We took a holiday by a lake in the mountains. The sky was blue, the water cool and the mountains surrounding the lake was surreal in beauty and magnitude. Bobbing on air mattresses that I had purchased the week before from the local hardware store for a whopping $12.97, I asked my husband the million dollar question. It was a simple one, but one that had been haunting me for the past month.
“Do you like me?”
I know… the question sounds needy and is obviously asked from a depth of insecurity, but the reality was I needed to know. I never doubted whether my husband was committed to me, or whether he loved me – I just needed to know whether he liked me.
I wanted to talk about how he was feeling towards me. When a wife asks her husband about feelings there often tends to produce a knee-jerk reaction. Please, can we talk about the weather, fishing, sports or… I might even be willing to talk religion or politics… but feelings??
Feelings play such a huge role in relationships but they are often hard to put into words. It can tough to describe whether you feel positive about your relationship or not and why.
Positive sentiment override is when positive comments and behaviors outweigh negative ones about 20:1. This idea originated with John Gottman and it suggests that there is a positive filter that modifies how couples evaluate their relationship. In this state there are more positive feelings and thoughts attached to the relationship that negative (and yes Sherlock, negative sentiment over-ride is when negativity presides).
When there is positive sentiment override in a marriage there is a feeling of good will towards each other. It means that at the end of the day, when you are brushing your teeth before bed and you look at the person you are sharing the sink with – there is positive feeling; you actually like the person. This is the stuff that good marriages are built on; mutual feelings of positive sentiment.
My husband and I had been through a series of tough issues and situations. Personality clashes, style differences and even gender disparities had caused some stormy waters. So, as we floated on the idyllic lake I posed the question. Do you like me?
His response was calculated and a bit too slow for my liking. But it was legitimate; he was being careful and analytical as his nature dictates. “Yes Doris, I do like you…” he replied. Then as the conversation continued we talked about the past month and the various strains that we had encountered. While restating our underlining commitment to each other we touched on a few things that we needed to implement to ensure that we would continue to ‘like’ each other.
We need to take time in our day to interact on an intentional level. Daily. We must incorporate time into our schedules and busy lives to look each other in the eye and to validate each other’s life. By noticing and even studying my husband I can learn to read and even predict how different circumstances will effect affect him. I once heard a friend say that he wanted to take the rest of his life to learn all he could about his wife –as if he were working toward a master’s degree on understanding her.
Daily interactions need to happen for this type of knowledge to be built up. Specific times of connecting to highlight:
Take a couple of minutes before you leave each other to go to work and the time when you come back to look into each other’s eyes. Give a quick kiss “goodbye” or “hello”. This validates the other’s worth and creates a wonderful tradition of recognizing and celebrating each other’s presence. We need to ‘touch base’ with each other.
Set aside a couple of minutes at the end of the day to recount the day’s highs and lows. Keep it brief as needed or as long as you both want.
Plan a trip-for-two at least once a year. For some couples they get away to plan and prepared for their next year – combining day-timers and setting goals. For others it can be a relaxing weekend away to just vegetate. Whatever your style is – do it!
Building a healthy marriage is keeping the positive sentiment higher than the negative reactions. It really is that simple – but it can be hard to do. It takes time and commitment to build a healthy relationship. Building a friendship in marriage is even more difficult because of all the strains that life brings.
So, next time you have a moment – or even right now – ask yourself. Do I like my spouse? If you can say yes, then you are heading in the right direction. If the answer is ambiguous or negative, then take time to get to know your spouse again, so that you will like them. You obviously liked each other at one time, or you wouldn’t have said “I do”.
And if the answer seems too slow or calculated for your liking – purchase an inexpensive floatation device and head for the mountains. Sometimes these types of questions just need the time and space to be answered.
Originally posted on dorisdoumaborn.wordpress.com . Used with permission.