How to Love Your Partner When They’re the Least Lovable
Last week I walked in my front door after a long day of seeing clients, arms full of groceries, and was welcomed by a barking dog, a kitchen full of dirty dishes, and my husband cheerfully waving “hello” to me from his comfy spot on the couch. My heart sank and my blood began to boil.
As I proceed to trip over the dog, kick her water bowl and spill it all over, and drop a bag of groceries, praying the eggs didn’t break, all I could muster was a sharp, “Umm, could I get some help, here?” To which my husband responded with a bubbly, “Ya, hold on, let me finish watching this (YouTube) video — this is hilarious!”
Ever been here? When after a not-so-ideal interaction with your partner you just want to scream (or cry, yell, or charge them full on like a bull facing a toreador, waving that crimson taunting muleta?) Yep, that was me. I was presented with a lovely, all-too-familiar choice — I could either lash out at my completely clueless partner or I could love him in this very moment when I saw him as the least lovable.
You know, the moments when you need your partner to show up in a certain way and they just don’t, for whatever reason. Maybe they can’t, maybe they aren’t aware of your need, or maybe they simply don’t want to. This is when your partner is the least lovable in your eyes. And this is precisely the moment when you need to choose to hang in there and love them rather than turning away from them and leaving them stunned by your big emotions.
WHY … why must you hang in there with your partner and love them through their least lovable moments?
BECAUSE … because that’s what we do when we choose someone. We choose to trust that they truly and deeply want us to be happy, and feel safe and committed to. And when we choose to believe this, despite their slip-ups, their clueless moments and even blatant selfish acts, we can love them and all their humanness. When we’re able to forgive them and their least lovable acts, they in turn can forgive ours and love us.
WHY… why does it often feel impossible to love our partners when they let us down, when they fail to meet our needs or when they simply appear to be completely clueless?
BECAUSE … because in our moments of need, or want or desire, the last thing we can stomach is to feel rejected, disappointed or disregarded. And when these feelings arise within us, due to our partner’s actions, words or lack there of, we feel alone in our experience. Alone in our pain. Alone in our frustration. Alone in our struggle. And even alone in our relationship. It’s a heavy feeling that in the moment feels larger than anything else. Feeling alone within a relationship can be devastating.
HOW … how can you love your partner when they are least lovable? It starts with YOU. Slowing yourself down, taking a deep breath to regulate your emotion and recall when they are AWESOME. Think about all those times they showed up for you in surprising ways or they were fully present and where exactly what you needed.
Once you’re able to breathe through your immediate internal reaction, reach down deep (where your patience, love, tenderness, and deep desire to connect with the love of your life exists) and share what you’re feeling and ask for what you need. First share the immediate feeling as if you were talking to your best friend — kind, gentle, honest. Then share what you need from them until you get what you need or a respectful response to your request that shows they are paying attention to you.
When my husband asked me to hold on so he could finish watching his video, I took a deep (and I mean deep, long, loud, calming) breath and reminded myself that lashing out at him (turning away from him) would not help the situation in any way. I acknowledged the fact that I had an expectation that I failed to share with him thus assuming he’d be capable of reading my mind as to what I needed from him. This was my mess-up.
I set everything down on the floor, didn’t put anything away, didn’t clean up the spilled water, and plopped down on the couch with him. I calmly asked, “Hey will you help me put the groceries away and clean up the water I spilled — it would be so helpful, I’m super tired.”
He smiled one of the biggest smiles I’d ever seen and said, “Of course, but first I want you to watch this with me. You’re going to love it — it has puppies in it and I know how much you love puppies — especially after a long day. I was looking for something fun to watch with you as soon as you got home.”
Phew! I chose right. I chose to love my partner when he was least lovable and in doing so, I learned that he indeed was thinking of me, caring about me, and hoping to make me smile after a long day by watching videos of puppies. I was not alone in my relationship even though for a moment, I felt alone in my struggle.
Had I chosen to lash out, or turn away from him when he failed to jump up, grab the groceries, and tell me how much he appreciated me shopping after my super long day (all of which I’d created in my mind and he had zero knowledge of), I would have missed that smile that makes me feel safe. I would have missed getting so close to him that the smell of his cologne took me back to one of our more intimate moments. And I would have absolutely missed the cutest video of six, 10-week-old blue-nosed pit bull puppies running around, stumbling over one another. I would have missed a whole lot.
Every day we have the opportunity and responsibility to choose our partners. We must choose to forgive their mess-ups, accept their humanness and love them — even when they are least lovable.
Lazy husband photo available from Shutterstock
D'Angelo, R. (2018). How to Love Your Partner When They’re the Least Lovable. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 19, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-to-love-your-partner-when-theyre-the-least-lovable/