Different personality types respond to these circumstances in various ways.
Couldn’t care less! The person who really doesn’t see the problem with these peeves may seem to fare the best but they can actually contribute to the issue by trivialising their spouse’s concerns. They don’t see the need to change any of their actions because they don’t understand why it should be a big deal. Their spouse becomes increasingly irritated not just by the habit but by the seeming indifference to their feelings.
Boiling Kettle! For this personality type there doesn’t seem to be an issue at the beginning. They can handle the personality and cultural differences well, or so they think. They try not to complain or express their true feelings either through fear of rejection or because they just don’t want to complain. The problem is that over a long period of time the problem grows to the point where their feelings boil over. For their spouse the emotion is a total surprise because they were completely unaware of their irritating behaviour.
Obsessive! This person has a real problem with anything being out of place, this could also be extended to any person being out of place – especially their spouse. The obsessive has a tendency to nag or criticise in order to change their spouse into the perfect model. A quick look at the top 10 list reveals that nagging and criticism are right up there with leaving the toilet seat up. Pause for thought … maybe we need to look at our own irritating habits and change those before we try and change others.
The first rule of thumb is to self evaluate, note we are not telling you to look at your spouse’s behaviour but your own.
Evaluate how you communicate.
- What are you trying to say and are you effective at communicating it? Sometimes we believe we are communicating when we are not. On a personal note I used to "hint" that I would like Roy to change some aspect of his behaviour and get frustrated when nothing changed. Roy was oblivious to all my "hints" and didn't understand why I was upset, he wanted to know why I hadn't told him what was bothering me.
- Is it a good time to communicate? Don't try to talk about important issues during busy times, stress times or while your spouse is distracted.
- Are you listening to each other? Are you listening without jumping in to defend yourself, hearing the heart of what your spouse is trying to say?
- Are you talking or shouting? When you feel strongly about something it is easy to raise your voice to the point where you are shouting at each other rather than talking about the issue. This makes your spouse feel under attack and they respond by shouting too.
- Do you want to resolve the issue or just get your way? Laying down selfishness is a way of sowing life into your relationship.
- Self-evaluate – does your spouse have a valid point, are you being unreasonable or thoughtless?
Breaking Habits One thing that we need to recognise is that whatever we do to irritate each other we have probably been doing for years. It is often an ingrained pattern of behaviour which is not easy to change. Understanding where that behaviour came from or why you do something is part of the process of breaking bad habits. It might be a family trait or it could be something unique to you.
Eliminate excuses and take responsibility. Avoid making excuses for your behaviour. Knowing why you do something is only part of the answer, now it is time to take responsibility for your actions and do something to change them. If you justify your actions, or repeat phrases like, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” it is time to stop! Taking responsibility means acknowledging that your behaviour is hurting your marriage and that you need to change something, it does not mean that you tell your partner that they just have to live with it. Justifying your behaviour creates a place of dryness in your marriage. Experts believe that it takes 21 days to break a habit or form a new one. There is a certain amount of pessimism regarding people’s ability to change but we are here to tell you that it is possible!
“Do not call to mind the former things,Or ponder things of the past. Behold I will do something new. Now it will spring forth. Will you not be aware of it? I will make even a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18, 19
If you are really serious about changing your habits why not take a Married for Life class where you will examine what you put into your marriage and what you need to change and how to do that.