"I wished you’d stop those annoying habits!"
If you’re feeling increasingly annoyed with your spouse, what can you do? Keep reading to find out more.
Before getting married, you were able to brush away those rather irritating quirks that your spouse had. These same quirks were surprising and occasionally, even endearing. Perhaps you may have thought that you could get used to the more annoying habits or that your spouse would change with your encouragement.
Alas, it hasn’t quite turned out the way you hoped it would. What once made you just roll your eyes in affection now grates your nerves to no end.
There are 2 common reasons as to why you might feel the need to change your spouse’s habits:
You want your spouse to do as you do
If you eat or don’t eat certain foods, or discipline the kids in a certain way, you probably want your spouse to do so too, in a similar fashion. It’s easy to approach differences with the attitude that your way is the right way.
You want your spouse to meet your needs
Some of us have a vision of how our spouse would meet our needs, and have expectations of how he/she would act. For those who are more emotionally dependent, you may even have a detailed agenda of what the changes in your spouse should look like; any deviations are likely to set you off and cause your emotions to go awry.
Which of these reasons applies to you?
While you may appreciate your spouse being more like you, the fact remains that many factors account for the differences between you and your spouse—family background, gender, temperament, cultural and social variations, and more!
Appreciate the different perspectives
What happens when you close one eye? You lose depth perception cues because you’re viewing things from only one angle. When you see things with both eyes, the slightly different vantage points of each eye turn your vision into a 3D experience.
The same can be said for our perspectives and life with our spouse. Rather than trying to make your spouse “see things your way”, enjoy the benefits of having different perspectives. If you and your spouse view a situation from slightly different vantage points, you can merge those views and see things more accurately than either of you could individually.
Applaud the effort
If your spouse has different ways of hanging the laundry or washing the dishes, try it one day and see why he/she prefers doing it that way. Should you try and still be left scratching your head, focus instead on the fact that the task was accomplished.
Be sure to show appreciation for the effort that they’ve put in, without the word “but”.
For example, if you want to say: “Thank you for doing laundry BUT please sort the clothes out before you do so next time!” try saying this instead:
“Thank you for doing the laundry, honey. Next time let’s do it together. I’ll join you in sorting the clothes by colours so that they won’t get mixed up!”
Actively seek opportunities to meet each other’s needs
Have you been focusing so much on having your own needs met that you’ve forgotten about meeting your spouse’s needs?
Enjoying an intimate relationship of sorts requires us to go from “What about me?” to “How are you?”
Focus more on giving and cut back on the self-serving aspect by choosing to respond to your spouse’s needs and to engage in his/her interests. You’ll be surprised at how your spouse might naturally reciprocate with a similar attitude out of gratefulness when you choose to be more accepting and forgiving, even when you don’t feel like it.
When you focus on meeting each other’s needs, you’ll soon realise that you will give less thought to the annoying habits, and/or they don’t bother you as much.
Accept responsibility for your feelings
If you are annoyed or frustrated by a habit that has negative impact on your spouse or your family (e.g. smoking), take responsibility for your feelings. This may not be easy, but it is an important step towards dealing with your spouse’s habits.
How you feel may have influenced how you relate to your spouse. It is quite common to resort to manipulation in order to encourage others to change their behaviour. For example, to get your spouse to quit smoking or to choose healthier food choices, you pull in your friends, relatives and even children to nag and pressure him/her into making changes for the better. It’s not advisable to take this approach as it will do more harm than good to your marriage.
If you have engaged in any of the above, realise that your actions may have hurt your spouse’s feelings. It will be hard, but it is important to apologise for your actions, even if they came from a place of concern and well- meaning.
After you apologise and acknowledge your feelings, dig a little deeper and get to the root cause of your annoyance/concern. Are you worried that his smoking habit will lead to lung cancer – and you fear him not being around for the children? Do her unhealthy eating habits concern you because it may affect her if/when she gets pregnant?
Once you do so, you can voice them honestly and respectfully to your spouse. Do so at a time when both of you are calm, and place emphasis on developing an outcome that both of you are happy with.
Let’s make things work!
Remember that it is impossible to marry a clone or carbon copy of yourself. Choose to see how your unique qualities and characteristics can work in harmony and bring the best out of each other, and show your spouse that you value him/her, quirks, warts and all.
When you show your spouse that you are keen to understand his or her point of view because you value your marriage, you will be surprised at how much more open he/ she will be to making real changes that will help to make your marriage more loving, and stronger than before. So in reality, real change begins with you – not your spouse!
Have you been able to view an annoying quirk of your spouse’s as something endearing to keep the love in your marriage? Share with us!
Focus on the Family Singapore is a local charity dedicated to helping married couples and their families thrive through differentiated programs, trusted resources and counselling services. Find out more at http://www.family.org.sg/marriedcouples.