Have you noticed that your spouse’s personality quirks, which you thought were so cute when you were dating, are driving you nuts now that you’re married? In the early days, it was laughable when she forgot items on her way out of the house or grocery shopped at random. Now you wish she’d just learn to write a list. His sharp wit seemed funny when you were dating, but now his quips poke at your insecurities … and it hurts. Then there are the flaws you discover after you get married, like how he snores or that she hates folding laundry.
As these little habits irritate you more and more, the warm fuzzies you felt when you were around your spouse may start to fade. You look up one day and realize you do not like your spouse. The feeling of “like” relates to a sense of affection, appreciation and enjoyment. So sure, you love your spouse, you just don’t “like” them.
What can you do to rekindle that sense of connection when you feel it’s missing? Different habits or practices will work for different couples, but the first and most important step every couple can take is inviting God into the relationship. Share your struggles with Him and ask for help. Ask God to highlight your next step. He knows what you need.
Next, consider the following questions:
Can I rekindle affection and still dislike things about my spouse?
Yes! You can build a solid relationship without liking everything your spouse says or does. The key is prioritizing your relationship and your spouse over your preferences. Don’t let pet peeves detour your connection. Instead, learn to focus on the good and take their shortcomings to God in prayer.
Is this a temporary lapse in “like” or an ongoing concern?
I’ve been midargument with my husband and thought “I don’t like you right now.” This feels like a terrible thing to think about my husband, but we’re in a disagreement and I’m the one he disagrees with. Acknowledging my feelings helps put things in perspective.
If it seems like a repeat problem, what triggers prompt the pattern? Are these internal or external issues?
Troublesome circumstances, limited time or resources, health issues, other relationships, career roadblocks — these are all external stressors that can affect your connection. Unrelated events or past wounds can also magnify the present situation to make it feel bigger than it is. For example, if you’re in conflict with your colleague at work, you may have much less patience for picking up after your spouse — again. You may find it helpful to journal using feeling statements to identify foundational reasons behind your experiences. When [this happens] I feel [feeling] or think [thoughts] because [reason, concern or experience].
How can we rekindle fondness for each other?
Picture yourself in front of a fire pit containing a small fire. This is the flame of affection and enjoyment in your marriage — your “like” flame. Imagine that each day your thoughts, feelings and actions toss wood in the fire.
You fuel your “like” flame by:
- Celebrating the good your spouse contributes to your life.
- Writing lists of qualities or actions you appreciate about your spouse.
- Choosing to believe the best about your spouse’s intentions.
- Setting aside time to have fun together.
- Praying about hard circumstances and releasing them to God.
Dwelling on that annoyance? Reliving that argument? Grumbling to a friend about your struggles? Prioritizing time spent away or praying spiteful prayers instead of grace-filled ones? These actions are like dumping a pile of dirt over your “like” flame. Invest this way for a few days and the little flame is smothered by all the ways your spouse doesn’t meet your expectations.
Your like rekindles their like
I like to think it’s up to my husband, that I’d naturally like him better if he didn’t do things that annoyed me. But as I reflect on our almost 12 years of marriage, there are defined seasons when I planted myself in front of that fire and stomped out the flames.
However, when I feed my “like” flame, my husband notices the change in my demeanor, which often sparks his “like” fire toward me. As we rebuild habits of thinking well of each other and enjoying life together again, we remember why we liked each other to begin with. It reminds me of a verse in Revelation 2, when John encourages the Church to remember Christ as our first love and do the works we did at first. I love how this encouragement applies to marriage. As we remember the things we did when “like” first grew into love, God rights our perspectives and rekindles affection in our hearts.
[Focus on the Family is dedicated to bringing healing and restoration to couples who are struggling in their marriage. But God’s design for marriage never included abuse, violence or physical pain. Even emotional abuse can bruise a person’s heart, mind and soul. If you are in an abusive relationship, go to a safe place and call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit them online at thehotline.org.]