Sunday, July 3, 2016

Do you have to like your spouse/lover?

One of the things that I think psychology promotes, or at least many psychologists/mental health workers promotes, it the idea that you can dislike someone's behavior, but not the person.  That is something that is repeated, over and over, by many thought leaders in the field.  However, is it really doable?  Is it an advisable way of being?  Is it human?

The reality is that some personalities naturally gel well with other personalities, and some do not.  One could argue that there is some sort of 'ideal' personality, perhaps the one everyone aspires to be, that would be likable by everyone.  However, I do not believe that is a supportable goal.  Also, when one thinks of trying to become the most likable person around, one is usually thinking of getting into politics.  :)  But, for the rest of us, it is my (somewhat informed) opinion that it is natural that some will like us, and some will not, and you will like some people, and will not like other people.

One of the most famous psychologists in the field, B.F. Skinner, made a claim years ago that he could take anyone and change them into whatever was desired.  However, that is, in my opinion, a quite misinformed statement, and most definitely not likely to be able to be done.  And, even if it is possible to be done, it is not a desirable way of working with people, because the stress of being the agent of change is very high, and the stress on the individual who is being made to change is also very high.  And, typically, in high stress situations, people leave.  Thus, not only is trying to change someone stressful for both the changer and the changee, it is also quite likely to result in either the changer or the changee breaking off the connection between the two.

I think that one of the most dangerous applications of this type of thinking is in marriages or in long-term romantic relationships.  If you believe that you can 'make' your spouse likable to you by providing them with input, and by setting limits with them so that they only have success in their interactions with you if they keep working on themselves to be more likable to you, you are playing with fire, and more than likely headed towards a rupture in the relationship.  The fact of the matter is, given the choice between becoming more likable, and leaving, most will leave.

So, you may ask, what do I do when I am in a relationship with someone I do not like?  Does it mean that I have to just be with them, and continue to not like them?  Or, am I to leave them, because I do not like them?  What do I do?

In answer to that, first things first:  Why did you end up with someone you do not like?  How is it that you missed that little detail when you were making the decision to be with that person?  Why didn't you notice that, and stop yourself from getting into the relationship?  Because, in answer to the question about whether or not you should stay with someone you don't like, you do realize, don't you, that you would never have had to be confronted with that question if you had vetted your partner a bit better, in the beginning?  So, again, why didn't you do that?

I suppose, in the general scheme of things, it is not that unusual for two people to get together, who eventually learn that the do not like each other.  There are so many reasons this can happen, from unplanned pregnancies, lovers who are good at covering their unlikable traits, lovers who are unskilled in noticing unlikable traits in others, lovers who believe they can change the other, lovers who believe they can change their basic personality, lovers who lie, etc etc.

If you are in a relationship with someone you do not like, be prepared for a great deal of stress, a great deal of conflict, and the (probable) eventual ending of the relationship.  If this is distressing for you, I am so very sorry.  No-one plans to get into a relationship with the goal of ending the relationship.  However, the reality is, particularly in this day and age, there is so little encouragement for people to remain in an uncomfortable situation, and so much encouragement for people to not remain in a uncomfortable situation, that stressful relationships will most likely end.

Is it possible for people in an uncomfortable relationship to resolve this, and to actually reach a point that they are in a comfortable relationship, and able to get along well?  I believe so.  But, in order for that to happen, both people have to be committed to working on that which is problematic, and both have to have the resolve and 'stick-to-it-ness' to work on things until resolution has been reached.  And, one could argue that it is better to stick in a relationship that is uncomfortable (given that it is not a traumatic relationship, such as one in which one or both are traumatizing the other), because 50% of the uncomfortableness is coming from you, and thus, you probably have things you need to change about yourself.  So, if both you and the other person have the same attitude, and both work to eliminate the 50% they contribute to the relationship that is causing the relationship to be uncomfortable, then theoretically, the relationship should reach a point of comfort once each makes the changes necessary for that to happen.  Thus, in that way, it is possible that an unlikable person can become likable, on both ends.

If that sounds like too much work, or it that sounds sadistic to you, or masochistic, then by no means agree to the ideas promoted in the previous paragraph, and by no means have those sort of expectations on yourself.  The alternate approach to the approach suggested in the previous paragraph is to make a decision that you will not allow people in your life whom you do not like, and you will make sure that you become very good at not allowing someone to fool you into thinking they are someone you would like, when in fact they are not.  This means getting good at knowing what you like, and what you do not like, and becoming equally good at setting limits with someone once you realize you do not like them.  Pay attention to body cues that may let you know you do not like someone, such as, perhaps, stomach pains, or heart pains, or muscle twitches, etc...your body will let you know when you are stressed, and if you notice that your body always lets you know you are stressed whenever you are around a particular person, it probably means you don't like them, or, at the very least, they are causing you stress, which may in turn be a sign you do not like them.