12 Principles That Can Make or Break the Marriage Relationship: No. 7 – Being in Like
When it comes to marriage, people talk more often about being in love than being in like—although I do get invitations to weddings that say things about marrying a best friend. I don’t know about being best friends, but being in like with each other is equally important to loving each other if you want to stay married, or at least enjoy staying married.
I just flew three different airplanes with my husband to get half way around the world and back and I will tell you that there’s nothing like transatlantic flights and TSA at midnight to clue me in on how much in like I am with my husband, or people in general. Of course we love each other, even when we don’t like each other. And of course we don’t like each other when we’re tired and grumpy, dirty and jet lagged. Maybe that’s why liking each other when we’re not at our worst is so important. We have to have some points where we actually enjoy each other’s company. We have to have some times together when we aren’t annoying.
This doesn’t mean that the two of us can never disagree. We’re two very different people. My husband and I are in no way compatible in every area of life. He says breakfast must contain meat and eggs. I say coffee and bread. Entire cultures are differentiated with little more than this. Different opinions, tastes, interests, etc. are what make each of us uniquely fascinating to the other.
How to enjoy your differences
Even if our differences don’t overlap that much, what I’ve noticed has happened in our marriage is that we enjoy seeing one another happy so much that we set up ways to engage in our different interests together. We know that being together doing what at least one of us enjoys means equal happiness. That’s sort of the ultimate friendship compromise. You go to the superhero movie or the rom-com even if the genre doesn’t fit you both, simply because you want to be together. Then, if at least one of you is happy, the other one can leech off that happiness and feel happy, too.
The point is that you should take an interest in what he takes an interest in. He should do the same. Find something that isn’t impossible. The alternative is terrible. Criticizing one another on your differences or having trouble finding the patience for what he wants, or dismissing each other’s opinion or idea because it’s different, could find you both falling out of like. Different does not equal bad. What’s different between the two of you is likely some of the same stuff that attracted you to each other.
If you let your differences separate you too much, you could end up leading separate lives, together. (See principal No. 11 about leading separate lives for more on this.) Physically co-existing but never doing the same thing together or sharing an opinion or interest in common makes marriage lonely. You may be happy as clams binge-watching season after season of your favorite television shows, but you’ll be binging alone.
Rediscover why you like each other
That being said, no one else in your entire life will annoy you nearly as much as your own husband—and don’t worry he feels the same about you—but you have to find a way to get over it—whatever it is and to get back to something that helps you remember what you were attracted to in him in the first place. This is usually something you admire in him, maybe something you appreciate about him, or maybe just the way he is the one with whom you can share your innermost thoughts and feelings without fear of being rejected.
I think the best question for re-kindling the “like” is when someone asks you how you met. Getting back to the beginning of the relationship helps you recall what it was that initially drew you to him. He remembers the ideas you had that he used to listen to and find endearing. Even reminiscing about what you used to do together or think about similarly helps to sustain a relationship when the “like” is growing a little cold.
Differences give you an opportunity to take the advice of the old adage and pick your battles. Little irritations can be easily handled with products sold on late night infomercials. For example, a plastic microwave splatter cover can literally save a marriage.
Remembering your love languages can help, too. Maybe you haven’t given him any words of affirmation or physical touch lately. I have to think about that. You’ll have to think about whatever his love languages are. Maybe he needs to get you a gift or spend some time with you—if those are your love languages. (See blog No. 10 - Touching to see more about The Five Love Languages.) Maybe you can remind him that you like to get gifts, but what works much better is to just remember to love him. Loving is a great way to fall back into like.
Rebecca Barnes is the director of curriculum for Summit Kids Ministry at Flatirons. She’s been married to Ron Barnes almost 25 years and has three daughters. Her oldest daughter will be getting married this year, so she’s been thinking a lot about marriage lately.