the most promising future for a relationship and marriage. Physicality is but one dimension of coming to fully know the other and creating a powerful bond. But what we seek is more than skin deep; we seek a more profound intimacy; knowledge and understanding of who our partner is and what they’re about.
Today, ask yourself the following:
Can you articulate your spouse’s greatest personal ambitions? What about their professional ones? What activities they find most meaningful? Most stressful? Their pet peeves? Their favorite activities or worst fears?
Seeking out the answers to these questions – in increasing detail throughout life – transforms a relationship from a passive state of being into an active pursuit of understanding and, ultimately, admiration. Possessing such a detailed knowledge of your spouse is the difference between living parallel lives in a shared space and living a unified life, joined by the deep knowledge you have of one another.
Rabbi Jonathan Bienenfeld