Loving and Liking I: Not the Same
Some people are just easy to love. They attract your love for many reasons, but it isn’t necessary what they say or do: they’re just lovable. They’re like little kittens or puppies. I’m reminded of being with our grandson a couple years ago at Bear Country while the three of us were on a national parks’ journey out west. First we drove through the real bear country, like the Black Hills and Yellowstone, but we didn’t find any. Besides, you get a little worried when you’re looking for Grizzlies in some back country. Better to pay your way to Bear Country in South Dakota where you drive through this park with all kinds of dangerous bears just hanging out doing their thing. Then you come to the “nursery” where the baby cubs are romping around with one another, and you are compelled to jump over the fence and romp with them. We didn’t. But these not-yet-dangerous animals were lovable.
Some people are just like that: lovable. You know the kind. There’s something about these lovable people that is some kind of special gift they have. They’re not trying to be lovable; they just are. You can’t help it. For the most part babies are just lovable, and a lot of young kids are the same way. But these adults who are lovable are a special breed. We call these folks “lovers” in temperament, which we want to discuss in a later blog, but for now let’s just say that they’re just lovable.
Aside from the lovable baby bear cubs, kittens and puppies, and human babies, there is another phenomenon that occurs, mostly in families. We love our relatives. Especially our children. It just happens. How did I love my daughters the first second they were delivered? I was astounded with my feelings of love for my daughters when there were just delivered. Couldn’t help it. Couldn’t stop it if I wanted to. And the love I had for each of them has remained solid now for 44 and 40 years and counting.
Why do we like someone? There are many reasons but largest among them is some facet of life that is shared. This could be a shared political, religious, or philosophical belief, or it could be a shared passion for some activity like sports, music, working on cars, or hiking. We may also like someone because that person makes me laugh…or even cry. Liking is actually harder to develop or find that love because it means we have to find that piece of life that we share. People who like the Packers, for instance, might actually come from very different philosophical perspectives, but when they are watching a Packer game and drinking beer, it is only what they like that really matters. Sometimes liking simply has come from familiarity. You just know someone for a long time, say a spouse, and you like that you can predict when your friend will do something.
Liking is the essence of friendship. Furthermore, you can stop liking someone and you certainly can end a relationship with someone with whom you now have less in common. It can be problematic if you yet love the person you have ended a relationship with, especially if that person is a family member.
Loving and liking family members
We tend to love the rest of our family members, like parents, siblings, grandparents, and other extended family members. I have one favorite cousin out of the 22 I have. Just love him. Don’t know why. Perhaps because of the shared outgoing nature we have or the fun we had as kids. Just love him. Can’t help it. The same can be true with other relatives, and usually is true for those in our families of origin: parents and siblings, and perhaps an uncle, aunt, or grandparent who lived with us. Gotta love your family right? Right.
But you may not like ‘em. That’s the problem. You may love them but you may not like them. This is a huge problem, at least for many people. I talked with someone yesterday who hasn’t talked to his brother for years…but still loves him. I heard from a friend that his adult son doesn’t talk with his mother for some reason. And I talk with many people who have great problems with one or more of their family members. In summary, they don’t like someone that they love. My blog on “The Other F word” dealt a bit with the loving/not liking phenomenon. It’s a challenge. You can’t get rid of family as hard as you might try. You don’t have to. But you need to deal with your feelings…all of them.
Dealing with the loving/not liking phenomenon
Here are a couple suggestions for this love him/don’t like him dilemma:
- Identify the people you love who in your life. Be courageous because you might be surprised how small or how large this group might be
- Identify the people you like who are in your life. This could be family or friends. They might even be someone you see at the grocery store now and then, or a gal you see across the street.
- Consider the people who might fall into the love her/don’t like her category. This will usually be family members.
- Allow yourself the freedom to do the loving and the liking even they don’t seem to fit together.
- Don’t run off and tell you drug addicted son that you love him but don’t like him, or your brother who is just a loudmouth. Just acknowledge that you don’t like someone whom you feel compelled to love, and perhaps really love.
- Note the feeling you have with this love/don’t like thing. The feeling will be sadness. The only reason you feel sad is because you love someone and have, for some reason, lost that person, or lost trust in that person, or feel betrayed by that person, or something else. But you still love her. Let it be.
Johnson, R. and Brock, D. (2017). The positive power of sadness. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger
Johnson, R. (2018). Feelings I-IV blogs
Johnson, R. (2018, forthcoming). Loving and Liking II: Spouse; Loving and liking III: Children.