In honor of Valentine's Day, a timely excerpt from Psychology of Love 101 by Karin Sternberg.

“When is it love? I know I like , but I’m not sure I love him (her).”

The theories described in this excerpt and especially in the book may help you answer this question for yourself. But first it may help to think about the relation between liking and loving. This may seem to be simple, but it’s anything but.

  1. [F]irst, it may help to think about the relation between liking and loving. One view is that love is what happens when you like someone a whole lot. I will argue later that there is in fact a condition characterized by extremely high levels of intimacy that constitutes love. But generally, and for most people, love is more than extreme liking... you may find, even more annoyingly, that you love someone you don’t even like much. Loving does not seem to be equivalent to just a lot of liking.

  1. A second view is that liking is the next step after loving—that loving may indeed be something very different from liking, but it follows from liking. Sometimes we fall in love with someone before we even have gotten to know the person very well. We can hardly say we like that person, because we scarcely know him (or her). And sometimes the loving just never follows, no matter how hard we try. Loving may follow liking, but then it may not.

  1. A third view is that liking and loving have really very little to do with each other—that they are related but distinct constructs. On one hand, this can be true—for example, if we find ourselves loving someone but not liking him (or her). On the other hand, most of the time we do like the people we love. So liking seems usually, but not always, to accompany loving.

  1. A fourth view is that liking and loving are essentially overlapping constructs—that liking usually, although not always, constitutes a part of loving, but loving does not typically constitute a part of liking. This is the view that I will take in this book. Liking and loving are not the same. But if we love someone without liking that person, we probably have a problem. We may be in a relationship that is no longer working, or that was doomed from the start.


If you enjoyed this excerpt and want to read more, download the Psychology of Love 101 sample chapter here.