Why “Like” is more important than “Love”

When arguably the most beloved television couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines, were asked “what makes your marriage last?” Chip simply responded, “Well, we like each other.”

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This reminded me of another glorious, though fictional couple:

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And quotation by Friedrich Nietzsche:
“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”

Liking the person you love is essential, but hating the person you love is a story we hear much more often.

So many people are chasing an artificial idea about what romantic love should be. I am so completely frustrated by the love story that’s told over and over again—one that begins with an instant attraction and culminates in a sweeping, passionate romance that is completely unrealistic for two complex humans to maintain consistently forever. While many relationships start out this way, that initial flame eventually starts to wane, and we are left feeling like it’s time to move on—after all, what’s left? In the highs and lows of a relationship, what’s consistently left is friendship—it is deeply liking the person. It is the essential foundation for building a life with someone, yet it is left out of so many stories to the point where people forget how necessary it really is, and they don’t know to look for it.

While I don’t have a vast array of anecdotes to choose from, I have experienced the feeling of being attracted to someone whose every quality I did not like. I don’t know what it is—our brains self sabotaging maybe? God’s way of amusing himself? Regardless, it’s a real, chemical phenomenon that seems to be a rite of passage for all. Such a real phenomenon, that those emotions can easily be mistaken for love.

A literal thought I had once was- “I hate how he interacts with my friends, and how he talks to people in general, but he is SO. HOT. so maybe it could turn into something really great.” I saw nothing wrong with that logic. And who can blame anyone for using that line of thinking? Our society glorifies loving someone in spite of things. Exhibit A:

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I’m all about a good challenge and disagreement every now and again, but what happens when Noah and Allie pictured above stop looking like a gorgeous, young Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling? The Notebook would have you believe you get a person to die with whilst holding hands, but if you rarely agree on anything, you’re probably just going to get a messy breakup once you finally take a two minute breather from making out. Once that breakup happens, you might think to yourself, “I don’t know how to make a relationship work,” but there is a good chance that you were just looking in the wrong place. You weren’t starting by looking for a friend.

Now I want to be clear—I don’t think there is a right or a wrong way to meet someone. I don’t think you have to be “just friends” first. I do believe that the friendship that is built within your relationship is its most important component, because it will always be there no matter what life throws at you.

If you like the person you’re with on the same level as a good friend, it makes everything easier. You don’t have to be stressed out at parties if you like the things your partner says and how they treat people. You don’t have to worry about becoming bored with one another if you like what your partner cares about and find their perspective interesting. If you like who your partner is and how they carry themselves, you’ll start building small moments of realizing how much affection you have for them, and those moments are the threads that keep the fabric of any relationship together. It is why Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice urges Elizabeth, “…Do anything rather than marry without affection,” because she recognizes that if the liking is not there, it doesn’t matter how rich (or how hot) Mr. Darcy is.

Romance and passion are the easiest parts of a relationship to maintain when you create a depth of friendship underneath it. I wish there were more stories out there that chronicled the growth of a partnership so people would stop feeling stressed comparing their relationship to a superficial ideal. For now, I will just continue to sing the praises of passionate agreement, fireworks of genuine affection, and the sexiness of knowing that your partner is also, in the truest sense, your friend.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

To kick off this post, I will give you one of my favorite things on the internet:

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Very few people like to talk about mental health, I think, because the idea that our brains are constantly in a delicate chemical balance that could flip out at anytime is generally unsettling. We like to think of “sanity” as stable and unchanging—but it isn’t. People need to become more comfortable with talking about what’s going on (and what might be going wrong) in their minds, so we can avoid isolating ourselves (and all the consequences that come along with that decision).

You know your girl is all about sharing, and that includes hard things. I don’t think that sharing my experiences will have any sort of groundbreaking effect, but I know how much I have been helped by reading about other people’s experiences, particularly with anxiety and panic disorder—which is, spoiler, the subject of this post.

One of the most intense, stress inducing things I’ve ever done was take the leap to move to Louisville, Kentucky to enroll in a graduate program. It was a big decision, and while I want to play it off like I was a total trailblazing badass, I am actually an emotional orchid who requires a consistent watering of affection and words of affirmation. You don’t tend to receive those things at first in a city where you know no one. I was completely scared—no shame.

