Superficial?

I’m still struggling to define my feelings for The Pedant (because I’m a compulsive labeller, and because if I’m going to tell him my feelings I want to have an accurate idea of what they are).

To wit: I feel something akin to love for The Pedant, but I’m trying to figure out whether it’s based on anything real or just a byproduct of all the oxytocin he fucks into my brain.  My soul-searching caused an interesting internal debate to come up.

I was mentally making a list of what I like about him (figuring that if I couldn’t think of anything but “the sex!” then my warm feelings must just be hormonal), and all I could think of is “He’s pretty” and “he does things for me.”

At first it struck me as superficial to like someone because they do things for me; it seems like a dead giveaway that my feelings aren’t real.  However…wouldn’t it be sort of strange to like someone who absolutely doesn’t do anything nice or helpful for me, ever?  Also, Acts of Service is one of my huuuuuge Love Languages*; voluntarily doing little things to make my life easier or better is just about the surest way to make me feel cared for.  And when someone very obviously cares about me, it tends to make me feel attached to them.

Really, taking care of each other is the crux of a relationship – the glue that holds people together.  Love on its own is intangible; it means nothing unless you show it through your actions.  So if I like The Pedant mostly because he’ll offer to spend the afternoon putting together an Ikea dresser with me or troubleshooting my router, that’s not superficial; it’s natural.  Inevitable, even.

I did come up with other things I like about The Pedant afterward, mind you.  He’s a hilariously snarky bastard in a way that gets my motor running; he has a good grasp of feminist issues; he likes discussing and analyzing movies we’ve just seen; when I’ve had issues with him he communicated/negotiated exceptionally well and fixed the issue; he’s wicked smart; he seems to accept me for who I am; I could go on.

But it’s the “Here, wait, do you have any rock salt?  Let me salt your front steps so you don’t slip when you leave for work tomorrow” that really sealed the deal, I think.

Some philosophical questions for y’all:

-How do you (you, specifically) know when you love someone?

-What’s more likely to make you develop a romantic interest in someone: them treating you exceptionally well, or them having compatible interests/personality traits/whatever?

-Is it superficial to love someone because they’re good to you, or is responding positively to good treatment actually the least superficial thing ever?

Discuss.

*Along with Touch, which The Pedant also gives me in spades.

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5 responses to “Superficial?

  1. Apologies if these were actually rhetorical, but I really like thought-and-comparitive-experience questions, so I’m going to answer them!

    -How do you (you, specifically) know when you love someone?
    For me specifically, love is a feeling I can be aware of in myself. It doesn’t quite depend on the person – I love some members of my family who I don’t actually know well or anything, and I had a period of time when I really wanted to feel love for my boyfriend but didn’t – I thought he was amazing and wanted to spend time with him and had closer-people feelings (being excited when I saw he’d posted something online, etc) and liked him a lot and cared about him and wanted to tell him nice things, but I couldn’t make the feeling show up when it wasn’t there.

    I don’t have enough data to work with to be any kind of sure, but at the moment it seems that while I love my family in a ‘preexisting’ way that this does not apply to, new love for me is created by relationship + emotional support for me at a time of strong emotion. The latter is what finally got me the feeling for my boyfriend (I was very happy about this). Meanwhile, with my girlfriend the emotional support had happened while we were friends, so as soon as we went from friends to relationship, I had the feeling.

    -What’s more likely to make you develop a romantic interest in someone: them treating you exceptionally well, or them having compatible interests/personality traits/whatever?
    Again not enough data to know for sure, but as far as I can tell, I get romantic interest in someone if they’re compatible with my romantic orientation (I’m homoromantic) and they express romantic interest in me. From which I conclude that this clearly varies from person to person, since I know most people don’t have this in common with me. I also kind of feel it’s neither – it might be hard to get romantic feelings without those things, but since people don’t usually have romantic feelings for all their friends, it doesn’t seem to work as trigger-conditions.

    -Is it superficial to love someone because they’re good to you, or is responding positively to good treatment actually the least superficial thing ever?
    I find this question a bit odd. Love is a feeling. If you have it, you have it, and if you don’t, you don’t. Much like any other feeling, it works differently for different people and in different situations – some people can’t read the news because this makes them too angry/sad, and other people read the same news just fine. I have songs that make me sad some days but not others. If I happened to feel love for anyone who wore a gold watch (I was trying to think of an example of something ‘superficial’), then well, that’s something I know about myself, and I can decide where to go from there. I could certainly berate myself for that and feel bad, but that’s unlikely to change how my brain works and likely to just make me gold-watch-person-loving and miserable.

    Apart for that, though, loving someone because they’re good to you seems like pretty much a core form of love to me, particularly close-love (There’s also loving someone because you think they’re so amazing, which is awe/admiration-love, and loving someone for pretty much no reason, you just do, which I see as well, feelings work that way sometimes love, though some other people might see at fate-love). To pull some well known examples – the Beast giving Belle the library, the number of wounded soldiers who fell in love with nurses. Even love for God gets put this way a lot.

    What do you see as not-superificial reasons for love?

    • Nope, not rhetorical questions. I actually wanna see what people say. 🙂

      new love for me is created by relationship + emotional support for me at a time of strong emotion.

      Oooooh. This strikes a chord with me, too. When I mentioned before that The Pedant and I don’t have very deep talks, I was using this as a reason why I’m not falling for him harder/a reason why we could not fall in love. And by “deep talks” I meant (in part) looking to each other for comfort when we’re really upset. For me to fall for someone I kinda think they have to have seen me cry (in the sad way, not the I-just-had-a-huge-orgasm-and-my-brain-chemistry-went-all-floopy way).

