Do you like your partner? Yes, I know that you love her. Do you know how I know that? I see your cute, lovey-dovey pictures plastered all over Facebook and Instagram; you seem to be joined at the hip and you can’t seem to pry yourself away from her face. And who can blame you? But I’m actually curious to know how many of you really like your partner. No, I didn’t ask if you liked how she looks or how she throws down in bed. I want to know if you genuinely like her as a friend.
Is it even possible to love someone you don’t even like? And I’m not just talking about you both doing things that irk the heck out of each other occasionally. I’m talking about not having a baseline of respect and admiration—or in therapist-speak “contempt”—without those your relationship is destined to fail. I have been contemplating this question for a very long time, and I believe you can love someone you don’t like, but this is not necessarily a good thing.
The Chemistry Trap
In recent years, I’ve been on a dating spree. (I was a late bloomer, and I think I’m just overcompensating for not coming out sooner.) And I’m slightly ashamed to say this, but I’ve dated women I did not necessarily like for longer than I should have. Why? Well, more than likely we had near instantaneous chemistry, which caused me to ignore some red flags. Confession, I’m one of those women who gets emotionally attached way too quickly.
I don’t necessarily have this problem when forming platonic friendships. When pursuing a platonic relationship, if I don’t like Person A, I will not make any efforts to rationalize, convince myself otherwise, or make excuses for why I should continue the friendship. That’s just a fact. But for some damn reason, I can’t seem to do this with my romantic attachments and a couple of times I’ve ended up thinking, “If I hadn’t tripped and fallen face first in your V, I would not even be friends with you.”
Any way, the necessity of liking my partner was repeatedly highlighted in several of my own romantic relationships. In one relationship, my partner and I were both quirky and nerdy and had a kindred connection. We enjoyed each other’s company, made each other laugh, talked about any and everything and had incredible chemistry. When that relationship ended, it was a devastating loss for me. I had lost my best friend. But, the friendship alone had not been enough to keep that relationship from imploding.
On the flipside, I had some incredible chemistry with another woman who insisted that we take our time to get to know each other. She was so serious about not letting the physical cloud our reasoning, she wouldn’t even let me use the word “date” when describing our connection. She even asked me point blank if I liked her or just the way she looked. I could not answer her honestly. Although we had many things in common, there were some important values that we did not share. Had we gone ahead and gotten prematurely physical, I may have tried to minimize those very important values and end up annoyed at finding myself in a relationship with someone I did not understand or particularly like.
Although I haven’t dated all that much this summer, I’ve already had some revelations and have matured a bit. I recently met up with a cute, masculine of center intellectual (that’s my type by the way) with whom I felt a physical connection, but I didn’t like her (she was an elitist snob), so she’s out of the picture. Phew! I didn’t need a second date to figure that one out!
What Happy Couples Say
Some of the happy couples I’ve interviewed, not only seem to love each other, but like each other. One woman said her wife was her favorite person and that she was excited to see her at the end of the day. Another said, she liked her wife not just as a lover, but as a citizen.
When I posed the ‘do you like your partner’ question on Facebook, one of my wiser friends said, “I happen to like my partner … We started out as friends and have always cultivated a friendship between us as well as the romance and partnership. We often tell each other (randomly) ‘I like you’ as much, if not more than, ‘I love you.’”
Another said, “I would not be with a woman who I didn’t like and respect.”
Now, I’m no dating expert, but I do have a suggestion. Quick, pull out your phone and jot down 10 things you like about your partner. Better yet, instead of reaching over to caress her sexually the next time you see each other, tell her the things you like about her. While going to therapy with a former partner, our therapist made us start and end each session by asking us to tell each other something we liked about each other. Since she tended to be very critical, I was surprised and delighted to hear my partner say all the things she liked about me. I even recommend doing this kind of inventory before you decide to take your relationship to the next level. None of us are perfect but friendship truly should be the foundation of a strong relationship. I believe it paves the way for us to fully accept, love and like our partners despite these flaws.