What is the difference between lust and love, between loving and liking?
Love involves being as concerns for someone else’s welfare as you are for your own. Love allows us to care for, serve and sacrifice for each other. O. Henry’s short story, The Gift of the Magi, exemplifies the selfless nature of love. In this story a young couple desperately want to give each other meaningful Christmas gifts. Because they have no money to purchase gifts they each choose to sacrifice their most valuable possession to buy a special gift for the other. Ironically Della sells her gorgeous long hair to buy a platinum chain for Jim’s watch, while Jim sells his watch to buy jeweled combs for Della’s hair. Their willingness to sacrifice their most treasured possession for each other represents the strength of their love.
Lust, on the other hand, is more self-centered. It is focused on fulfilling one’s physical urges and desires. Lust can be mistaken for love; it feels extremely intense, almost obsessive. Lust means putting one’s desires ahead of the other’s person’s best interests. There is no concern for the cost of one’s actions. Lust involves an all consuming; let the consequences be damned kind of attitude. Lust is easy, since it does not involve the day-to-day realities that love does. Lust is what makes an affair so intoxicating; reality does not have to interfere with the illusion of perfection.
Love encompasses passion, where lust is simply the empty shell of passion. Love can be passionate and intense, but it is also kind, patient and accepting. Love means dealing with reality and struggle and coming out closer. Lust means dealing with illusions of what is and what could be if only reality did not interfere.
The difference between liking and loving is the difference between friendship and romance. One the reasons that like is most important is that it is your friendship that can carry you through the tough times when you may start to doubt your love.
If you want your love to last then one of the most important things that you can do is to like each other. When we like people, we accept them as they are. One of the greatest dangers to a loving relationship is to be continually unhappy with and trying to change one’s partner.
In counseling we frequently hear statements that loosely translate to I love my partner but I cannot stand to live with him or her. “Like is most important,” because unless we like someone as well as love them, there is always that danger that love will fade.
I tend to agree with Reiner, that Lust is easy. Love is hard. Like is most important. Lust is easy, because it simply involves allowing your physical desires and urges to run their course. It may be easy, but it is not fulfilling, since lusting leads to more lusting. Love is hard, because it involves giving of oneself and at times giving up some of what I want for we or us. Love is hard, but is fulfilling. And like is most important, because like is what holds it all together. Like means choosing to be happy with each other.