I Love Him, but I Don’t Like Him

Have you ever been in the midst of conflict with your spouse and thought “I love him, but I sure don’t like him!”? I hear this from a lot of wives. Certain qualities of their husbands generate feelings of warmth and appreciation, but other qualities drive them into resentment and contempt.

What we love

In my talks with these wives, appreciation for their spouses usually comes from a glimpse into their husbands’ softer sides. When we share a memory that makes us both laugh, or receive a “thank you” for something we did, or get a spur-of-the-moment backrub (my favorite), we naturally feel drawn toward our partner. We smile when we look at them and look forward to spending time together.

What we hate

Unfortunately, for many wives, glimpses into their partner’s soft side are few and far between. Over time, the patient, kind words and thoughtful gestures have dwindled, replaced by harsh words and criticism, to the point that the last thing we want to do is look lovingly into his eyes.

In my experience, this is usually the result of “hard side” behavior from the husband. (For those wondering, yes the roles can be reversed.  Sometimes it’s the wife exhibiting these behaviors.  But for now, I’m addressing what I see most often.) Typical behaviors include:

  • Anger
  • Defensiveness
  • Rage
  • Excessive criticism
  • Difficulty to please
  • Verbal, emotional and sometimes physical abuse

It’s tough to live with someone like this. They maintain control by intimidation, or by playing the victim.  And these husbands have a special way of turning the tables:

''“When we see our partners’ soft side, we’re naturally drawn toward them''. Click To Tweet

When their wife expresses hurt, the husband can find a way to make the situation about himself, rather than about hearing her pain.

Why this happens

When someone is using hostility and intimidation, they’re trying to regain a sense of control in the relationship. Your husband is hearing something from you – or maybe from someone else – that makes him feel “less than.” He’s afraid he’s not measuring up in the workplace, or at church, or compared to his friends, or maybe even in the bedroom.

These husbands need to hear the truth, but frankly they’re too fragile to handle it. Many know this. But knowing doesn’t always translate into behaving differently.

For us as wives, responding to this insecurity often means hiding our true feelings. We can’t express what we really want or need, because it kicks off another cycle of hostile behavior from our partner. That’s when our resentment kicks in. And it breeds contempt for our spouses, and for ourselves, since we know we’re living a lie. We act like everything is okay, when in reality our lives are crumbling.

What you can do about it

You’re reading this blog because you’re not willing to live this way any longer. Here’s your action plan:

1. Realize this is about differentiation. Your husband is having a hard time differentiating what’s going on in his world from his sense of worth as a person. When you give him information that’s painful, he’s likely feeling shame, and he lashes out to bury that pain.

2. Listen, but don’t surrender. You can acknowledge his feelings without agreeing with him. Hold on to your core truths. You know what makes you special.

''“Hold on to your core truths. You know what makes you special.''. Click To Tweet

3. Tell him you love him, but not this behavior. You must be honest about your feelings. Hiding them won’t work. They’ll come out another way, usually through seething resentment, which is a ticking time bomb for the relationship.

This isn’t a magic formula that will heal all hurts. But it can give you a firm place to stand for more conversations.

Most people find it helpful to have an experienced person coaching them through a process like this. If you’d like to explore this, give us a call or schedule an appointment online. We can help you like your husband again, in addition to loving him.

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5 thoughts on “I Love Him, but I Don’t Like Him

  1. I tell my spouse I love him, and he responds with everything he perceives I have done wrong for all of our 10 years together. I hate to throw it all away, but I can’t hang on much longer!

    1. Jan, If you are at the end of your rope, don’t wait any longer to reach out for help! The longer you wait, the more your resentment builds; and more resentments spells trouble for the marriage you say you don’t want to throw away. There are things you can do to stop this dance. It’s a pattern and we can 1) help you recognize it and 2) begin to address it. It will take courage to try something new but we can show you how to do it! Wishing you better days ahead! Kim

  2. thankyou for that info, we have been seperated 9 months now living under the same roof, im so scared, even more so now time is getting closer. we both have contributed to the marriage breakdown, i have sincerely apologised for my disrespect in the past, but he wont take any responsibility in owning any wrong doing. he has always blamed me for everything. That makes me angry and resentful and bitter,. He is playing the victom. as always. He manipulates others including my adult children, to make himself look the good guy. Yes i do love him, but dont like him, and dont trust him anymore. how do i get that trust back. He lies a lot. when i tell him i love him . he just replies/ you only think u love me. that makes me angry and hurt. can you give me any advise? would be appreciated/ weve been married 32 years. too long to give up now. i want to make it work

  3. In my case its a function of true acknowledgement that she did something wrong – she recently told me she loves me BUT I am not the same guy she married – I was happy and care free all the time and I told her that she has put our marriage and family under such incredible financial and emotional stress of course I’m not – when we got married – I never expected he to pic her mom the city her friends over me and always relegate me to second place.

    So when I call her out all I want from her is is a “I will put you first in all from this point on” and “you are right the decisions I made have caused you massive stress and I am sorry”

    We all screw up but the idea is to NOT keep doing it and to admit when you do – humble yourself before your spouse in the face of true wrong doing

    1. Mike, this is exactly the kind of work that is often best done with an experienced coach or counselor. When both parties are coming into the conversation focused on their own respective pain – which is typical – it’s difficult to show empathy and hear/feel the pain of the other. That is where the work – and healing – begins though. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to give us a call and set up a free consultation. Warmly, Kim

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