‘Love’ needs ‘like’ to sur­vive in the long haul

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360 BETS - CAROLYN HAX Tell Me About It is writ­ten by Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post. Her col­umn ap­pears on Tues­day, Thurs­day and Satur­day. E-mail her at tellme@wash­post.com.

Dear Carolyn: Clearly you are big into us­ing “like” in­stead of “love.” You make this sub­sti­tu­tion all the time. If you ever feel like ex­pound­ing on it, I’d be cu­ri­ous.

— Anony­mous

Dear Anony­mous: Sure. Have you ever seen “Like never dies” on a movie poster? Heard a song called “Like is all you need”? Known any­one to hang on those three lit­tle words, “I like you”?

I think it’s safe to say that love is never in dan­ger of be­ing dis­missed, dis­counted or taken for granted.

But like is rou­tinely so. It’s the con­so­la­tion prize, the faint praise to be damned with.

Yet though like can en­dure with­out love ever hav­ing any­thing to do with it, love takes a beat­ing when like isn’t there to sup­port it.

Con­sider what hap­pens when you don’t like the way your beloved treats you or oth­ers around you — or when you don’t like what Beloved watches on TV or does for a liv­ing or uses to fill spare time; or what topics Beloved chooses to dis­cuss, or how; or whom Beloved chooses to be­friend or ad­mire; or how much Beloved con­trib­utes to the house­hold chores or cof­fers; or where Beloved pegs cer­tain pri­or­i­ties.

It’s very dif­fi­cult to sus­tain love un­der the pres­sure of daily ex­po­sure to be­hav­iors or traits you don’t like — whether this loved one is fam­ily, friend or mate. Even if it doesn’t die out­right, love can quickly be­come ab­stract.

Ab­strac­tions do have their place. Love in the ab­stract is what gets us up in the night when a child cries out, when we’re des­per­ate for sleep. It’s what flies us cross-coun­try to wit­ness our close friend’s wed­ding, know­ing full well that said friend will have about 3.7 qual­ity min­utes to spend with us amid var­i­ous host­ing obli­ga­tions. It’s what moves us to ac­count for some­one else’s well-be­ing even when that per­son isn’t present, and even when at­tend­ing to their needs might force us to com­pro­mise our own.

But when it comes to shar­ing your day-to-day life with­out want­ing to run scream­ing, a per­son’s ex­pres­sions, body lan­guage, con­ver­sa­tion topics, di­ver­sions, quirks, tics and at­ti­tude with you need to be pleas­ing on a purely func­tional level.

And so when it comes to peo­ple writ­ing in about prac­ti­cal prob­lems with peo­ple they love, that’s the first thing I urge them to con­sider: Do you like this per­son, fun­da­men­tally? Be­cause that’s the bed where the ab­strac­tion of love can re­li­ably come lay its head.

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