Last night, I received an email from a wife who wrote in part: “after a fight, my husband told me that although he loves me because I am the mother of his children and his wife, he doesn’t like me all that much anymore. He says that I’m not the type of person that he would chose as a friend or partner and that, if we met today, he would not even date me, much less marry me. How am I suppose to respond to this? How can we have a marriage if my own husband doesn’t like me?” I’ll tell you how I responded to this in the following article.
Understanding Projection: I explained to the wife that probably part of what her husband was saying could be chalked up to projection. What I mean by that is that often, in the heat of a fight, people don’t mean exactly what they’re saying. And just as often, they project issues and problems in other areas of their life onto the people who are the most convenient targets. In this case, that was his wife.
For example, maybe her husband had a fight with his boss that day. Maybe he had felt pressured by another family member. Maybe he was just in a very bad mood. All of these things can manifest themselves in a fight with a spouse which ends with him projecting his feelings about the issue on to his wife. (“I don’t like my job” becomes “I don’t like you.”)
Seeing The Underlying Truth: With that said, there is often a grain of truth in some of these statements that just seem to come out without the benefit of editing. Usually when a husband says that he doesn’t like you, what he really means is one of a few things. He may not like the person that you become when the two of you fight. The normally sweet and easy going person that he’s drawn to is suddenly gone and this new person seems to have fangs and claws. Or, his normally independent and strong wife becomes weepy and clingy at any criticism.
Sometimes, he’s trying to tell you that there are changes in the marriage or in your personality that he’d rather not see and this is very common even in relatively good marriages. I can’t tell you how many husbands tell me that they feel like they were sold a bill of goods when they were dating. Because in their minds, they were dating a vibrant, exciting, attentive woman who had an easy laugh. But today, they are married to a nagging, critical person that sometimes sounds a lot like their mother. And, no, they don’t “like” this – not at all.
So keep in mind that when he says he doesn’t like you, he often really means that he doesn’t like how the marriage is going, that he misses the intimacy, and that he misses the woman who used to love and respect him (and her) enough to show him the best version of herself on a regular basis.
Being Happy Rather Than Being Right: Often when I tell women this, most will admit that they sort of see the point that I’m trying to make, but that they think that none of this is fair. They will say things like “well, I don’t like him too much right now either. He’s not the person that I married either. Why is this always my problem? Why am I the one to blame?”
These concerns are absolutely valid. No, it’s not altogether fair and yes, he has some flaws too. But score keeping isn’t really going to get you anywhere. You could argue that you’re right and that he’s wrong and you may well be absolutely correct, but at the end of the day, is debating this point really going to make you any happier or any closer to your spouse? Will it improve your marriage and intimacy?
Always keep your eye on what you really want. For most people, this is to feel loved, understood, and appreciated. Everyone wants to be close to someone else. We all want to feel that our spouse not only likes but loves us. So, if this requires for you to give a little, for you to stop debating who is right and who is wrong, and for you to show your husband some of the qualities that he likes and loves most about you, isn’t this a small price to pay for your piece of mind or happiness?