Things That Seem Like Love But Aren’t

Things That Seem Like Love

Some things in life sure do seem like love. That’s especially true at the outset of a relationship. Many things can bring couples together. And we often regard those things as love, or at least manifestations of love. Unfortunately, many of us come to realize what love really is and isn’t later in a relationship. By then, we’ve already invested a lot. And the sense of dissapointment, disillusionment, and betrayal we can then experience can be a serious soul crusher.

Interest, desire, affection, adulation, and affirmation are some of the behaviors that can seem an awful lot like love. And I’ve written about these matters before. See, for example:

But you really can’t contemplate these issues often enough or deeply enough. Too many relationships that once appeared to hold much promise end up causing heartache these days. So, it’s important to understand just why this so often happens.

Getting Carried Away

The outset of any relationship is a critical time. It’s when the very foundation of the relationship gets established. And all too often we don’t realize how solid or weak the foundation of a relationship is actually is. And that’s largely because in our character-impaired and culturally-impoverished times, it takes us too long to understand what genuine love is really all about. So, we mistake all kinds of things for it.

Some folks find themselves emotionally carried away by the interest their new partner might show. They might even get more carried away by the way that partner lavishes attention, praise, and affirmation on them. Interest, desire, expressed affection, adulation (e.g., praise, admiration, etc.), and affirmation are powerful relationship aphrodisiacs. And a person who lacks a proper sense of their worth, can find him/herself quite seduced by these things. And it’s not that any of these things are inherently bad. The problem comes in confusing them with love.

Discerning Love

Laying a solid foundation for a lasting and genuinely loving relationship requires much discernment. But because we’ve largely lost the art of proper character vetting, correct discernment often comes much too late in may relationships. To compound matters, some disturbed characters are skilled in the art of positive impression management. So, their true nature, and their actual capacity for genuine love aren’t easily discernable in a relationship’s early stages. I wrote In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance in part to help folks better comprehend such matters.

Many I’ve counseled over the years have confused affection with love. And while it’s nice when true love and affection accompany one another, they’re very different things. One can show affection (for a variety of reasons) without even knowing how to truly love. And one can certainly love without giving affection. In fact, while it’s in everyone’s interest to do as much genuine loving as possible, some folks simply don’t merit our affection. We can do the loving thing, even to those who’ve wronged us. That’s the only way this character-impaired world of ours will heal. (See also: pp. 202-217 in Essentials for the Journey.) But that doesn’t mean we owe the bad actors in our lives any affection.

I discuss these matters further on the latest Character Matters podcast.

4 thoughts on “Things That Seem Like Love But Aren’t

  1. This topic has come at a good time for me. I’ve sworn off relationships for a year because I just don’t trust myself to choose wisely.
    Proper vetting, discernment, not getting “carried away” too quickly, are all tools I’ll use next time when someone strikes my interest. Using these tools should prevent me from making yet another relationship mistake.
    I’ve not given up yet . . . . . but feeling really cautious.

    1. Hi, Lucy,

      I too am being very cautious about any relationships, male or female. I’ve had issues with both. I believe my character traits makes me an attractive target, draws those to me that I most want to avoid.

      While I’ve got an instinctive negative reaction to flattery, I’m not sure how one vets character in this day and age when poor character traits are celebrated and seen as admirable. I’m not sure how one controls the feelings produced from the flood of oxytocin (the cuddle or bonding hormone). I do know that society’s penchant for quickly establishing intimate relations produces more of and allows us to fall under the lure of oxytocin which may cause us to overlook red flags to the character of individuals. I also know that the very, very long hiatus I’ve taken makes me more vulnerable to the lure.

      I certainly hope that when the right person or persons (friend or romantic interest) crosses my path, I’ll be able to recognize them but I feel truly uncertain and terrified about going through this mess again so I’m a bit afraid I’ll be unwilling to take the risk, missing out on something great due to my caution.

  2. I print out just about every one of your posts Dr. Simon. I read them and re read them as I feel it’s a good way of really learning how to find people of good/great character. I’m so saddened to say that someone so close to me has shown so much hatred towards me in the past 11 yrs or so.
    Many things he wanted to do with me, go to church being just one, he expressed to me with such venom how much he hates church. That cut me to the core. I mean why ask me if I want to go if he truly hates it? Well the answer is simple, to MANIPULATE me.
    I find that completely heartbreaking as he truly has no clue as to an eternity.

    He now uses his kids as does his wife to try to completely erase and destroy his kids wonderful memories of us babysitting them 3 days a week since the oldest was 4 months old. He just turned 8 and our younger gd is almost 7.
    He fills their heads with adult matters. Turns them against God. Fills them with jealousy towards their new cousin. It’s truly sickening.

    At any rate, I thank you Dr. Simon for your faithfulness as a counselor in helping me and my husband and my eldest son. We read your papers out loud to one another to stay on a healthy track. It truly does help, encourage and reassures us we’re doing the right thing.

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