Happy Marriages are Built on Like, Not Love

Photo credit: Morgan SessionsBut people don’t get married because of like. It isn’t like that makes you sync up your life plans and sell off all your extra belonging that won’t fit into the new house you’ll soon share. It’s not like that makes you buy dresses and order cakes and book venues. Love does all that! Love brings couples together, and love is what keeps them there, right?

Perhaps. For sure, love can be the impetus to work through trying situations, but like makes you want to do it.  Like makes it easier to compromise, easier to forgive, easier to be kind. Love just makes it easier to tolerate a stale marriage.

I know, none of this sounds good. No one wants to accept that love isn’t the panacea we’re taught it is. It’s much easier and funner to believe that love is like every singer says it is, like every romantic movie says it is. We want to believe that those tear-jerker scenes in The Notebook are love personified. They’re not. They’re just Hollywood’s glitzy reflection of the imaginary magical love we believe we should all aspire to.

And that’s why so many relationships fail. We’re all waiting for this magical love to sprinkle its easy-dusty over our lives. We think once we find someone to love, the hard work is over. When we discover that this is not at all true, we assume the love is gone and the relationship is, therefore, over. Poor us. We were never taught the truth.

Love builds the foundation, but like constantly renews it

Think of your family members, aunts, uncles, cousins. I bet you love them, don’t you? Even that cousin you almost came to blows with, you live him. You know that if push came to shove, that’s family and there is no breaking the bond. But do you like them all? Probably not. And tell me, how often do you make an effort to be around the ones you don’t like, and when you are around them, do you have a good time? Or do you just tolerate them because they’re family and you love them? That’s what love does. It makes you tolerate things, and put up with things, and grin and bare things. Love is that last rung on the ladder that keeps you from letting go. And thank God for that rung! I love love. I need it. It’s crucial in times of crisis. But when it comes to the day-to-day business of being a happy spouse, like is what you need.

As long as the like is maintained, the love will be protected, But if you let the like wither, the love will crack and crumble. It will shed and splinter, peel and chip. It will fall away from you just as easily as you fell into it.

How to increase like

Like has to develop naturally. It can’t be forced or feigned. It has to happen on its own, but that doesn’t mean couples who are struggling to likes each other have to give up. All it means is that you have to create the type of environment where like can reemerge. That’s all that has to happen. Because surely there was a time when you liked each other. The like was there! It can come back.

First, remember he’s not that bad. Likeless couples tend to create internal images of their spouses that only focus on the negative. You forget he used to make you laugh. You forget he gives the best massages in town. You forget his Michael Jackson impression is both horrible and epic at the same time. The only thing you’ve been able to remember is that he gets on your nerves. Well, you get on his nerves too, but you two don’t have to punish yourselves because of it.

Commit to spending more time together, but it has to be private (read: no kids) and relaxed (read: no talk of agitating issues). What you do is up to you, but I beg of you, no movies! Your like won’t grow back because you sat in a loud, dark room and starred at a screen for 90 minutes. It might also be a good idea to skip a romantic dinner, just for now. That might be too awkward for a couple who feels they’ve grown apart. Instead, choose something interactive, something that requires that you talk or do some type of activity together. Take a fun class at a local community college, do karaoke, cook a meal. Find a way to engage and connect, and make a habit of it. It’s not enough to have a good time once.

Remember how nice you were when you first met? Get back to that. Be sweet, thoughtful, funny, flirty. You probably didn’t notice you stopped doing these things. You only noticed that he stopped. Funny how that works.

As the two of you reconnect and renew your like, thereby refreshing your love, you will create the type of rapport that makes it easier to speak truthfully and candidly. You’ll be able to peacefully address those topics that used to send you into a tailspin.

Remember, it is your undeniable right to suffer through a “tolerable” marriage, but why would you want to? Why not have a joyous marriage? You have a right to that also.

~Nadirah Angail

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