This Is Us

Why Liking Your Partner Is More Important Than Loving Them

It’s okay to revisit your 15-year-old self for a while

Emily Kingsley
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readMay 13, 2020
A closeup photo of two women with red lipstick with their faces touching.
Photo: Jonathan Morgan/Getty Images

Can you remember middle school? It started out with toys and games and ended with boobs and wispy little beards and mustaches. And at some point, the conversation changed from your friends asking “Do you want to play tag?” to “Who do you like?” They’d stretch out the word “like” as if they were hollowing out the middle so it could be filled in with all the fraught emotions of teenage crushes.

What they wanted to know was who made you stop in your tracks when you saw them? Who was the person you would give your last piece of gum to? Or wait for out in the cold so you could walk with them the 40 steps to their car? Who was the person that made you forget about Legos and friendship bracelets and think about lip gloss and holding sweaty hands in the back of the bus?

When you’re young and you like someone, their jokes are funnier, their clothes are cooler, and their hair is the best. Their taste in music is amazing, and if they mess up, it’s adorable, not annoying.

As the years passed, we stopped “going out” and instead started being “in a relationship.” Everyone moved from “liking” people to focusing on “love.

“Did they say it? Did you say it back? Are you going to say it first?”

I spent my twenties buying bridesmaids dresses and dancing the “Cha-Cha Slide” to celebrate all the love everyone was falling into. The tear-jerking, champagne-toasting, hope-springs-eternal love of weddings seemed far more serious than high school crushes playing out on bleachers and during lunches by the water fountain.

But after all these weddings, the love that started as late-night sushi and strolls through the leaves on crisp autumn days turned into discussing the best car loan financing options, unloading the dishwasher, and choosing paint colors for the bathroom.

Now that I’m knocking on the door of 40, I’ve seen a lot of different relationships play out over time, and what I’ve noticed is that we focus way too much on “love” and not enough on “like.”



Emily Kingsley
Human Parts

Always polishing the flip side of the coin. Live updates from the middle class. She/her.