Can You Love Who You Don’t Like?

There are people we love and those we just like and we generally know the difference, but I contend that there are also people we love, but don’t necessarily like.


I had this debate with a coworker recently.  He said it was impossible to love someone if you don’t like them.  His theory is that like comes first and leads to love.  I agree, that is often the case, especially when it comes to people we choose to love, people we choose to bring into our lives as opposed to those who just sort of end up there.

My theory is based mainly on relatives, but can also apply to romantic love.  

Sometimes, because we are related to a person and we know them, their story, their struggles, so we love them.  If they really need help, we would be there for them and we genuinely care and want the best for them in life.  These can also be the last people we would choose to spend time with.  

Maybe it’s a relative who has addictions and trashes every event they attend.  Or it’s a naysayer who can pick apart any party and have you hating life and welcoming the end of the world (that they just spent hours detailing.)  Or maybe you just have an opposing personality to someone in your family.  They are outgoing and you are shy, or they are sports crazy and you could definitely pass.  

My criteria for deciding if this is a person that I love, but don’t necessarily like is:  would I want to spend a weekend with them?  We can tolerate almost anyone for a few hours or a day, but a whole weekend?  If you have to admit that that idea sounds painful, you just don’t like that person.  

As a teenager, I knew a family very well where it was beyond obvious that the mother really didn’t like one of her kids.  She would never admit it, because the world would see her as a horrible person, but she and her son were like oil and water.  They never found any common ground.  

I think it’s possible for couples to love and not like.  We choose a spouse for a multitude of reasons and we bond with that person.  We share kids, mortgages, day-to-day life with them, but would they be our first choice for a vacation?  We can be very attracted to someone with opposing traits because we want more of those traits in our lives, we look for balance.  But that same balance can equal problems when we need to create a plan that involves things both parties like.  How do you plan a new years eve for an all-night party person and their early-to-bed shy spouse?  (hint:  the answer is compromise).

It’s hard to admit you don’t like someone you love.  The fact that you care for their feelings gets in the way of telling them that you would rather not spend too much time with them.  And I don’t  have an easy answer for a way to do it.  Being honest with yourself would be a good first step, but telling them. . . not so sure.  Thoughts? 

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