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