      What do you see as not-superificial reasons for love?

      Upon reflection, “superficial” is not the word I meant to use in the OP. What I should have said was “selfish.” Or maybe self-absorbed? It feels self-absorbed (and as though it can’t be “real” love) to have feelings for someone because of what they do for me, rather than because of some inherent quality in them. Loving someone for how smart/funny/talented they are is totally superficial, but it’s not selfish, if you see what I mean.

      Thank you for describing your categories of love! I actually really wanted to ask “what do you think are the different kinds of love” in this post but felt that people wouldn’t understand what I was getting at, and/or they’d just copy and paste all those Greek words like eros and agape.

      For me there’s friend-love (sharing common interests with someone, caring about their well-being and enjoying spending time with them); love-love (friend-love combined with sexual attraction); in-love (which can roughly be described as a more intense version of love-love; usually for me a defining factor is that I feel the whole [the two of us as a unit] is greater than the sum of its parts); and animal love (loving someone basically just because they’re present and provide things I need. Bastardcat has animal love for me. I had animal love for my parents when I was growing up. Now I’m experiencing a pretty big dose of animal love for The Pedant).

      • It feels self-absorbed (and as though it can’t be “real” love) to have feelings for someone because of what they do for me, rather than because of some inherent quality in them.

        Well, to me at least “voluntarily doing little things to make the life of [someone you’re spending time with] easier or better” is in fact an inherent quality in someone. Like, if by some random chance your neighbor had hired the Pedant to salt your walkway, that wouldn’t produce the same feelings-set (I’m guessing). But if he’d done it, but then the weather had suddenly changed so it hadn’t been necessary, you might still feel cared for even though from a utilitarian perspective you didn’t get any benefit. So it’s not just that you’re happy about having nice things, you’re happy that his feelings for you involve doing them.

        Loving someone for how smart/funny/talented they are is totally superficial, but it’s not selfish, if you see what I mean.

        This is, to me, actually the difference between admiration-love and close-love. Loving someone for how smart/funny/talented/kind they are in general is admiration-love, while loving someone for how they debate academic issues with me/make me laugh/helped me with my computer issue/comforted me when I was sad (in other words, for those qualities on a personal level) is close-love. (and you can have both at the same time – my girlfriend is a writer, so I can have admiration love like ‘wow, she is really talented’ and close-love like ‘eee, she mentioned me in a poem’).

  2. Ms. Vy

    In reverse order: liking or loving someone because they are good to you (ESPECIALLY in whatever form of good-being that you individually respond to) is not superficial– it’s a grown up way of having relationships in your life that are positive, battery charging things, rather than messy drama chaosboats.

    I have never in my life (well, okay, past the age of fourteen) gone “wow, we both like Octavia Butler, Shakespeare and knitting, it’s a match!” I mean, being able to respect one another’s interests and hobbies is important, and having similar values in terms of life organization is too, but that’s not the same thing really. I think it makes sense to love people who bring positive things in to your life. For some people, who have never met another fnargling enthusiast, or who feel insecure about their rabid fandom of whatever, similar hobbies or tastes will be a very valuable and important thing (similar to say, you and twinky boys who like frilly panties and dominant women). But that’s a symptom rather than a cause. You are a grown ass woman running two businesses — you need people in your life who can do more for you than look the part of a partner, if you get me. There’s chemistry, which is important, and there’s support, which is equally so. You don’t need the internet’s help to tell you about the former, but someone who helps you (or more importantly, helps you help yourself) achieve the things you’re trying to achieve (whether by helping you network or salting your walk so you can focus on the big stuff) is real compatibility.

    My personal litmus test for love starts with how much being with the object of my affections is like being alone. I am an introverted person, who both needs and loves her recharge solo time. Somebody who makes me feel like I can sort of approximate that experience is in their presence is someone who I start to thinks about if maybe I love them. I think about levels of trust too — not, would I lend this person a kidney, but rather, can I predict what this person is going to do based on past experience? For me, consistency is a lot more important than going to fantastic lengths. I’ve noticed I get quite severe mentionitis as well, presumably because I find the persons thoughts and viewpoints very interesting.

    • I have never in my life (well, okay, past the age of fourteen) gone “wow, we both like Octavia Butler, Shakespeare and knitting, it’s a match!”

      I’ve never (at least, not past the age of fourteen) felt that I was a match for someone just because we shared hobbies or interests, but I’ve always kind of assumed that those sorts of commonalities are supposed to be part of a friendship or relationship (in addition to supporting each other). And so it’s weird to me how much I dig The Pedant when I can barely think of anything we have in common except occasionally dancing at goth clubs. I guess I’m kinda slow on the uptake but it just never occurred to me that it’s possible to love hanging out with someone who doesn’t share any of the same hobbies (what would we even talk about?!). But somehow, it works.

      I think it makes sense to love people who bring positive things in to your life.

      Oh, totally. And it likewise makes sense to ditch people who don’t bring in positive things, even if you’re “supposed” to love them (ask me about the time I cut off all contact with my parents for five years…).

      I’ve realized that the problem I’m having with the concept of loving someone primarily for what they do for me is that it seems so self-absorbed – like the love isn’t even about the other person at all, really, but about me. ME ME ME. But, again, it does make perfect sense to have positive feelings for someone who makes my life so much better, so meh.

      And arguably, love itself can come from nowhere in particular – no shared life goals or interests or anything, just random chemistry – I’m thinking of dogs at the dog park who sniff each other for two minutes and then just totally get along. Maybe it’s partly the chemistry that I’m reacting to with The Pedant and not just the fact that he’s good to me.

      Incidentally, I am so totally in agreement with your last paragraph that it’s eerie.

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