I Love You, But I Don’t Like You Right Now
Have you ever looked at your partner with disdain after cleaning up that empty can of pop they left on the counter or their shoes and coat in front of the door, thinking to yourself that your partner is ‘useless’ or that they clearly don’t ‘care’. Does this sound familiar? If you are anything like me or millions of other couples out there, something like what I have described above has happened at some point in your relationship. Although this thought process is normal, the issue comes in when these feelings start lasting for weeks, months or even years. This ‘disdain’ feeling not only impacts our personal moods but can begin to have lasting impacts on the overall happiness and satisfaction for both parties in the relationship.
Are we allowed to get frustrated by the things our partner does? Of course! But when all we notice about our partners are the things we find frustrating or ways they failed us, we are slipping into a cycle of viewing our partner through a negative lens. As indicated by the word cycle, this is a self-perpetuating process where the more we notice things that annoy us, the more we look for things to be annoyed by. However, this pattern holds on the positive side as well. If we view our partner through a positive lens, we begin to feel positive emotions towards them, and begin giving them the benefit of the doubt in instances where you wouldn’t have otherwise.
I notice that I start viewing my partner negatively when I stop ‘liking’ my partner, meaning I feel disconnected from him and our friendship. I begin feeling bogged down in the monotony of my daily routine and look for ways in which my husband is making my life harder, not easier. I get tunnel vision and no longer see the bigger picture of our world together. However, when I am seeing the big picture, I notice all the things my partner does for me daily that makes my life infinitely easier; making dinner, taking our toddler to the bathroom, caring for the animals, increasing the humidity in the house when I complain it is dry, to name a few. When I am seeing the big picture I realize that the small things that are bothersome, like the empty can on the counter, are dwarfed by all the wonderful things he does for me on a daily basis.
Before we go any further, I think it is important to say that we can get frustrated with our partners for a reason. Whether it be that they missed doing something that was really important, or had a significant negative impact in your day, having a positive “benefit of the doubt” attitude doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work with your partner to make sure you are both supported in the relationship. The reason we focus so strongly on the positive lens is because if you’re holding a negative view of your partner, you won’t be able to differentiate between the small vs. big issues or navigate these issues with empathy and understanding.
So how do you get back to liking your partner again? Start looking, and I mean literally looking, for the positives. When you take the time to observe your partner, you may see all the things they do, big or small, that have become background noise in your relationship. The next step is to tell them when you notice something they are doing that is good or nice and why it was meaningful for you.
Lastly, we need to break the relationship out of the day to day routine and take some time for fun. The beginning of most relationships can be characterised by fun. Sadly, as the relationship matures, fun can become a smaller and smaller part of our lives, often taking a back seat to our many daily responsibilities. Taking the time to connect and be silly, have a water fight, play tag around the house, tickle each other, and bring back a playful energy to the stress of everyday living. This playfulness can do wonders in helping shift your lens on your partner or the relationship. Fun connection can move a couple from ‘I don’t like you’ to ‘you’re my best friend’. When we like our partners, it is easier to see the big picture and all the reasons we fell in love with them in the first place.
The above information was informed by the Gottman Method of Couples Counselling. For more information on healthy relationships and Gottman research the following books are helpful resources:
John Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
John Gottman and Julie Schwarz Gottman’s The Love Prescription: Seven Days to More Intimacy, Connection and Joy
Celeste Rodrigues-Forbes MSW, RSW is experienced in the areas of anxiety and trauma, plus many more. For more information on Celeste and her work, click here to link to her full bio page.