Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and soon we’ll see heart-shaped boxes of chocolates filling store shelves, florists will be stocking up, and couples will be trying to figure out how to celebrate without breaking COVID restrictions.

As you’ve probably realized by now, there are many kinds of love. The love I have for Dianne is different than the love I have for our kids, or for my sisters, or my mother – or our cat. I suppose, too, I love my good friends, but they’re not getting a Valentine’s card from me. I’m a guy, born in the ’50s, and was socialized to keep such feelings to myself, so expressing my love to my friends would be awkward, at least for me.

Speaking of awkward, once when I was on a summer-long cycling trip and phoned home from somewhere in Austria, my roommate told me she loved me. I’m still not sure what kind of love she meant, and I don’t remember how I responded, but it gave me something to think about for the rest of that day. And when I got home.

An infinite number of songs, poems, and novels have been written, and movies made to illustrate the various sentiments that love can arouse.

But with apologies to Lennon and McCartney, love is not all you need. I think like is just as important; it’s love’s close, yet underrated, relative. There aren’t many songs or poems or movies about like; would you pay to see a movie called Like, Actually, or Eat, Pray, Like?

Love is about passion, about emotional attachment, about some feeling that can stir butterflies in your stomach, can cost you sleep at night or can make you feel on top of the world. Like is about reason; there’s something rational and practical about it. If you like somebody, it means that there is something about them – presumably several things — that you admire, you respect, maybe some characteristic or interest you share, or wish you shared. If pressed, you could probably come up with a list. When you like someone, it means you enjoy spending time with them, you’re comfortable with them, you feel that you can be yourself around them.

I think that’s why people say traveling together, particularly overseas, is a good test for a relationship. Little things, like how early to get to the airport, how comfortable you need your accommodations to be, whether you want to, or can, eat the local food, what your idea of exploring the local culture can mean – visiting museums, eating in local, out-of-the-way restaurants, wandering more than a few blocks from your hotel room or rental. And big things, like what kind of travel you prefer – something with a bit of adventure or simply following the tourist guidebook.

Of course, love and like don’t always go together. I think you can love someone and yet not like them, at least not very much. I could cite some personal examples, but that would get me in trouble. And you can like someone without going so far as to love them. They’re different sentiments entirely.

To me, the magic combination is when they go together, when you like the person that you love. I’m no marriage expert; unlike some people I know, I’ve only been married once. But maybe that’s because I consider Dianne to be my best friend. We’ve been together more than 30 years, and we still like each other. In fact, we liked each other as friends before we fell in love. I can’t imagine what daily life would be like if we didn’t like each other, given the amount of time we spend together, especially now that Covid has us cooped up most of the time.

This is a lesson, or piece of advice, we’ve passed along to our kids. Love is all fine and good, but if you’re planning on a long-term relationship with someone, and thus spending a lot of time with them, you’d better like them. A lot.

Besides, the mutual respect that like encompasses will be much more important than love when it comes to a relationship’s big questions: do we want children, how many, will they go to daycare or will one of us stay home until they’re school age, will one of us put our career on hold, should we buy a house or a condo or rent and where, what should we do for vacations, will we travel, etc.?

I’m all for celebrating Valentine’s Day. But maybe we should give thought to those we like as well.

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