When a character loves another but doesn't like them - Mo Fanning Author
Like and dislike

When a character loves another but doesn’t like them

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Like and dislike

Why it’s important to explore the connection between love and like

Whether it’s friends, family members or romantic partners, in our lives we have to navigate relationships with people we love but don’t much like. This experience is universal, yet rarely explored in great depth in the media we consume. But why? To explore this further and to inspire your writing, here are five reasons a character loving another but not liking them is so important to explore:

It’s a complicated feeling that many of us have experienced

The love that we feel for people we don’t particularly like is complicated. It’s rarely pleasant or easy to understand, but it’s something many of us have been through. So why is it important to explore and understand? It has the potential to explore universal themes and human experiences; themes such as love, the power of familial and romantic relationships, and how childhood experiences feed into our adult relationships. It can also help create a deeper and more complex understanding of characters’ relationships, be they friends or lovers. It can show us that people in relationships don’t always love each other in the same way … or to the same extent.

It builds empathy for characters and their relationships

Love HeartThe feelings of love and like are often confused and conflated, but they are different things. Like is an emotion that can be given, but love is something that is taken. And yet, we often mistake like for love, especially in our relationships with others. Like can be given and taken at will. Whereas love is a decision that is made through choice, and often comes with a sense of obligation. When we see a character in a relationship with another person who they love but don’t much like, as writers, we might want to explore the reasons for staying in the relationship, and what their experiences are teaching them about love and relationships.

It helps us question what we deem as “likeable”

Most of us have certain standards for the kind of people we allow into our lives. Depending on your age and relationship status, those standards might be different. When we’re younger and in school (or still even now if you are in a career that requires you to be more sociable), we are often encouraged to interact with a wide variety of people. We might even be encouraged to “befriend” people we don’t particularly like. We might even be given the advice that you can’t judge a book by its cover. But as we grow older, we often narrow the people we let into our lives and surround ourselves with people we deem as “likeable.” We might dismiss the idea of a friendship with someone we don’t like. We might even dismiss them not liking us back. Unless like me you’re vaguely neurotic and will spend every waking minute wondering why.

It can help build conflict and tension in a story

Sometimes, the best way to explore the connections between characters is to break them down. When we explore a romantic relationship with a couple who love (but don’t like) each other, we open up the potential for conflict. We explore why these two people in love don’t also like each other. Why they stay in a relationship. What are the reasons behind the tension? What are the hopes and fears of each character? What is each character’s role in the relationship? What are their strengths and weaknesses as individuals and as a couple?

It showcases the importance of consent and boundaries in romantic relationships

Writing loveAn important aspect of romantic relationships is the consent and boundaries between the partners. Romantic relationships are often built on the illusion that the partners are treated by the wider world as a unit. But in reality, romantic partnerships comprise two individuals with their own desires and needs that need to be explored and understood. When we see a relationship where both partners love but don’t like one another, we might explore why. We dig into each character’s desires and needs, and their understanding of the other person. We explore why they stay together, and if they’re getting what they need from that relationship.


As writers, we get to explore a variety of themes and human experiences. We explore the nature of love and like, the importance of consent and boundaries in relationships, and the impact that childhood experiences might have on our adult relationships. We can also use this type of relationship to explore themes such as friendship, the power of familial love, and the complexity of romantic love. With these themes in mind, we should use these relationships to explore a variety of topics and issues, and create more complex and multi-dimensional characters.


Rebuilding Alexandra Small

By Mo Fanning

Mo Fanning is a British author of dark romantic comedies including the Book of the Year nominated bestseller 'The Armchair Bride', 'Rebuilding Alexandra Small' and 2022's hit holiday romcom 'Ghosted'.

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