What do you do when your spouse annoys you? Do you just put up with it? Do you nag them about it? Has something become a source of irritation and put distance between the two of you?
Sometimes, it doesn’t take much for something to get under our skin, does it? Like the person driving in front of us whose turn signal has been on for miles? Or the individual who chooses the “15 items or less” line with more than 30 items in their cart? Maybe it’s the co-worker who is consistently late for meetings. But those are all situations that we can leave behind us when we go home.
The challenge comes when there are mannerisms or behaviors of our spouse that we allow to get under our skin. It may not seem like a big deal, but experts agree that these annoyances are things that need to be addressed or they will fester and become major issues in our marriage.
Here are five things to keep in mind regarding annoying behaviors in your marriage:
1. Look in the mirror.
Take careful stock of yourself. What is it in you that needs to change? Are there things that you do that annoy your spouse? How are you going to make visible progress in these areas?
2. Put it in perspective.
Step back from the situation that annoys you and ask yourself, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is this really? Is this something that I can simply accept and learn to deal with before God?”
Sometimes the issues that annoy us become problematic because we haven’t stopped and asked God how we should address it. There are times when simply praying about an issue brings a more holy perspective. We are actually able to see things through God’s eyes. In fact, these annoyances may actually become endearments!
Also, what do you appreciate about your spouse? Make a list either of the things about your spouse for which you are grateful: their love for God; their heart; their character; the way they serve you. Focusing on their positive traits will bring the things that annoy you into balance.
3. Be open to hearing things in return.
Beginning the dialogue about things that annoy you means you will be open to their responding in kind. Jesus said, “For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38). This kind of conversation will require a humble attitude. Talk gently. Listen to their heart. Be reassuring of your commitment and love for them before you share your concerns.
4. Talk, then adjust.
Try not to talk to your spouse about the annoyance as it happens. Your mood and tone won’t be prepared to speak humbly and gently.
Instead, choose a time when you can be sure that you have their attention. Perhaps over dinner together. Or sitting outside. Then raise the issue and be very specific about what is bothering you, why it is bothering you, and what you would like to see happen.
Listen carefully to their response. You may gain insights into their perspective. It may be that this is an area where you will need to learn that God’s grace is sufficient for you. Or perhaps it will be a situation where your spouse will choose to adjust and receive accountability. Healthy dialogue is important in coming to understanding and determining your next steps as a couple.
5. Control is not an option.
You cannot “make” your spouse change. Attempts to control your spouse will raise their defensiveness and drive the two of you further apart. Ultimately change will only come when they choose to change OR when you choose to adjust accordingly.
Remember that God has given your spouse to you as a gift to be cherished. As you work through the things that annoy either of you, you will be opening a dialogue that will continue to build your marriage.