Thankfully, the first few months went really well, and that was in no small part due to a few wonderful people I met in my program, my roommate who was a totally well-adjusted, welcoming person (#blessed), and some really supportive faculty mentors who acknowledged that graduate students are also people.

A couple of months into this experience, I had to get a new doctor (another joy of moving to a new city), and thus was prescribed a new medication. Almost immediately I began experiencing full-blown panic attacks. Basically imagine the most stressed out and terrified you have ever been, and imagine your body reacting that way while you’re just chillin’ in your couch. Panic attacks are like an unwanted internal town crier that’s just screaming “FIRE!” with zero prompting, and for extended periods of time.

Given my current situation in a new city, with a new course load, with no friendships established just yet, there were many points of stress, and I began to chalk these panic episodes up to “just not being able to handle it.” I would get so frustrated with myself thinking, “you’re so lucky to be here! Why are you freaking out?” never ONCE thinking that it could be an outside source causing my body to react in ways it never has before.

I want to avoid going off on a tangent here, but I think many people, many women especially, are particularly hard on themselves when things aren’t going mentally right for them. When you’re told your whole life by society (and like…all of history) to avoid being an “emotional, hysterical woman” you tend to tell yourself the same thing. Men, of course, have their own gendered struggles with this—basically society is trying to do a number on all of us, and you need to push back against it. I’ll pick that topic up later. And by later, I mean I will always be talking about it in some form or another. Hit me up whenever.

Fast forward through about six months of telling myself to get it together, to when I saw that a fellow graduate student posted a status on Facebook stating that she had been feeling depressed for many years. She had only recently discovered that it was entirely due to the medication she was on.

This got me thinking- what if the medication I was taking on a daily basis was causing these panic attacks? Turns out, it absolutely was.

I wish I could say, “And then it was all better! Yay! I’m cured! Very short story, much success” but even though I got rid of the initial catalyst, the unfortunate reality is that, once your body has experienced a panic attack, it is as if you’ve opened a portal of possible reactions your body can have to stress.

I have always been a relatively anxious person (which is good when I’m able to channel it to bring energy to social situations, but not so fun when my mind is like, ‘hello yes RU bored? HAVE I GOT SOME WORRIES 4 U!’), but before I experienced panic attacks I did not understand what it felt like to not be in control of your brain and it’s processes.

I am a stubborn person. I believed that I could mentally overcome just about anything—but let me tell you, when it comes to the chemicals in your brain, you cannot keep going without help.

It is not a sign of strength to manage it alone.

There are infinite reasons why your brain could suddenly freak out on you (again, not a happy thought), but in no situation is it at all your “fault.” It seems that most people (myself included) don’t exactly feel empowered to get help when a sudden shift like this happens. More people would if we keep this conversation going.

I was hesitant to post this, mainly because I was afraid that someone would read it and think “Seriously? That’s so minor compared to [insert many examples of people who experienced more difficulties here].” Perhaps it is minor, but we do an awful lot of talking about things we can handle, and not nearly enough about the things we can’t.

Reach out, keep talking, and be kind to yourself.

“We are all just walking each other home.” Ram Dass

In Preparation for the Holidays: Top 5 Questions to Avoid

**DISCLAIMER: The following is a conglomeration of things that are typically asked by extremely well-meaning relatives around the holidays. This is in no way a roast of anyone’s well-meaning relatives, and is not all derived from personal experiences. Awkward questions are simply a universal holiday tradition. While your reason for the season may differ, we can all agree it shouldn’t involve accidentally making your cousin cry by asking the following:**

  1. Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend yet?

Possible Intention– Relationships are so fun! I love talking about them, and because I love you, I want to know!

Internal Reaction WHY YA GOTTA SAY “yet,” GRANDMA!? No, I don’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend YET because DATING IN THE DIGITAL AGE HAS NO RULES and is IMPOSSIBLE TO NAVIGATE. You met grandpa in your teens, and you knew he was a good person BECAUSE YOU KNEW HIS WHOLE FAMILY and I don’t even know if a guy is going to look anything like his profile picture SO MAYBE IT’LL BE A MINUTE.

