Better than love, I like another term that makes both sexes more comfortable in marital problem solving—likeability. Keeping a constant but mostly silent watch on mutual likeability enables women to more easily detect and retune disharmony before major problems erupt. And so, I aim this short series at relationship experts who hope to improve their techniques.
As the gauge of marital compatibility, women usually use ‘love’ with all its variances and connections. They start thinking he doesn’t love me anymore or similar thoughts with accusations often included. It focuses her thinking on blaming him without provoking any self-talk about her involvement, as if she’s either innocent or free of blame. It’s a natural response; she never intended to do anything that would cause his unlikeable behavior, disruptive attitude, lessened interest, or weaker love. However, blame immediately diverts both their attentions away from minor and toward bigger and more blame-worthy issues and accusations.
Each spouse’s likeability determines the extent to which the other wants to be in their presence, enjoy their company, live together permanently. It’s the magnet of friendliness, kindness, and companionship. The enjoyment of just being around the other. Wives have to sacrifice much of it after marriage. Natural motivational forces energize husbands to forego much of the intimate togetherness that wives wish or crave.
Her likeability is built on the foundation of who she was when he waited at the altar. Courtship taught him the meaning of her presence in his life. As she grows (or wilts) out of that persona, her likeability declines. His respect and love of her may go up, but it does not follow that her likeability will also. Respect and love have different roots; her likeability is rooted in their courtship and the promise he perceived in her as his supporter and junior partner for his workaday life.
Her man’s likeability is rooted in her dreams of how she will shape their married life. Her dreams, however, don’t include a full understanding of his nature. His marital responsibility, job obligation, ambition, and primal urge to accomplish things push him to yield the enjoyment of her presence in favor of his many missions in life. When he falls from grace as part of her dreams, his likeability declines.
I propose a new set of thoughts to overcome her natural but unproductive response dealing with it as a love issue. Constantly but quietly weigh their relationship in terms of self, matching, and mutual likeability. Keep tabs on it for him, her, and us. Don’t constantly focus on the big things for which she naturally worries such as love, finances, or sex. Become more aware of the little things that rattle their cage of reciprocal likeability.
For example, she’s teed off at his laziness because her honey-do list grows longer. How does her reaction to that conclusion make her appear likeable or unlikeable to him? Would she have reacted that way during courtship? She can read his reaction to however she expresses her dissatisfaction. In his view, do her words and attitude make her more or less likeable? Given her mood, does he enjoy her presence?
I believe that signs of one liking the other are better indicators both of love and of disturbances in their relationship. Discrepancies are easier to see, harder to defend, and less accusatory when kept at a simpler level than the complexities of understanding mutual love. Moreover, it encourages relationship experts to take advantage of this fundamental principle of life: One is never wrong who takes the blame so that others avoid it.
For example: She turns careless and sloppy about her appearance soon after marriage. Or, her cooking turns from prepared at home to carry-out. Or, she insults him in front of others. Or she fails on her promises. He expects her not to change from whom he married but she does, so he’s not at fault. He takes offense—silently. He has no relationship management skills. Unsure of what to do, he weighs the expected consequences and finds her less likeable. However, she reads the silence in him and is enabled to inquire as if she is to blame, which is the tactic that causes him to open up. She can open discussion by asking questions that harbor no blame. Presuming to take the blame for whatever has happened, she learns what’s bothering him. Out of that, she can figure out what she wants to do about it.
For example: He starts working longer hours when it appears unnecessary from her view. Or, he flirts with other women in front of her. Or, he quit taking care of and keeping her car washed. Before she accuses him of something concocted in her imagination—he doesn’t love her anymore or he’s having an affair—she presumes that she’s less likeable for some reason. And so she inquires. Honey, have I been pleasing you enough lately? Are you displeased with me? Do I provide what you need when you need it? How can I do more for you? Fix meals more closely aligned with your schedule? Greet you after work in my nightie? Fix your breakfast before I go to church? Keep the kids quieter while you study? Let you sleep longer on the weekends? Take aspirin before bedtime?
When romantic or enduring love starts to fade in the eyes of either spouse, suspicions arise, faultfinding emerges, and mutual appreciation becomes un-mutual. Potholes appear in his road to marital satisfaction. Her road to happiness narrows, needs repairs, and the detours re-route her. On the other hand, likeability is far less volatile as subject of discussion and therefore less disruptive and more easily addressed without blame attached.
Battling over whether one’s love is sufficient for the other induces just blame and excuses. Operating as if likeability is the primary glue reduces problems instead of growing them. Small problems are more easily resolved peaceably. Relationship harmony is more easily maintained.
NOTE: Ladies, this is a new subject that I have been working on for some time. I’m confident about the concept and process but less so about the clarity and completeness of the series. You can help me present more or a better view by questioning/challenging specific points to which I can rebut and elaborate. IOW do what you do best and works best for me. Thanks for the help or even thoughtful consideration. Guy