Last week, the unstoppable country power couple Tim McGraw and Faith Hill finally released their highly anticipated album together, The Rest of Our Life—and fans all over the world are loving it and following all the details on their new Showtime documentary. After twenty-one years of a flourishing marriage and even longer musical careers, many were thinking what we were: It’s about time!
Yet what’s even more notable than this seamless musical collaboration is how they actually join forces in real life. We all know that high-pressured celebrity marriages are infamous for breaking down in the limelight (and breaking their fans’ hearts in the process), but after more than two decades, it seems like McGraw and Hill are beyond that.
In an interview last week on the Today show, a question was posed to them: “There are duets musically, and there are duets in life . . . what makes this relationship work so well?” In response, their answers might seem like lighthearted, good-humored retorts. But there’s actually some real depth to their replies. The biggest takeaway? They still like each other.
Here’s why that little phrase is actually a golden nugget of wisdom.
Loving is heroic, but liking is the essence of friendship.
Yes, love is what binds a marriage together. We all know that. Married love means deciding every day that your relationship takes precedence over your pride and your ego, which at times requires some tough sacrifices. After all, it’s “until death do you part.”
But when it comes to the day-to-day interactions, liking your one and only is just as crucial. As Zach Brittle, co-founder of ForBetter.com, shares, “It’s just that, I know my wife loves me. What I really need to know is that she likes me. I need to know that she enjoys, respects, admires, and appreciates me. And I need her to know that I enjoy, respect, admire, and appreciate her.”
Don’t get us wrong, loving is paramount, but liking each other is how you stay unified. How much you like each other and how you get along strongly affirms the health of the relationship.
Don’t you want to spend the rest of your life with someone you have an amicable relationship with? Don’t you want to laugh together, spend time together, live life together? For a marriage to bring you joy, your spouse needs to be your best friend, too (or at least something similar to a best friend).
If you like each other, it’s easier to be vulnerable.
“Vulnerability is one of the most challenging tenets of love. It’s totally necessary and also completely scary,” Megan Madden wrote of another celebrity couple on Verily. It’s also a heck of a lot easier if you first like each other as human beings because when it comes to vulnerability, you’re taking a huge risk. You’re putting your hearts and your real selves on the line. Yet that risk is mitigated if the marriage is generally harmonious, which happens if you like each other. Sure, you might be married, but if your walls are up, and you find yourself in a pattern of defensiveness, it can be near to impossible to really let your spouse “in” and see you as you are, making it impossible to connect.
As Dr. Katherine Blackney tells us, “Risk is always involved in being vulnerable, yet if we are not vulnerable, authentic, and transparent, we may never be known and received. There is fear in being vulnerable yet great freedom in being known, seen, and received.”
Moreover, when you don’t let your walls down, after a time deception will become second nature to you. And when you’re deceptive—even if it’s simply in pretending everything is alright to avoid conflict—“trust and commitment will erode away,” as the Gottman Institute tells Verily. So work on liking each other through empathy—and vulnerability will come.
Friendship builds trust—and trust goes beyond fidelity.
It goes without saying that you need to trust your spouse. After all, if your relationship lacks trust, your marriage needs some serious therapy. But most people think trust in marriage is limited to fidelity. Not so! Trusting each other goes far beyond faithfulness. As Verily contributor Michelle Scaperlanda McWay explains, trust applies to the small things, too:
“From believing him when he says you look good in that new dress, to trusting his advice about a fight you had with your sister, to seeking his guidance about an email to a colleague, you need to trust your spouse’s opinion as your partner.”
Trust is built on more than shared values or a shared mutual attraction (or even both). Rather, trust is built through friendship—and friendship is based on whether you like each other and whether you’re compatible.
When you like each other, it’s easier to respect each other and create an emotional connection.
As Dr. Gottman explains in his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, couples that partake in deep friendship have:
“. . . mutual respect and enjoyment of each other’s company. They tend to know each other intimately—they are well versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes, and dreams. They have an abiding regard for each other and express this fondness not just in the big ways but in little ways day in and day out.”
As a result, they have a far more fulfilling relationship. This is a type of connection that goes far beyond that spark. Rather, it’s a sustainable love that builds into a roaring fire, where you relax and warm yourselves, safe from the outside temperamental winds of change. You know, the kind that will last The Rest of Our Life.