Tip– I have found that, if someone wants to talk about their relationship, THEY will bring it up. If it gets serious, Grandma, you’re gonna know about it without having to ask.

Possible Response– “No, but my new job is awesome…”

  1. Are you trying to get pregnant?

Possible Intention– Children bring so much joy to families, and I feel like they’ll bring you joy, and I just love talking about babies at Christmas time!

Reaction– Aunt Betty—what exactly are you asking me? You’re asking what our timeline is for kids, but it also feels like, on some level, you are asking if we are consistently rollin’ in the ol’ hay (not the one in the manger, if you catch my drift). I do not wish to talk about either of these things.

Tip– On a not-so-funny level, fertility problems are real, and no one wants to accidentally stumble on such deeply personal matters. Also, having kids is not what everyone wants, and no one should feel obligated to explain that.

Possible Response– “When/if I am pregnant, we will definitely let you know! You know what I am trying to do? Cuddle cousin Marsha’s baby. LOOK AT THAT BABY, AUNT BETTY!”

  1. So how’d you feel about the election?

Possible Intention– I’m thinkin’ we might feel the same about politics, and if I’m wrong about that, I am pretty sure I can get you to see the light.

Reaction– OH PLEASE NO, UNCLE JOE. PLEASE NO. I have seen your Facebook. I know where you stand. You see me once a year. Not now. Not this way. Not three eggnogs in.

Tip–  Before you say ANYTHING POLITICAL EVER ask yourself, “am I just looking to confirm my own thoughts? Will I be offended if someone disagrees?” if the answer to EITHER OF THOSE QUESTIONS IS YES, stop. On the flip side, you might feel it is important to give Uncle Joe some #stonecold #politicalrealness, and while that’s noble–you’re not going to change the mind of someone you only see once a year at Christmas.

Possible Response– “I did have a lot of feelings about this election. You know what I also have a lot of feelings about? Great Aunt June’s fruitcake. It’s amazing. How does she do it?”

  1. What are you going to do with THAT degree?/Can you make money doing that?

Possible Intention– I am asking you these questions because I don’t really understand your field and want to know more

Reaction– I am KEENLY aware that money is essential for living and that people get money from jobs IT IS SOMETHING I HAVE CONSIDERED, OLD FRIEND OF MY DAD. The job market is completely different than it was 40 years ago, and you have touched on a subject that has and will continue to have me breathing into a paper bag for the foreseeable future.

Tip– In the name of all that is holy, never ask people about their financial plans unless you are quite literally their financial planner—which you aren’t, dad’s friend Larry. You are not.

Possible Response– “I know what it takes in my field to be successful, and I am not afraid of hard work.”

And then just stare.

Or, you could completely freak out on them like Taylor Mali does in this amazing poetry piece-

5. When are you going to move out of this place OR why don’t you come back and live here?

Possible Intention– I benefitted from either moving away from home or from living in my hometown, and I want to recommend that to you because I care.

Reaction– I think about where I live and why I live there literally daily. Your line of questioning is making me feel guilty about all choices I have made or will ever make.

Tip- I have never met anyone ever who has not thought about the place they live in and whether or not they want to stay or leave. If they want advice, they will share these struggles with you readily.

Possible Response- “I am grateful to be able to choose where I live, and if anything changes, I’ll let you know! Speaking of which, isn’t it crazy that planes exist, and how fast they go? I could leave/come back so quickly! Today even!”


The way I see it, you have two choices going into the holidays: you can dread every single question coming from your relatives and assume that all of it is meant to humiliate you, or you can overlay really positive intentions on everything they’re saying. Perhaps you have a relative who is literally the meanest person ever, and you KNOW their intention is to make you feel bad. That is real, and there are sour apples even on the finest of trees. But they win if they ruin your holiday. Play a mental game I like to call “anti-Grinching” and just respond to them as if they’re being so sweet. If they’re truly trying to be mean, this will frighten them, and you will have fun.

Cheers to warm holidays, good feels, and being surrounded by people who love us enough to want to know what we’re up to 🙂