I love my family. We all do. Or, most of us, at least - on most days, at least.
Loving your family is a given. You anticipate loving your spouse even before you meet him or her. This is exponentiated with your children. You love them fully and completely well before they are born. There is nothing that could keep you from loving them. You count the days until you can love them face to face.
You understand, in the core of your being, that this love will fill your heart and theirs.
You anticipate loving them. Constantly. But you probably don't give much thought to the concept of liking them.
Like does not always precede love. Sometimes it does. You might like a friend and then grow to love them. You probably liked your significant other before loving them. But with kids, it is just the opposite.
You love them first and, in the best of circumstances, like them later. Love is one thing. Like is another. Both are good. Both are great. Loving your son is wonderful. Liking him is a bonus. Ditto that for your daughter. Double-ditto for a granddaughter.
My life is filled with bonuses. Sigh of contentment.
For years (decades), I never really thought about liking my husband. I loved him, of course. But I didn't contemplate the "like" factor. He'd probably admit the same. We were too busy to dwell upon the "likes" of "like."
He and I spent many years in the trenches. Creating a family. Raising kids. Putting Band-Aids on boo-boos and wiping noses and bottoms. It was hard work. Quite literally 24/7. "Sleep-deprived" doesn't even begin to describe it.
We are now on the tail end. We can sleep when we want. Everyone at our house can do their own wiping. I am overjoyed.
It's been more than a few years, I guess, and a gradual process - this decrease in parental workload and responsibility. My husband and I have found ourselves alone in the house on more than a few occasions. Sometimes, we eat dinner, just the two of us. Other times, we watch a movie without interruption. We have the opportunity for extended conversations. We've established a cadence to our days and weeks.
We've created a new routine without really thinking about it. And in the midst of this I've discovered something pretty powerful: We still like each other.
We get along. We talk. We laugh. We share stories. We remember. We plan for the future. We like being together.
We are friends.
I've always loved him, but I think maybe, perhaps, for a time I forgot that I really like him. Now I remember and it is an insight worth pondering. It is a reason for gratitude.
People get married because they are in love. People stay married because they are in like as well as love. It's not enough to love someone. Not really. You have to enjoy them as well. You have to like them.
You have to be friends. Best friends in the best of circumstances. Glad to be living in that and ready for the next chapter.
Turn the page.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.