I remember well the Saturday night that my now-husband and I were sitting on the sofa watching a football game on TV. It was a college game and we are both huge fans of the SEC (read: shameless plug for UGA). During a commercial break, he kissed me on the back of the head and said, "I love you." Without missing a beat, I turned to face him and asked - very seriously - "yes I know, but do you like me?" Cue the crickets chirping. Long, very long, ear splitting silence. He looked at me like I had asked him for the secret to nuclear fission.
What he heard was a question that he didn't have a clue how to answer. If he answered 'yes' surely more questions would follow. If he answered 'no', it was a safe bet he wasn't going to see the 4th quarter of the game. What I wanted to know was simple: if you didn't love me, would you still like me? In other words, if you met me at a social gathering or knew me as a co-worker, would you like me as a person? Would I be counted among your circle of friends?
It has become a joke over the years and he always laughs it off with an "I will never understand the mind of a woman" shrug of his shoulders. But I've heard this question played out in movies, sitcoms, and my daughter's 6th-grade circle of cheerleaders and softball players. It seems to me that the female mind needs assurance that, in fact, we are not just loved but liked. Love is one of those once-you're-committed-you-can't-go-back-on-it concepts. Like on the other hand is the epitome of choice. As in, I like to be with you, you make me relaxed and happy and comfortable and if I talk your ear off or we sit together in complete silence, it's all good. I want you to be one of the first people on my invite list because I know whatever I'm doing will be more fun if you're part of it.
I think what I was really looking for that evening was the assurance that after we married and the proverbial honeymoon was over, would he still be glad he was with me? When the inevitable disagreements came and the bills piled up and there was no time for dating because the kids had baseball and dance and school projects, could we still be on the same team? At the end of the day, if we couldn't be 'lovey-dovey', could we still be friends?
I'm happy to say that after almost 17 years of marriage I think, at least on most days, my husband likes me. He may never understand my question - it may never make sense to anyone that plays host to the male mind. But to me and every other woman I know, from my 5-year-old niece to my 96-year-old grandmother, I believe some of the most heartwarming and comforting words we ever hear are, "I like you. And I choose to have you in my life."
I think it's safe to say that deep down he's glad I like him, too.