Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What Can I Do about His Irritating Habits?

After Matt and I were married, I read The Savvy Bride's Answer Guide: an eye-opening look at your first year of marriage.  It's a Focus on the Family book, and did give some great insight into married life, understanding your groom, and a Biblical perspective into being a wife. However, it was a little too "surface", and at times I wished it would have plunged deeper into issues. The chapters are short, and it's a very quick read, but I wish the chapters were a little longer. Although we covered pretty much all of this in our pre-marriage classes, I believe constant reminders of God's role for me as a wife are always welcome! 

I'd like to share a little from a chapter titled "What Can I Do about His Irritating Habits?"  This makes me laugh, because I know Matt is thinking the same about me...we ALL have irritating habits...

Being annoyed by your spouse's habits is normal.  The key is to learn to work together to change the habits that can be changed and learn to accept those that can't. 

First, ask yourself why you want your spouse to change.  Is it for your own good only?  Might the change make you feel better, but cause your mate to feel imprisoned?  Or is the change to help eliminate behaviors that keep your spouse from growing emotionally and spiritually?  In other words, are you helping to set your partner free or just restricting his freedom?

If changing the habit would truly benefit both of you, change may be worth trying.  But keep these guidlines in mind:

1.  Address the problem honestly.  "Honey, it bothers me when you burp at the table.  It teaches the children a bad habit, and it's rude and offensive to guests."

2.  Explain the benefit of the change.  "Eating at the table will be more pleasant for all of us.  The boys will also respect your table manners and you'll be a good testimony to our guests."

3.  Don't command change.  "You're such a slob at the table.  Stop being so messy."  Instead, request change.  Your spouse will respond more favorably.

4.  Don't attack your mate.  "You are a horrible listener.  It's no wonder no one talks to you."  When you attack your spouse, you crush his spirit - and don't get much cooperation.  Confront the problem; don't attack the person.

5.  Discuss ways to bring about change.  Change is hard.  Let your spouse know that you're on his side.  Help him find ways to change those habit patterns.  If the problem is overeating, for instance, go with your spouse to the gym, cook healthy meals, and go out to eat less often.  Be your mate's advocate.

6.  Encourage your spouse's growth.  "You're doing a great job.  I'm really proud of the effort I see.  Thank you for your dedication to making this change."

7.  Recognize that change takes time.  Be patient with your spouse.  Praise little steps that you see.  Everyone wants to feel successful.  So don't discourage your mate with commets like, "This is taking forever.  How many times do we have to deal with this?"  Discouragement stunts growth, but encouragement goes a long way in motivating change.  Let your spouse know you're in this together for the long haul.

8.  Focus on your spouse's good habits, not just the irritating ones.  "John makes me mad," one wife said.  "I have asked him to clean the tub after each use.  He never does.  Last week when I was getting ready for work, I received a call from the hospital.  John was in an accident.  As I quickly dressed to go to the hospital, I noticed the dirt ring in the bathtub.  I began to sob.  The Lord brought to mind all the wonderful qualities of my husband, and I felt so petty for complaining about the ring in the tub.  When John came home several days later, I found myself sitting in the bathroom and thanking the Lord that I would have more time with John and more rings in the tub.  I was reminded of Philippians 4:8: 'Whatever is honorable, pure, just, lovely...think on these things.'  When I see the ring now, I turn my thoughts to the wonderful qualities of my husband and the annyoance of that ring in the tub disappears."

9.  Pray for your spouse.  God is ultimately the one who makes change possible in any of us.  So pray for your mate's efforts.  And since some behaviors may never change, ask God to give you grace to accept the differences between you and your spouse.

10.  Seek to change the habit, not the person.  It's possible to help your spouse drop an irritating habit - as long as it's the habit you're trying to change.  If you're trying to alter your spouse's personality you may be fighting a losing battle that will end in frustration for both of you.

I find these reminders helpful as I learn to embrace the differences between Matt and myself, and bring up the issues that bother me.  I hope they can help you too!

**If the issues at hand in your relationship are more severe (physical or emotional abuse for instance) please seek wise Christian counsel and get some assistance in addressing those issues; they ARE more than an annoying habit and NEED to be addressed with professional help.**

Nowhere in scripture do we find God sanctioning any form of spousal abuse. In Colossians 3:18-19, men are instructed to pattern their love for their wives after Jesus' love for His church. This is described as a sacrificial kind of love; the kind of love that seeks the very best for the one who is loved. Emotional and physical forms of abuse are diametrically opposed to the concept of sacrifice; such behaviors are selfish and self-seeking. 1 Corinthians 13 teaches what genuine love is all about and has much to say about what love is not. According to this passage, love is not self-seeking, is not easily stirred up, and does not behave hatefully. Clearly, abuse is not a demonstration of genuine love. (From

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