Do You Love Someone but You Don’t Like Them?

“Do you believe that it is possible to love someone, and not like them?

A friend on FB asked me this yesterday while going through some drama with her sister who lives with her. She drinks and is verbally abusive towards her so she ends up locking herself away in seclusion to be away from her.

I’ve definitely thought about this question in the past when I was dealing with drunk people I knew. I would have a pretty clear understanding like our friend does that when someone drinks and gets abusive, it’s not necessarily indicative of their personality, but I always call alcohol ‘truth serum’. You at least get a more colorful version of their truth.

She wasn’t asking me if she should stay there or leave as she has a pretty good idea it’s not functional, rather she asked a direct question about what I thought.

I guess technically you can like someone and not love them, but I don’t know that it’s possible to love someone and not like them. It’s really a debatable question indeed. I do know where she’s coming from, though.

I think there is true love and then there is loving someone out of duty. This happens a lot with family. We don’t get to pick our family. We are called to love everyone and I think it’s a worthy goal, but I think it’s maybe better to face the reality that just because someone is our family, doesn’t mean we feel love towards them. For me, whenever I had to deal with family in a parallel situation, I would always think, ‘Gawd, I hate having to be in the middle of this’ and whenever I would see them, I’d get sick to my stomach. The hardest part for me was trying to maintain love for someone who was going through alcoholism or drugs.

Now, what I suspect (and I could be way off base) is that our friend is feeling guilty for not liking her sister very much when she feels called to love her. I don’t believe this is her fault, like I said we don’t get to pick our family. I had to ditch the family element altogether from my mind when dealing with the problems because society has made this a huge guilt trip on us. “That’s your BLOOD; BLOOD stays together.” I find the statement troubling and controlling. I used to think this way and I still find myself thinking this way. My recent truth is that my siblings and other family members are actually not my problem. Sure, I love them, but they are adults who get to make adult decisions. Siblings tend to see each other as children forever. It takes decades sometimes for them to recognize each other as adults!

More than that, it takes us too long to recognize siblings as other human beings. Until I could ditch the word ‘family’ when trying to assess my own situations and look at the situation for what it was, I couldn’t get a grip on it. I felt very tied down to ‘family duty’. I hated that I was supposed to like people who I didn’t. I hate that I had to hang out with family who I had absolutely nothing in common with. I see no problem being civil or showing decency and love to those around us, but nobody should feel guilty about not wanting to be around someone who is clearly damaging to their spirit.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear answer or concrete opinion on the question she asked, but funny enough; I know exactly what she means by it. You can look at your sibling and love them because you are supposed to and just not like them very much. I suspect though, the sense of duty is what is keeping us in unhealthy situations. I also suspect we might still see glimmers of hope and subtle reminders of who they used to be without the alcohol or drugs. That’s the part that makes us hurt. They also might have ‘good’ days.

I am a hopeful spirit. I like to believe everyone will find their inner child again and return the person they are supposed to be, but I certainly don’t make it my responsibility anymore. I don’t have to face any guilt when it comes to family. They are adults who make their decisions and I can recognize codependence when I see it. I think we have to continue to guard our spirits and be conscious of what is potentially damaging, so we want to make sure we don’t become like them by being abusive back, but in the same token, there are many ways to love someone and intervention IS a form of love. We are just programmed to believe that the best way to love someone unconditionally is to be their soundboard and punching bag.

I remember the song ‘Cruel to be kind” coming on the radio and I asked my Mom what that meant. She said, “When I take you to the Dentist and he has to drill into your teeth, that means I love you.” I remember getting it right away.

Sometimes we have to make very tough calls about all our relationships that feel cruel, but they are a form of love. I don’t envy our friend for having to make those tough decisions.

Wondering if Billy Idol is still on my Orthodontist’s ceiling,

Karen :)

Family love is messy, clinging, and of an annoying and repetitive pattern, like bad wallpaper.
~P.J. O’Rourke

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