Thursday, September 11, 2014

I Don't Like You, But I Love You

Before my husband and I got married – before we got engaged, actually – we had a number of frank, open discussions about what our marriage should and would be like. We talked about what we thought our parenting styles would be (or, in his case, were), how we planned to practice our religion as a family, how our extended families would be part of our own immediate family life, how we would balance our “couples” social life and hobbies with our “individual” social lives and hobbies, how we would handle disagreements, how we would manage our day-to-day household chores, etc. But one of the smartest things we discussed was that it would be okay for us to dislike each other now and then, as long as we never stopped loving each other.

This might seem like a contradiction in terms to some people. But our approach to love is that it is not just feelings, but rather a conscious decision of how to treat someone. Liking someone is not something you can always force yourself to do – let’s face it, some people just aren’t very likeable, and pretty much every one of us that has ever lived has had a moment or two when we’re not very likeable. But loving someone doesn’t have to do with them; it’s YOUR choice of how to treat them.

This concept comes from our Christian upbringings: the Bible teaches us to love one another. Jesus showed love to a lot of people who were, quite frankly, jerks. Cheating tax collectors, adulterers of both genders, murderers, arrogant sons of – well, you get the picture. Not particularly likeable people, and I highly doubt that he liked every one of them. But he loved them all, and therefore he treated them with compassion, mercy, and respect. But even aside from a Christian perspective, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all treated other people with compassion, mercy, and respect, even when we think they’re jerks? Particularly when those jerks happen to be people that we’re married to?

Whenever I get angry at my husband (and yes, he’s awesome, but it happens), I keep in mind that I love him, and it colors how I treat him. It helps me to bite back those angry, disrespectful words and insults that the “currently disliking” part of me wants to throw at him. (Those readers who know me personally may find it difficult to believe I can think of nasty things because I’m “so sweet.” Ha! You’d be astonished by some of my inner thoughts. I’m a little bit sweet but mostly I just have a really good filter, thanks to this whole “love even when you don’t like” thing.) And once my anger has cooled and I’m able to see things with a slightly clearer perspective, I’m always glad that what was inside my head stayed there. And I’m sure that my husband has plenty of thoughts about me that he’s glad he’s never voiced.

The funny thing about treating someone with love even when you don’t like them (whether that dislike is passing or permanent), is that it makes you, yourself, more likeable. And when you’re more likeable, the loving part comes much more easily, on both sides. So the next time you find your partner being less likeable, try remembering that you love him or her – not WHY you do, but simply THAT you do – and let your behavior reflect your love rather than your dislike. You might be surprised at how likeable it makes you both. 

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