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Love vs. Like – How do you tell the difference?

I want to stick a disclaimer to the beginning of this piece: I am not an expert on the subject of love or relationships.

I am just a normal young woman, like many of you, who still hasn’t found her true love. I have had my share of bad boys, nice boys, middling boys…and just boys. I have dated, had relationships, broken up, been broken up with, been mucked around and mucked someone around as much as the next girl.

The difference between like and love is a murky one. It’s like asking someone if their cup of tea is sweet enough. How do you know it’s sweet enough? Who defines sweet ‘enough’? What is ‘sweet’ and what’s not anyway? As you can see, there’s a whole other philosophical network of questions that springs up when one asks a question like this.

How do you know whether you love someone or just really, really like them?

The word ‘love’ is bantered around so much nowadays. There are the shallow ‘sweety-darling’ crowds who say they absolutely love everything, there are girls and guys who fall in love at the drop of a hat – often with an attractive stranger they met on the bus only to find out three months down the road that he/she is a stripper/Hyde & Jekyll/porn star or just plain weird.

People who fall in love at first sight might show the most passion of any couple you see on the street, but they are also the ones forming the high divorce rates we see nowadays.

On the other extreme, there are those who don’t believe in love. They’re the sciencey crowds who claim that love is a load of gibberish and that it’s all pheromones working in overdrive. They analyse everything to death and come to the conclusion that love is a mutually agreed upon illusion.

So with all these contradictory theories floating around, how does a girl know she’s found ‘True Love’? Does it even exist? I don’t know about you but if it does, I’m personally kinda wishing some of that fairy dust will blow in my direction.

So I decided to ask the longest-lasting couple I know: my parents.

“Dad”, I said over the phone. “What’s love?” This surprised my father to no end – I have a very good relationship with my father, but he’s a bloke. We skip around the subject of emotions except when he chokes back a manful tear or two at important occasions.

After spluttering for a few minutes, he told me calmly that to him, love is a choice. “You have to make a decision every day of your life to stay with that person, through good or bad, even if you don’t feel like you love them anymore…because you’re not always going to. Sometimes, you won’t even like them…but for me, it was worth it”.

It was then that the light came on, I realised he was right. The difference between love and like, to me, is this: Love is a commitment that you make. Like isn’t secondary to love, in fact, like is essential to love.

You like hanging out with someone, spending time with them, you like what they wear, how they do their hair, the little wrinkle they get between their eyes when they’re mad, or they way they curl their lip when trying not to laugh. But like can be fickle. It is based on mere feelings, and no real intention. It’s easy to say goodbye to someone you simply like – because you believe there are others out there just like or better than them.

Herein lies the difference between like and love.

Love is choosing to be with someone – as one wise friend said, forsaking all others. Love is seeing someone for who they are, baggage, bad hair and all, and still being able to look them in the eye and say: “I love you”. Love is acceptance, understanding, patience, friendship, endurance…all those things that sound so boring when you’re 18 and horny but that suddenly becomes so important when you come ‘of age’.

How do you know whether you love someone or just really like them? Ask yourself this – if they were involved in a terrible car accident tomorrow and became crippled, would you stay with them? If your answer is a sincere yes from the heart, then congratulations, you’re in love.

If it’s no, then you’re not…and that’s ok too – you might just need more time. I will tell you why this answer is so important – love means compromise, caring about the welfare of the other person as much as your own.

Love requires trust – and the most basic foundation of trust in a relationship is knowing that your partner will not leave you, no matter what happens. There are always going to be others more attractive, more intelligent, maybe even more compatible, others that you are attracted to. But love means you’ve committed to a choice and you need to follow through and see where it takes you.

This is why most people who have been in love say it takes time. The true test of love lies in what happens after infatuation fades and passion settles.

True love does exist. And it isn’t boring, or scary or impossible to find. It’s out there – if you’re brave enough to look, and strong enough to let yourself fall.

Karen Tay

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