Dating: Like or Love?

When considering a potential marriage partner, who you like is more important than who you love. Learning how to love someone is relatively easy; learning how to like someone is much more difficult. In part, that’s because those things we like in another person often have to do with well-established traits. Thus, those traits are harder to reshape. Love, on the other hand, can be developed and nurtured by a couple. Love will take many different forms over a lifetime, depending on the individuals and the particular season of life.

Unfortunately, society sends our youth the wrong message when it comes to relationships. “Find someone to love” or “find a great sex partner” are messages too commonly communicated. This thinking is backwards, resulting in many failed relationships and marriages. We are emphasizing love and sex—both of which can be learned and developed—rather than encouraging evaluation based on what is genuinely liked in another person. Furthermore, consider the following: even a marriage relationship marked with lots of romance and a robust sex life will find that time spent in love-making rarely amounts to as much as 5% of one’s total marriage hours in a given week or month. So why would one make something that comprises only 5% of his or her time a major criteria in mate selection? Society’s message is completely distorted and out of balance, leading to relational pain and other devastating consequences.

Therefore, find someone you really like! Their passions, their interests, their habits, their personality, their worldview, their faith, their family, their sense of humor, their goals—these are the characteristics that will hold a couple together through the years. Once you find someone you like, you can then learn to love that person. You may even be surprised by how much your love grows in the process of appreciating what you like.

Learning to love a friend makes much more sense than learning to like a lover. And evidence suggests the outcome of the former will be much more stable and satisfying in the long run.

—Dr. Kent R. Olney, Sociologist, Olivet Nazarene University