Sometimes we like a person, and sometimes we like the idea of a person. The two do not always end up being the same.
Many can recall the popular romantic comedy of the late 80s, “When Harry Met Sally,” which is centered on Harry’s relationship with Sally. The premise of the film begs the fundamental question of whether men and women can be friends.
The movie is not only brilliant because of the actor ensemble, but also because of their relationship onscreen. It portrays the ideal male and female friendship where the two can bluntly discuss each other’s relationships without an underlying agenda. This includes the famous Katz Deli scene.
When Sally breaks up with Joe, her boyfriend of a few years, Harry explains to Sally that she did not like Joe; she liked theidea of Joe. This concept often goes unrecognized, yet is familiar to everyone who has ever liked a person only to realize that he or she just liked the perception of him or her.
Contrary to the popular belief, first impressions do not form what we think about the person, at least, not in the long run. It would be more correct to say that it forms our very first opinions; however, they are always subject to change. What first impressions do give us is a general idea of what the other person might be like.
This is why we often feel as if we are instantly forming friendships, or imagine future relationships with people we have just met. We do not know them yet, nor do we know their character but the idea we form in our minds produces our impression.
For example, a girl meets a guy and they start dating. They date for a while, and as the time passes, the girl can get attached to having someone to talk to.
She might enjoy their dates or watching football on Sundays, and it becomes comfortable. She might not like the guy for who he is, but she might like the idea of having a boyfriend.
And while you might think people are aware of whether they like someone or not, this is not always the case. Relationships develop over time, and the same can be said for friendships, which is why there are many stages of forming connections.
From getting to know someone to having first fights — or passing the stage where you have learned everything there is to know about the other person and can enjoy each other’s company in silence — the longing for having someone to talk to overpowers the reality.
One of the biggest fears people are faced with is being alone. Since evolutionary times, people have been scared of being excluded from groups for many reasons that include reproduction and survival means.
We long for company, and we seek connections wherever we are, from school to the workplace to personal relationships. Therefore, it is no surprise that proximity often contributes to forming friendships that fade once we change our environment.
The idea of having a friend at school or workplace is better than being alone, but these friendships are not always strong enough to survive once they no longer have the same environment in common.
Same applies to having personal relationships. Going back to what Harry said, Sally liked Joe because she liked the idea of having a boyfriend rather than being single. Girls, more than guys, like the idea of being married, even if they do not imagine whom they are going to marry.
Or people are interested in the idea of dating a doctor, lawyer or a model — someone who is successful or good-looking. It is the idea that appeals, not the reality. The false happiness this idea brings prevents us from seeing the reality, and therefore, it is nothing more than a daydream.
An important step to realize whether your feelings are real is to ask yourself what you like about the person. A friend recently told me she liked a guy and was saddened when things did not go as planned. After having listened to her story, it was clear she liked the idea of the guy more than she liked his personality.
He was good-looking, charming and seemed overall appealing, but when talking about him, she did not mention what she liked about his character. She liked his charm, which turned out to be nothing more than an idea.
One way to recognize if the feelings are real is to get to know the person. What characteristics appeal to you apart from his or her occupation or looks? While it may take some time to figure this out, it might bring you a step closer to how you really feel.
People often cannot distinguish between the two, or believe there are no differences between liking someone or liking the idea of him or her, but more often than not, we are drawn to the general appeal, not the individual.