Then you walk into the living room and tell him or her you've made up your mind, you want a divorce.
"Why?!" your spouse asks incredulously.
"I don't like you anymore," is the response.
I think it's impossible to overstate, or over-rate, the vital role of love in a marriage. But I think we have vastly understated, and under-rated, the significance of the "likeability factor" within a marriage.
The relationship that leads to marriage often starts with a spark of likeability. When you first meet someone, you don't immediately love them with a great passion, simply because you don't know them and haven't had a chance to express love. But early on, you discover things you like about the other person, and that likeability draws you closer to them.
The more time you spend together, you learn to love the other person, so much so you make the decision to get married.
Over the years, genuine selfless love sees you through all the things couples face in life. Even now, you find yourself willing to "love" the other person; you've lived by doing what's in their best interest for a long time, and that hasn't been as hard as some make it out to be.
... over the years, your spouse has become less likeable. They don't try to put their best self forward like they did when they were courting you. Now, they're sloppier about the person they bring home from work each day. They don't take care of themselves like they used to. They're more careless about how they interact with you; they don't "edit" themselves as they once did. They aren't as positive or optimistic or funny or easy-going as they once were. The basic person you first met is still there, but they're no longer living each day as their best self like they were when they were pursuing you.
As a Christian, you know you could focus your mind and heart to love your spouse "no matter what," but they have made themselves less likeable. Finding you don't "like" them like you once did, you discover your willingness to continue to love them to be challenged.
It's harder to love a less likeable person.
Studies have shown that people who are more likeable have stronger marriages. Common sense alone helps us understand that. The people who are our closest friends, the people we want to spend time with and more easily invest ourselves in relationships with, are the people we find to be easier to like.
We do more for the people we like than those we don't like. We're motivated to try harder with the people we like than with those we don't like. And we "love harder" those we like than those we don't like.
So if you allow yourself to become less likeable to your spouse, you're endangering a key element to motivating the love your spouse has for you. In other words, you're making it harder --- not impossible, but harder --- for your spouse, and others, to continue to love you.
We most often find our failures to love others to be when others are their least likeable selves.
If you want to strengthen your marriage, or other relationships, let me challenge you to work on improving your personal likeability. Here's just one tip: to be likeable, you must be INTENTIONAL about doing the "little things" that will make you a more likeable person.
Has your likeability slipped? What can you --- in an authentic way --- do to become more likeable to your spouse and others?