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Your Spouse's Annoying Habits
Do you occasionally feel like a petty person because your spouse’s annoying habits (i.e. neglecting to load the dishwasher, leaving dirty underwear on the floor, telling a stupid joke, driving in an erratic manner) keep getting under your skin? Though these habits may not seem so important (when you’re in a more objective mood), they still drive you crazy.
You know you shouldn’t sweat the small stuff. You know you should learn how to take these annoying habits in stride. But the truth is, you can’t. They still get you worked up. They still create yucky feelings. They still drive a wedge between you and your spouse.
So, what should your approach be when your spouse’s habits push you over the edge?
Should you say something?
Or, perhaps you’ve already said something too many times. In that case, should you continue complaining; repeating once again your how this stuff gets on your nerves?
Or, should you be more tolerant, altering your reaction so that these little things don’t keep setting you off?
The answer is “yes” to all these questions.
Yes, say something rather than stew. But don’t say something every time you get annoyed. If you do, guaranteed the little stuff will take over your life, ruining the possibility of a perfectly good afternoon.
Yes, just because you’ve said something once, twice, thrice or more doesn’t mean you can’t say it again. The danger, however, is that you become the “nag”, the “scold”, the “grouch”. That role not only doesn’t feel good; it’s also ineffective. The guiding principle: the more you repeat yourself, the less you are listened to.
Yes, see if you can become more tolerant of your spouse’s annoying habits. Is this easily done? No, no, no; it’s not. But it still may be worth the effort. Why? Because most annoying habits are not meant as personal affronts to you. Though neglecting to load the dishwasher can easily be interpreted as, “You don’t give a damn about me; you don’t respect me; listen to me; care about what I want,” such habits are usually indicative of unconscious routines (ways we eat, speak, think, dress, clean up after ourselves (or neglect to do so).
Don’t believe me? Imagine that you and your spouse were divorced. Do you think your ex would be suddenly up and about, developing habits that you always wanted him/her to? I don’t think so.
Now let’s do a little role reversal. Do you believe that you have habits that are annoying to your spouse? Unless you’re a saint - and saintliness can be pretty annoying in and of itself - I’m sure you do. So what’s your reaction when you are not the griper but the object of the gripe? Chances are you try to dispute your spouse’s complaint. You have a perfectly viable excuse. I was tired; I was busy; I couldn’t get to it; it’s no big deal. Let it go! Adjust already!
Yes, let’s admit it. There are some things about your spouse you do not like. Say what you must. Do what you must. Strive to become more tolerant. Most importantly, try to keep the small stuff in scale so that the big stuff (love and companionship) has room to survive and thrive.
Copyright 2010: Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice who specializes in helping individuals, families and couples overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior.
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