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Like, Love & In Love: How To Really Know The Difference

Love & Relationships

Trust me, I know how it feels to take a long time to fully release a man that you love. And when I say "long time", I'm not talking about a few months either. I've been pretty open about the fact that when it comes to my first love, it took a little over two decades to really and truly get over him (for the record, to me, "over him" means although there is complete peace between us, he no longer has any piece of my heart, seeing him no longer triggers butterflies, and there's no possibility of there being a romantic future moving forward).

Why the heck did it take so long? There are a few factors that come into play. Physically, he is soooo my type. Although I was sexually-abused as a child (and teen), he is also the first person I chose to give my body to. Even to this day, I dig his brain (a smart man with a lot of wit is the ultimate aphrodisiac for me!). But I think, more than anything, I'm simply not wired to "kinda love" someone. Either I'm all in or I'm all out and since he was my first experience with romantic love, once I started, I didn't have an exit plan.

So, what finally got me past all of that? Going to lunch with him one day back in 2015. For the billionth time since 1993, we discussed that maybe this time something could work. But for whatever the reason, when he said to me, "I've always loved you and I'm always going to love you", something in me clicked. It was like, in those few seconds, my mind scanned over our on again/off again emotional roller coaster ride and I honestly couldn't tell the difference between how he treated me when we were in love, when there was just love between us, and when we tried to co-exist by liking one another as friends.

That's when I knew it was time to bring our perplexing lil' love story to a close. It's also when I realized that unless every human being knows the distinctions between like, love, and in love, we can find ourselves thinking that just because someone uses a particular word that the actions that should express it will follow.

Yes, they should. But unless the person saying them actually knows what they're saying as they're saying them, there's a huge chance that they won't. Here's what I mean by that.

The Meaning of Like, Love, & In Love

The Definition of "I Like You"

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Like is cool. It's when you know that you're attracted to someone beyond the physical. You enjoy some of the same things. You see a lot of life the same way. You're not thinking too deeply about where things could go in the future, but you know that you definitely want to spend more time with this particular individual.

And so, you go on a few dates. Come to think of it, "date" might be a strong word at first because it implies there is a romantic connection; however, sometimes folks are not sure what the connection is — yet. Hmph. Come to think of it, this right here can oftentimes be the cause of a lot of disillusionment with relationships because while Person A thinks "Let's catch a movie" means that Person B is really digging them, Person B actually may be asking in order to see if there is real chemistry — or not. (Amen? Amen!)

Like is platonic (although one day I'll break down what that word really means). Like means both people are free to see other people. Like offers absolutely no guarantees and, to tell you the truth, like also doesn't come with a ton of expectations either.

Two people who like each other are on the road to becoming friends and maybe something more. But if nothing comes out of "the like", there are no hard feelings (or at least there shouldn't be).

The Meaning of "Love"

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Love is what grows from like. Or at least it should. I say should because, unfortunately, there are a lot of married couples I work with whose main problem is they skipped over like and jumped right into love (or lust that looked like love to them at the time). So when all of the fireworks and excitement died down, they realized they didn't complement each other very well and actually didn't like each other very much.

Anyway, when someone loves you, they care about you on a deeper level than like. There is a profound connection. They make investments into you and the relationship. They are careful with your heart and time. They know something is real and they are (typically) open to exploring it. They see you and adore what they see.

Here's the challenge, though. You probably know (or at least heard) that there are different kinds of love — eros (sexual); philia (friendship); storge (the love between family); agape (universal love; the kind we should have for all mankind); ludus (uncommitted love); pragma (practical love; for instance, a lot of marriages start out with a lot of eros but stay married due to pragma), and philautia (self-love).

Can you just imagine how much time, pain, or even, based on the situation, disgust could be spared if the first time when a man said, "I love you" we followed that up, "Wait. What kind are we talking about here? You love me like you wanna get some, you love me like a friend, you love me like you love people at your church, or you love me like you dig me but have no intentions on ever committing to me?"

Unfortunately, love is used so loosely that a lot of us assume that the way we view it is the way someone else does. If there's a word you should never move on based on assumptions, love would have to be it.

The Definition of "In Love"

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A while back, I penned an article on this site entitled "5 Signs That You're In Love (All By Yourself)." I've been there, which is why I wrote it. But to tell you the truth, life, research, and maturity have all taught me that being in love alone is kind of impossible to do.

Here's why I say that. Whenever we're sharing the fact that we're in love with someone, what do we usually say? "I'm IN love WITH so-and-so." The word "in" means to be in a place, position, or type of relationship. The word "with" means to be accompanied by.

So tell me something. If being in love with an individual means, by definition, that you are in a position and kind of relationship where they are accompanying you in the same kind of love you have for them, how can you possibly be in love with someone…alone?

I can't tell you the number of single women I've talked to who find themselves being straight-up pissed all because they are in love with a man who isn't in love with them. But when it comes to being in love, if he's not right there with you, in love is not what you are. You may love him a lot, but in love? Highly doubtful.

Believe you me, I could go on and on with a topic like this but, hopefully, this provided a bit of a blueprint as you're figuring out the whole like-love-in love thing in your own life.

Like looks and lives a certain way. Love looks and lives a certain way. In love sho 'nuf looks and lives a certain way. Look for the clear signs of what you're dealing with first and then — for the sake of your mind, body and spirit — move accordingly.

Featured image by Getty Images.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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