Friday 23 March 2018

Love advice: I like my boyfriend but I will never love him

I absolutely LIKE my boyfriend. I will never EVER love my boyfriend. We're marrying next month for certain. Any advice please?

Sheana Keane advises:

You absolutely LIKE your boyfriend a lot, which means he's probably a really good guy, has everything going for him, is really good to you and will make a really fabulous husband.

You should love him and yet you don't. And it's not just that you don't love him, but you will never EVER in the course of this marriage entertain the possibility of love playing a part, on your side at least.

That is pretty absolute. Yet at some level you have accepted that all of this is good enough and you are absolutely CERTAIN that you will marry him.

So I can only infer that your question is not "should I marry him?", but "When I marry him, is it possible for me to be happy and for the marriage to last under these circumstances?"

You may be surprised to learn that the answer could be yes.

In virtually every psychological study of couples whose marriages last the test of time, what comes up time and time again as a major factor contributing to marriage satisfaction is not the word love, but joint problem- solving abilities.

How utterly unromantic, you might say! The point is, life has ups and downs, love waxes and wanes and marriage develops and evolves over time.

The key to success, researchers suggest, is how you approach making decisions and resolving positive and negative situations together.

No marriage will always be beautiful and constantly happy, even those that start with wild love. Decisions about raising children, coping with infertility, managing your finances, dealing with boredom, depression and even helping each other achieve your dreams deeply test our relationship with our partner.

There are certain factors that are essential to allowing us to develop these all-important joint problem-solving skills. First, you have to be emotionally attached to that person -- call it love, call it like. The bottom line is that you have to want to be with that person; you have to believe that your life will be better with than without that person.

By the time most people get married they tend to have passed through the lust and attraction stage of love and are at a deeper level of attachment. Attachment is a realistic view of your partner and your relationship. You trust them, you know their good and bad points and still you have enough emotional attachment to want to build a life together.

For some, security could be the driving force behind this attachment but, ideally, your partner is your best friend, you feel you can tell them anything, you want to be around them and life is better with them than without them.

Second, to navigate through married life you have to respect your partner and their opinion. You have to trust that person's judgement and to be proud of them. When you lose respect for your partner, the driver in the relationship, emotional attachment, dies.

You can't hide a lack of respect: they give their opinion and you dismiss it; you don't consult them on family decisions; you undermine them at dinner parties under the guise of joking. This lack of respect hangs in the air and everyone feels it, even if you think it is well hidden.

Over the years it builds up and festers, leading to huge resentment in both parties, until one day it explodes in a hugely dramatic scenario and everything crumbles.

Lack of respect undermines people and hurts them to the core, and no relationship or partnership can thrive under those circumstances.

Another basic element that helps couples solve problems and make more positive joint decisions is a compatible value system. This means that when it comes to big decisions for your family about religion, working mothers, etc, you both have complementary (not necessarily identical) views.

What are the risks in your relationship to achieving a successful marriage?

First, the 'far away hills are greener' view. Psychologists have scientifically proven that being grateful for what you have, rather than always looking for something better, is a secret to happiness. The trick is not to compare your relationship to your friends' marriages or romantic films. You have chosen this marriage, so there are obviously good points to your relationship and benefits in it for you. Acknowledge this and you have a fighting chance.

The second area of risk is if your decision to marry is being made out of fear -- of rocking the boat, of hurting or disappointing people or of being alone. Problems within relationships can lie dormant for years but they do not go away. They only get bigger and bigger.

All of this is only the tip of the iceberg in navigating a marriage. Honesty, communication, kindness and sexual satisfaction are also important.

Simply wanting good things and considering the feelings of your partner cover a multitude of these factors. Many successful arranged marriages started with only 'like' and a common value system. The other factors develop over time to a point where it could be called love.

It is possible to be happy. You don't want to be talked out of this marriage so go in with your eyes open, appreciate the good points but do try to be open to the possibility that, given time, your heart may soften into something similar to love, if not 'deep love' itself.

Irish Independent

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