I hear it regularly from many of the struggling couples I see in my practice.
They are still in love, but they don’t like some of their partner’s behaviors, and those reactions are increasing.
They realize that the cumulative effects of those irritating behaviors are beginning to take precedence too often, and they want help to change them.
They tell me that, earlier on, the good parts of their relationship seemed to easily compensate for the negatives, but are now beginning to outweigh the positives.
The partners still feel fondness, passion, devotion, security, and closeness most of the time, but they are concerned that some of the things they say or do are irritating each other more often than they used to.
They love each other, but they don’t like many of the things the other says and does.
When their love was new, they realize now that they often melded their feelings of “like” and “love,” because they seemed so similar when their initial passion overwhelmed them.
Perhaps they didn’t want to look at any behaviors that might have challenged their initial rapture. Focusing on their mutual dreams, magnetic sexual connection, or social networks were much higher priorities.
Many couples I’ve worked with have told me the same thing.
They simply didn’t realize that their loving feelings towards each other were eclipsing those behaviors that were subtly irritating. The “dislikes” that were accumulating were not on their radar.
Over time, they became aware that these negative behaviors and the reactions that accompanied them had been growing, and their positive interactions were no longer compensating as well.
They knew on some level that they were experiencing more irritations and were taking longer to heal from them, but they kept putting their awareness aside.
If either you or your partner is feeling too often more “un-likable to the other,” even if your love still feels mostly secure, you can avoid irreversible damage if you face what is going on.
You need to be able to honestly tell each other what thoughts or actions may be causing those reactions and how you can change them.
The sooner you can transform or erase those behaviors, the better chance you have to rescue your love from future damage.
In the following exercises, you and your partner will first strengthen your love foundation and then begin sharing your “dislikes” with each other.
Because you are likely to face some distress when you do the latter, especially if you haven’t openly talked about them before, you’ll go through the exercises with that sensitivity to each other in mind.
As you proceed, you may find yourselves altering the exercise examples to fit the uniqueness of your own relationship.
However you decide to connect in this new way, don’t rush the process. The exercises will be more effective if you take the time to do them slowly and with mutual devotion to the goal.
If either of you feel, at any time during the process, that your love foundation is wavering, you may decide to stop for a while and continue once you are emotionally reconnected.
Take the time to recommit to the things you do love about each other before continuing. You won’t be able to resolve the issue at hand until you feel better.
The First Exercise: What I Like About You
Write a letter to your partner that describes his or her positive personality characteristics, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, attitudes, opinions, quirks, mysteries, and physical attributes that you truly like.
These can be things you’ve already stated in the past, but also those that you’ve thought in your head, but not shared before.
Be sure to add examples if you think they will give your comments more depth or understanding. Recount any experiences with humor, passion, appreciation, and value.
Whatever makes your partner better able to understand exactly what you mean will better enable them to experience exactly what you mean.
When you are done, wait for a time when there is no pressure and a gentle environment, and then read your “What I Like About You” list aloud to your partner.
Make sure that you give him or her whatever length of time needed to allow a full response to each of your expressions.
If you’ve taken the time to do this exercise in depth, you will surely see positive signs of appreciation in your partner.