I love you but – Do I like you?!

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What makes couples tick? What is it that makes couples stay together?  And why do some couples hold on strong for years while others can’t make it past the honeymoon? Questions and musings that cross the minds of both the unattached and those who have been joined for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.

Is it love – the deep sense of belonging to a human being that generates lifetime devotion and loyalty? That miraculous sensation that one cannot define, cannot elucidate, and cannot deny? The close affection and genuine concern that stays with people for decades and glues them together through the curveballs of life?

Or is it that spark or excitement and admiration that ignites the relationship in its very beginning that holds the couple together for a while, that sometimes burns down leaving one of the partners looking for new stimulation?

The truth is, most probably there isn’t anyone who can define love or draw the line between the diverse so many feelings men and women can have for each other. Innocent friendship, personal admiration, physical attraction, and platonic emotions all can lead to or evolve into the notion of love. Aside from that, the entire process of emotional development that couples go through from the point attraction kicks in, well – until death parts us for some – cannot be overlooked.

A balanced approach in examining this process in a pragmatic matter-of-fact kind of way is to say that people, generally, are drawn towards each other on the basis of interest and commonality. Meaning that when you first meet a person, you find them interesting. As you get to know them, you find that you have mutual interests, beliefs, values, and other things in common. People are drawn towards other people who want the same things as them. In short, you don’t fall immediately in love with someone. First you like the individual traits that distinguish them, making them different from the people who you have met before. You find something that you have been looking for. Sounds familiar?

It is that irresistible attraction that makes people want to spend time together, get to know each other, and fall in love. Look at any of the past relationship you have had and you will see a pattern. In the beginning of the relationship there’s a lot of talking, insightful questions, and more admiration building up for that person who molds with every thought and every story your perception of an ideal lover. With every hour you spend together, with every experience you share, with every aspect you reveal about yourselves, love is in creation. It doesn’t happen overnight, you don’t fall in love; you casually and slowly walk into it, one step at a time. Have you ever been able to tell at what point you fell in love with someone, at what moment you felt It, recalling what happened and how you felt? You might recall some moments where attraction and admiration were at their peak, but you are probably still in love today – does it feel the same as it did then? Probably not.

If you ask me, I would tell you that it’s that deep personal admiration, when it is for the right reasons, that makes it or breaks it. And that takes us to the next concept, the distinct difference between two notions of love and admiration – or in high school terms; “love” and “like”.

You’ve heard people say this before “I love you, but I don’t like you very much right now”. Not crazy talk. There’s a distinctive and fundamental difference between loving someone and liking them. But the question is; are they in any way sequential? Do we have to like someone first in order to be able to fall in love love with them, or could we fall in love at first sight without knowing why? If a person continuously displays behaviors and actions that you like, are you bound to fall in love with them? Conversely, if you continue to dislike your partner’s behaviors and demeanors, are you bound to fall out of love with them?

We’ve learned in high school that liking someone is something and loving them is a whole different thing. We’ve learned that love was not that flare or that rush of feelings you occasionally get for someone without a foundation of admiration, understanding and acceptance. That is infatuation – that surge of excitement you feel when you meet someone new to you. You are curious about them, and you want to explore. It happens both to men and women who are in loving and devoted relationships. Whether it’s your next-door neighbor, the new girl at the office, or this guy at the gym who keeps flirting with you; it happens, you realize what you have with your partner is different, so you fight it and move on.

True love on the other hand happens when you realize what you have in common with someone, and you love them knowing exactly what you love about them. True love is not the false feelings you could have for someone whom you know is so not right for you. True love is when it feels “right” with every bit of your being. So for you to truly love someone, you need to know first what you like about him or her in light of what you want in your partner. And that is where the words match made in heaven have come from. Your soul mate is not the romantic fantasy of a person you are infatuated with. Your soul mate is a person your soul mates with in the true sense of the word. Your soul is the spiritual part of you as a human being, your moral nature, your sense of identity. It is what you are, and everything you believe in that makes you that person; your strongest beliefs, your wildest dreams, your greatest fears, and every experience that has marked your life and shaped you up as a person. And your soul is longing for another soul that shares the same dreams, fears, and aspirations. Love is a mix of the comfort your soul longs for, the affection your hearts yearns, the stimulation your mind craves, and the raw satisfaction your body desires.

What happens is that people fall in love all for the wrong reasons, and sometimes for no reason at all. They just fall in love with little or no consideration to whether they actually like the person they’re with. It’s very important to choose whom you’re falling in love with, and not be blindsided and unaware. People satisfy their hearts and more often just their bodies with no regards to what their souls and minds need to maintain a happy and healthy relationship that will actually last more than 6 months.

After the honeymoon part of the relationship the flare goes away, and people are left with what really matters – the person they’re sharing their life with. Your partner’s very own set of values, traits and characteristics bare of any feelings you might have for them. Cold, yet key for those who want a life long happy relationship.

People often forget why they fell in love with their partners. It is when they look at their partners and see the things they appreciate about them that they stay in love. It is that conviction that makes them resist temptations and remain faithful for life – “I know I want to be with that person for the rest of my life. I don’t feel it – I know it. My soul, my heart, my mind and my body are all in harmony”. This is how you do 40 years of happy marriage.

But when you fall blindly in love, disregarding what you like and don’t like about the person you are falling in love with, then you are in trouble. So many men and women who rushed into marriage when they were young and immature are realizing today that they were inexperienced and did not know what they wanted then. When they are faced with their partners today, they find that they didn’t like them at all. They want totally different things than what they did in the past. Their notion of the ideal partner has changed, and has become so far off from the reality of the person they were currently with. Why is it you think that divorce rates are skyrocketing? The 50% of first marriages in American end in divorce , with the average life span of marriage decreasing from 37 years in the year 1980  to approximately 4 years in 2009. Go figure.

The relationships that do work for life are the ones where you not only keep the qualities that you love about your partner in sight, but also find out new ones along the way that make you love them even more. When life consumes us and we fail to notice the good things about people, we forget why we loved them in the first place.  Reciprocally, relationships that work for life are the ones where you work on the very same aspects about yourself that make your partner like you while you know they will still love you either way. Change is an inevitable truth that couples are faced with. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree though and mature adults do not change drastically. A person who has demonstrated good behavior for years is more likely to continue display the same values and ethics. Couples can make it through minor change if they stay within their common value system and adjust – together, and not apart. It’s important that you change, all the while keeping yourself in check and not drifting far off the person you used to be.

A loving life partner is probably one of the most valuable treasures of life. There isn’t a better guarantee for a long and healthy relationship than choosing your partner in line with who you are – the values and principles you are based on. People are unique and special each in their own way, and it’s the similarities between them that create unbreakable bonds for life.

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