There is a fine line between admiration and love. In fact, the difference between these two feelings is so subtle that it is easy to confuse them. This happens quite often, as these feelings can be interdependent through a complex dynamic. We can admire someone without loving them, but we cannot love someone unless we also admire them at the same time.
It becomes even more complicated when we consider that falling in love with a person brings with it a certain idealization of that person. Therefore, in the first phase of a relationship, admiration and love are almost identical. Over time, however, an emotion takes hold. Ultimately, our minds and hearts decide how we will feel about the other person …
Outward beauty may arouse admiration and desire. These feelings can be very intense. So intense that we sometimes mistake it for love. The same is true of other qualities, such as fame or power, that we value in others and desire for ourselves. They generate so much admiration that we think we love.
“To love is to admire with your heart; To admire means to love with the mind. “
Alfredo La Mont
Admiration and love
When we’re in love, we admire our partner too. Then love and admiration go hand in hand. However, this does not apply if we “only” admire someone. That is, we don’t have to love someone to admire them.
The complexity of this logic stems from the fact that people tend to idealize other people, especially when they respond to their expectations or needs. The relationship between admiration and love can become even more complex because sometimes the desire to be loved takes control.
When we talk about idealization, we mean assigning virtues to people that they don’t have. Idealization also means exaggerating a person’s qualities. Often this happens during the phase of being in love. We don’t yet know the other person very well and we perceive them through a filter. We want our new partner to be wonderful. In such cases, our emotions are fed by both love and admiration. However, both have weak foundations, as this type of love is often based on unrealistic expectations and fantasies.
On the other hand, we tend to want to be “loved” by the most popular, attractive, or powerful person in a room. Behind this is the (sometimes unconscious) assumption that the love of such a person promotes one’s own social status. Therefore, it can happen that we deeply desire the love of such a person and mistake it for a love for that person.
Admiration and lack of self-esteem
It is common for people with low self-esteem to idealize love and the beloved. They “fall in love” with people they consider to be above average. In this way a feeling of love arises in them, which is fed by admiration. Ultimately, their goal is to regain that self-love that they lack. They want approval from those around them and loved by someone they consider powerful or important.
There are also a number of stereotypes in our culture about what we should and shouldn’t admire. Someone who fits in with the ideals that our society propagates is admirable. This is a person who meets the standards of society and is either beautiful, athletic, wealthy, or self-determined.
Hence, many people striving for acceptance seek these traits in a potential partner. In this way they can feel accepted and avoid supposed social rejection. However, in such relationships there is neither admiration nor love. The only thing that is present is a lack of self-love and self-respect.
Healthy admiration and healthy love
True love is not so much focused on awakening love in the other person as it is in trusting the other person with a piece of oneself. It’s not a “blinding feeling” and it doesn’t just develop overnight. This includes knowing the other person and accepting and admiring them. Admiration in this case springs from knowledge and familiarity.
When we love a person, admiration can help deepen the relationship. Hence this feeling exists in every healthy partnership. We invest more in our partner when we discover their diverse characteristics and talents, many of which we did not see or understand at first. Discovering positive things about our partner makes us happy and enables us to see them in a new way. We are not interested in using their abilities for our own gain, we love this person because they have exactly those qualities that make them what they are.
Admiration without love is the fruit of reflection. Admiration implies how we value different values, skills, or qualities that we consider worthwhile. We admire an artist for his talent, a captain for his tenacity, or a teacher for his wisdom. None of this implies love in the romantic sense of the word. Hence, it is possible to admire someone without loving them. But the opposite of loving someone without admiring them is impossible.