Can You Love Someone You Don’t Like?

I love my boyfriend, but sometimes I don’t like him very much.”

Have you ever noticed that there are people in your life who you love deeply but you don’t really like very much? Or maybe the opposite—people who you really like but can’t seem to fall for or care about as much as you want to? It could be your parent, sibling, friend, lover, or even your ex.

Why is that? How can you love someone you don’t really like?

Although love and like often go hand in hand, they’re actually very different experiences that have been explored in psychological research for decades (see Hatfield, et al., 2012).

Generally speaking, love is a drive—it’s our capacity to feel for, desire, and connect with another person that evolutionarily helps our species survive (Fisher, 2016Tobore, 2020). It’s that deep feeling of enjoyment, emotion, and affection for another person that emerges, in part, because of our very human need for connection. It’s really a reflection of the profound internal experience of care we experience in response to another person.

On the other hand, like is an appreciation for another person based on who they are and the attributes they possess. As described by Rubin in his efforts to explore romantic love in the 1970s, liking someone is what you would describe about someone that you enjoy, appreciate, and value (Rubin, 1970). Liking someone requires that you see them as separate from you and evaluate them in an appealing way. It’s an enjoyment of them because of who they are and the things that you appreciate about them.

So, while love and like often go hand in hand—the more you like someone, the more likely you are to feel love for them—that’s not always the case. You’ve probably met people that you would say you love but don’t like. Even with your dearest friends and family members, it’s likely that you could tell me many things you don’t like about them even though you love them deeply. You also may have exes or unhealthy relationships with people you wish you didn’t love because you really don’t like them or want to feel emotionally connected to them (Warren, in press). Yet, the love remains. With romantic partners, it’s also common to feel a deep liking for someone who’d rationally be perfect for you, but you can’t seem to fall for them.

The naked truth is this: Loving someone is more a reflection of how you feel internally about a person, whereas liking them is an appreciation for who they are. In this way, you can love someone you really don’t like, or like someone you really don’t love. The goal for most of us is to surround ourselves with people we both like (because we think they are wonderful people) and feel profound love that drives us to connect, attach, and develop a meaningful connection. When you both love and like someone, it’s the makings of a wonderful relationship.

Copyright Cortney S. Warren, Ph.D., ABPP.

Note: This content is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. I cannot respond to personal requests for advice over the internet. Best on your continued journey.

Dr. Cortney S. Warren, PhD, ABPP

Exposed to a diversity of cultures and lifestyles from an early age, Dr. Cortney was intrigued by the ways cultural and environmental conditions affected the psychological well-being of individuals, groups, and even whole societies.


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