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What's the Secret to a Good Relationship?

Is it love, commitment or simply liking your partner?

Recently I took a trip to visit my grandmother -- and while she’s old and rather frail, her mental capacity is anything but withering. She has very strong opinions and isn't afraid to share them. For instance, in one conversation, she said a woman should never marry the first son of a Chinese family, because the wife will soon become a slave to her mother-in-law -- how this came up, I have no idea, but how ridiculous is that?! Her proof? A story that dated back to Mao Zedong’s time. Yes -- she was referencing nearly 60 years ago.

So I just read this HuffPost opinion column about marriage that asked what's more important in a stable marriage: love or commitment? It brought me back to a comment my grandmother mentioned, that a good marriage is not built on love, but rather, it’s built on simply liking your significant other. It gave me pause, and I thought, so now we’re back in middle school, where my friends would ask me if I liked someone or like liked someone (what the difference was, I still don’t know)? Sometimes I don’t really like Holly -- but I still love her. When liking fails, is that when love takes over and fills in the holes?

I couldn’t get on board with this liking concept. Sure, you have to like someone to be able to spend years and years of your life with them, but I think it’s more important to love them -- I think that plays a bigger role in a healthy relationship than simply enjoying someone, which is what I equate to liking them.

The author of the HuffPost article replaced liking with commitment, and I can understand that switch -- commitment is a stronger concept than liking a person. Her theory is this: “Love, and that giddy feeling in your stomach may be what guides you when you're feeling great about the apple of your eye. But what steers you when you're going through an ebb, or a rough patch? Can you depend on love at that point?” I would say that you can -- that despite all the rough patches, you’ll still love your partner. And if you don’t, then the question is: Why are you with them? If you fall out of love with someone, simply liking them or the commitment you promised won't keep you together, right? Because you’ll know that you’re not in love anymore, and you’ll be unhappy simply pretending.

What do you guys think? What keeps your relationship together (and you can’t say sex)? Is it your commitment, love or simply liking your significant other? What happens when one of those things fails -- do you fall back on another component to keep your relationship strong?

-- Jack