The goal of marriage is that the couple manifest in their earthly consciousness the existential oneness they found in their celestial soul-root. This is the essence of true love.
Attaining this ideal is a three-stage process. This is because, according to Kabbalah, all of creation exists within three frames of reference space, time, and soul. Any rectification of reality must therefore address each of these three “dimensions.” With respect to husband and wife, this means that the unity that exists at the level of their common soul-root must be made manifest in each of these three frames of reference.
The first stage in this process is for a couple to learn how to relate to and interact properly with one another. In the early stages of their relationship, they think of themselves primarily as separate individuals, since their aspirations, desires, and interests have not consciously aligned or coalesced. Love, at this stage, is the soul’s ability to project itself outside itself and to thereby touch another soul. As explained above, unrectified love is focused on oneself; one may think he is loving someone else, but he is really only loving himself. Rectified love involves learning how to focus one’s love and concern on someone else.
Since they consider themselves separate entities, the husband and wife may be said to be occupying at this stage separate realms of mental “space.” Establishing and maintaining a proper loving relationship can therefore be seen as the rectification of the “spatial” manifestation of their intrinsic unity. Over the course of time, a couple learns to express their love as a deepening sense of partnership in building a Jewish home and achieving their common goals, genuinely caring for one another, and becoming more and more sensitive to and respectful of each other’ feelings.
The second stage of a couple’s consciousness is existential, continuous togetherness. Having aligned themselves to each other “spatially,” they have closed the mental distance between them and become a husband–wife unit. Their consciousness and emotional boundaries have expanded to encompass each other; each spouse considers the other a part of himself.
As a result, physical proximity or the lack of it does not affect their togetherness. They have transcended space and exist together in time. As they experience time’s cycles together, they focus on how life’s varying moods impinge on their common consciousness and react productively to them together. As their love matures to this level of true togetherness, neither of them can picture his or her life apart from the other.
At the final stage of consciousness, husband and wife come to experience themselves as a single entity. Their common soul-root is now fully manifest in both of them; as they were in heaven, so they are on earth. This is the fulfillment of G-d’s intention that they “cling…and become one.” In time, love and true romance deepen in both the conscious levels of their souls and in their mutual “collective unconscious.”
To the extent that the couple becomes absorbed in their true reality as a part of G-d, their sense of independent selfhood disappears. They no longer possess feelings and emotions directed toward one another, but have rather “become” one another. At this level, one can not only rectify or expand one’s emotional makeup but actually change it. Once a person surrenders his selfhood to the infinity of G-d’s reality, he can transform himself into a purer, higher version of himself.