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:
- Mistaking Interest for Regard in Relationships
- Adulation is Seduction not Love
- The Perils of Affirmation Dependency
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.
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.