He left the toilet seat up…again. She interrupted me mid-sentence…again. She hounded me about that to-do item…again. He left his clothes in a heap on the bedroom floor…again. Those annoying habits can be frustrating, especially when we’ve asked our spouse to stop doing them so many times.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a magic wand that “fixes” our spouse and their bad habits? Sorry, there’s no such thing. “But Mark,” you say, “if I don’t find a way to fix this, I’m gonna go crazy!”
Before that occurs, let’s take a deep breath and consider a few things that may help you deal with your spouse’s bad habits.
1. Ask yourself, “Why does this really bother me?”
Sometimes those habits bug us because of what we think they really mean. Does she interrupt me because she doesn’t think what I’m saying is important? Does he keep hounding me about that call I need to make because he doesn’t trust me? And sometimes, you wonder if your spouse is doing something just to get under your skin. Instead of wondering why your spouse does those things, it may be wise just to ask them. For example, you might say, “Just wondering…do you realize you interrupt me a lot? Any reason why you think you do so?”
Another reason a habit might frustrate us is if we have a certain way of doing things or a low tolerance for a spouse who thinks or does things very differently. My wife, Susan and I are similar in some ways, but very different in others. She has more of a creative, “wing it” personality. I like more clarity and order. So when she always (yes always) leaves the bathroom drawers open, I notice. It doesn’t bother Susan, but it irritates me because I believe “there is a place for everything and everything should be in its place.”
So start dealing with it by identifying “why does this habit bother me?”
2. Ask yourself, “How big a deal is this to me?”
Consider how important this is to you personally and to your marriage relationship. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being a big problem, rate the habits that bother you. If you have just a couple of 8, 9 or 10s, address those with your spouse as things that are a big deal to you. If you’ve got a long list of 9 and 10-rated issues, then maybe the habits are the least of your problems, and you may need professional help. On the other hand, if the list is dominated by small numbers, maybe that is an indication that your mental and emotional energy is being drained on something largely unimportant. When I really thought about the drawer example above, I realized it was only a 3.
3. Ask yourself, “How can I let this go?”
Perhaps your answers to the earlier questions have already helped you to see that this habit that bugs you is no big issue and you can let it go. For me, the drawers that Susan leaves open are no longer an issue…I’ve let it go! It’s easier said than done. It takes a lot of discipline and self-control not to bring it up again, especially when you are in the heat of an argument where you want to bring up everything about your spouse that bothers you!
What are some other ways you’ve found helpful to deal with habits that tend to frustrate you about your spouse? Please share your comments with me.