My husband and I have watched and, truth be told, at one time was, one of THOSE couples. You know…..the couple that loves each other but absolutely doesn’t like one another at all! After years of trial and error and 30 years of marital experience, I want to grab them and sit them down and tell them “I might can show you how to fall back in LIKE with your spouse. It’s worth it! Hang in there and give it a try.”
Not because I have it all figured out. Let’s admit it. No one does, but some of us have learned the hard way that liking your spouse is as important as loving them!
During the hardest of the hard years of our marriage, we stayed together with the attitude of “I love you, but I sure don’t like you.”
Can I be real? That season STUNK, like a road-killed skunk under the hot Texas sun!!! It was tough, difficult, despairing, lackluster, and simply a very dry time for the both of us.
No matter your beliefs on love. marriage, and God, I know this: A relationship made up of two people willing to outlast the difficult times and who are driven by love will eventually return to a relationship made up of two people that can like each other once again.
We did it. So have others. And it is possible!
So how do you get back to the LIKING stage with your spouse? How do you get past the “I am only with you because I love you and committed in front of God and others that I would stay with you through good times and bad, sickness and health, rich or poor times”?
Let me just pause and say this…..I ADMIRE YOUR COMMITMENT TO STAY IN THAT RELATIONSHIP BECAUSE YOU CHOSE TO LOVE, REGARDLESS OF WHAT YOUR FEELINGS MAY BE TELLING YOU!! I AM SO PROUD OF YOU FOR CHOOSING TO DO THE HARD THING!
Now may I offer a little hope?
Remember with me the days you first met your spouse. What did you admire about them? What attracted you to them? Everyone can agree with me that LIKE had our hearts long before LOVE ever did!! That’s the order of relationships. First comes LIKE, then comes LOVE.
Take a minute. Think about it….
Was it their smile? Their laugh?
Was it their sense of humor? Or their bookish, intelligent mind?
Were you won over by their caring and compassionate heart? Or their adventurous spontaneity?
REMEMBER, BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT THAT YOU DO!
Foundationally, love is why you chose to spend the rest of your life with that person. It’s what you built your decision and life-commitment upon at the very beginning. Like a house, the foundation must be solid and supportive. That’s LOVE. Then you commit to spend the rest of your lives together BUILDING upon that love-foundation, board by board, wall by wall, brick by brick…..always, always building. Never stopping improvements and maintenance. Never quitting and letting it “just go.”
We built a log house 11 years ago and I remember the day that we were DONE!! Today, that’s laughable because we are NEVER, EVER DONE! There’s always something that needs a touch up or a refinish or repainting, inside and out. ALWAYS, or the house goes to shambles and ruin.
I would have been erroneous if I had bought the lie 11 years ago that our house was DONE, that the day we moved in was the day our work was over, complete. As long as we are home-owners, there will be something to refurbish, touch up, restore, enhance.
IT’S THE SAME WITH RELATIONSHIPS. You didn’t say “I do” and expect things to POOF instantly into perfection and beauty and wonderfulness, did you? Of course not.
The two-word little sentence you uttered, “I DO,” should have come with a few extra words in my opinion. Something like this:
I do promise to love you AND like you.
I do promise to stick it out when it’s ugly, difficult, crazy, and even mediocre.
I do promise to work THE REST OF MY BREATHING DAYS to doing my part to keep us healthy and functional and happy.
I do promise to commit my time, self, body, soul, mind, and heart to doing my part to bringing fun and joy and life to this relationship.
Some couples have their vows worded similar to what I just wrote above, but have you forgotten?
Have you lost the ability to LIKE your spouse?
I have a couple of ideas of what may have happened to the LIKE in your relationship:
- You forgot what’s important. You let life take over. You let kids, bills, jobs, hobbies, and friends run the show and forgot the one important person in your world: YOUR SPOUSE. None of these (kids, bills, jobs, hobbies, friends) are bad things. In fact they are good things, but they aren’t the best thing!! That would be the one you committed your life to, the one you fell out of like with.
- You’ve kept a tally of the big and small offenses, instead of forgiving your spouse. They may ask for our forgiveness, we relent, but secretly we keep a checklist and wait for another thing to happen to add to that growing list. (I have to pause here and say this: I am not endorsing that husband or wife stay with an abusive spouse. I am endorsing the fact that you get good godly counsel and help for problems that are abusive and repetitive!)
- You have allowed “pet peeves” to overshadow all of the good and right things in your spouse. Sounds trivial, right? But the little things that normally wouldn’t bother you become glaring nuisances when bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, or resentment take root.
- You compare your spouse to someone else. DANGER!!!!! DANGER!!!!! DANGER!!!!! I love the saying “If the grass looks greener on the other side…..start watering your own lawn!!” Cultivate what is yours! Take care of what you committed to, what you down deep-down love, and what you used to like! It will grow again. It just needs a little care and TLC.
So how do you overcome and change these four areas above and start LIKING your spouse again? Do the complete opposite of what you were doing!
1. Remember and get back to WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT. Show your spouse they are #1 (after God) in your world. Let the rest of your world know that too! (Yes, even your children!) Return to your spouse. Spend time together. Get to know one another again. Set each other as top priority. Without that, all other areas of your life will be affected negatively.
2. Talk! Tell your spouse if something really offends you and have the courage to admit if you were wrong. Get help if needed!! Forgive. Set yourself and them free from past mistakes and start fresh. Again….get help if needed!
3. Remember the good things. Look for those in your spouse. They may be buried, but if they once were there, have the courage to call them back out in your spouse. Be the one who sees, recognizes, and is grateful for the good in them. Verbalize it. Be intentional about this.
4. STOP COMPARING! Take care of what is yours and don’t dream of what you don’t need. Work at it! Tend it! Be thankful for what you once were so very thankful to have.
More than likely, you did these things in your dating days. Rediscover the LIKE in your relationship, guard it, protect it, because your relationship does depend on it!
(Disclosure: I am talking to couples who have hit some detours, roadblocks, or hang-ups that have turned you against each other and are willing to mend fences and repair breaches. I, in no way, am encouraging those who are being abused to take these words and try to FIX a broken relationship and deep woundings. Abuse needs to be addressed as such and you both need counsel and help. I am talking to those that have arrived at the place of stagnant, stale, relationships where liking isn’t in the picture, but can be. It takes work, but the work is worth it!)
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