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Carolyn Hax: ‘Like’ must be part of love in life

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. – 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 while 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 what topics Beloved chooses to discuss, or how; or whom Beloved chooses to befriend or admire.

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 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, quirks 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?