Falling in love is great, but this might be even better.
I can't count how many times I've spoken to a woman who knows that she's in an unhappy, unhealthy relationship but stays in it because she "loves" the person. I'd guess it happens about every second in America.
Every second a woman out there makes excuses to herself and to her friends about why she is going back to or staying with a man who isn't the right match for her and justifies it with the L word. "I know he's been a jerk, but I love him!" or "He told me he loves me, so I'm going to try it again..."
I love love. I write about love. Love is a beautiful, powerful, and essential emotion for all of us to experience.
I don't think you should marry anyone whom you do not love. But I'd like to add another critical L to your relationship vocabulary: LIKE. Like is an underrated and hugely important component in relationships.
Many of us take Like for granted because we don't experience the same drama or angst with Like that we may have experienced with the ever-powerful force of Love. Like does not make us overlook some potential red flags or cloud judgment in the way that Love might. Like glides in when you are not looking for it. Like is natural and easy.
I like that Like is simple. When we like someone, we rarely spend hours analyzing why that is the case—we simply accept that we enjoy being around the person and want to spend more time with him or her. When we do not like someone outside the context of dating, we usually just avoid spending time around that person.
Somehow, though, when we are romantically linked to someone we don't particularly like, we give in more easily because of Love or the other powerful L word—Lust.
Studies show that women fall in love more emotionally than men do. Research conducted by biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher demonstrates that when women are falling in love, memory regions in the brain are active, which may be one reason that women are more likely to fall in love with men they already know and when they least expect it. With a nontype, sometimes feelings of love are borne out of a very simple and easy experience of deeply liking the person. For this reason, we should all pay close attention to those we fall into like with.
Most of the women I interviewed who ended up with men who were not their standard type could not picture being in love with their partners—they just knew that they enjoyed being around them. They were not pressured by Like as they might have been with Love, so they were present and honest in the relationships and romance blossomed.
When you start hanging out with someone who is not your traditional type, who intrigues you, invite Like into your heart. Do you like who he is? Do you like yourself around him? Do you like experiencing the same things in life as he does? Are you so in like with him that he is one of your favorite people to be around?
If you answer a resounding yes to all of these questions, you may be falling into like. And don't be surprised if love follows.
This article was originally published at Rodale Wellness. Reprinted with permission from the author.