Keeping “I like you” in Marriage
In our house, we are very open with our affection. This is true of my relationships with my husband and with both of my children. We do a lot of hugs, a lot of snuggles and we say often, “I love you.”
We also make a point to be sure to say, “I like you.” Because loving someone is one thing. Of course, I love my family and I would tell them that. But it feels very different to have someone say, “I like you” than to hear, “I love you.”
We’re five years into our marriage, so we’re certainly still very new. My parents just passed their Fiftieth Anniversary and I cannot begin to imagine how different life, marriage, and kids will feel for us forty-five years from now. Before we got married, we liked each other a lot, and people would say, “Just wait a few years and that will change.” For some, it might, but I have seen firsthand that a long marriage where both people genuinely like each other is possible, so we both work hard to make that happen.
Here are a few things we do to help us say, “I like you.”
I’m more introverted; I’m an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs test, or an Enneagram 9, and my husband is an ENFP or a 7, respectively. This generally means that I recharge by having alone time, and I need a lot of it. Generally, he needs time with friends and others to re-charge, and alone or one-on-one time is very draining for him.
Knowing and respecting our need time outside of our relationship is essential for us. He, as a person, needs time away from me (even though I’m super awesome 100% of the time) to do his own thing, see his own people and do things I have no interest in doing. I need time away from him to read books, go thrifting, and generally sit in silence.
Time Alone Together
We’ve also tried to prioritize “dates” or just time alone together. Look, we’re not millionaires so we can’t pay a sitter every week or go to fancy places. What this usually looks like for us is eating dinner one night a week after the kids are in bed so we can actually taste our food and talk without interruption. Then we take a few minutes to intentionally talk about life.
Making sure we get this time in whatever form we can with a not-quite 3 and 1-year-old is hard, but we’re better for it. It makes the “I like you” a lot easier to say and mean.
Always a Team
Generally, we split housework, projects, and life as evenly as possible. We have “assigned” tasks where each of us takes on as much as possible and is responsible for those things. For us, that works best because there’s no question about who is supposed to take care of things, and it keeps conflict down. Generally.
Being a team also means that if one person is having a hard time, or is overwhelmed by work or the kids, one of us is picking up the extra slack. This goes back and forth between us and helps eliminate resentment for work not getting done.
Say it Out Loud
We say, “I like you,” a lot around here. But only when we mean it. We also thank each other in a genuine way for things we are already responsible for like doing dishes, folding laundry, running errands, or taking out the trash.
Fight Fair and Reconnect
I’ve painted a rosy picture above. But hi, no. We are not perfect. We fight. We disagree. We have conflict. Sometimes we have to remind each other to chew with a mouth closed or to wash the underside of a dish. Being able to speak up on small things that bother us really helps us not have big blowouts as often. They still happen, because we’re human and we can’t like each other all the time.
During a conflict, we each tend to go off alone and brood for a while. We process feelings and thoughts. Eventually one of us will go find the other and we’ll talk things through. It’s so hard for each of us, but we reluctantly admit our own faults and feelings. We each learned much of this as individuals in therapy.
Find What is Best for You
These are some tools that work well for us to help us like each other. That cover photo is a picture of us dancing at my friend’s wedding the day before I was due with our second.
I know he likes me. I know he loves me. I don’t take that for granted. So many people are working through tough relationships, and staying married isn’t always the best for all people. What ways do you work to make your relationship strong?
*Cover image used with permission from Hannah Toldt Photography.