Overcoming the Warning Label on Your Spouse We all have annoying ticks and habits that could be hard to live with. Learn to outfit your marriage with the skills to overcome the warning label on your spouse. BY DR. TRINA READ
Once we learn to accept the little annoyances with our spouse we'll be much happier.
“ When we marry someone, there is an unspoken trust they will accept us warts and all. Itís understandable when they start bringing up small things that bug them, and that we get defensive.”
Most singles have a "deal-breaker" when looking for a mate: a potential partner canít smoke, or they have to play golf. However, itís only once weíve been paired for a while that we realize our spouse has traits that really irritate usÖ and by then your commitment has already been sealedóalthough that doesn't mean these habits aren't grating. Hereís how to find your spouseís less than stellar ticks enduring.
Let's Talk About Warning Labels
A warning label describes the habits we only see once weíve lived with someone for a while and both have let our hair down (so to speak). Whatís interesting about this dynamic is: if our spouse doesnít think they are doing anything irritating then their so-called quirks are defined through our eyes. A warning label is completely a judgment call on our part.
So, if my husband were here, what would he say was printed on my warning label? Thereís so many, where do I begin? Finger prints on the walls, and I am also a big risk taker, which was probably exciting when we were dating, but now is more like a roller coaster ride. The important thing is to recognize what is on our warning labels and putting it out there for discussion.
You might be thinking, "Isnít that like rubbing salt in a marriage wound?"
We do bring up habits regardless, consciously or unconsciously. Although I agree sometimes itís better just to not kick up the dust, small annoying habits can become the big elephant in the room.
Once our pet peeves begin to accumulate, they can be highly damaging to a couples' emotional bond. In some cases, pet peeves can make the couple feel emotionally off limits to the other; worst case scenario speeding up the demise of the entire marriage. It is important to do damage control.
We must understand and draw a line about the habits we can live with and those we cannot. Itís really about learning to accept some of our partnersí annoying habits, and discuss the ones you cannot live with. To do that, we must first read our warning labels.
The Trouble With Defining the Habits We Can and Cannot Live With
It doesnít matter who you decide to partner with, they will have habits which drive you crazy. My husband is a political junkie and at 6:30 a.m. heís reading the morning paper and dissecting the daily barrage of political newsótalking at me, not with meóI can feel my teeth standing on edge.
Not to get all Pollyanna because, in the big picture, I wanted a partner who has an opinion and is engaged; and now through osmosis I also have a well-informed political opinion that makes me feel good about myself. But this is not a deal breaker because I have learned to understand, accept and, on better days, am happy with his quirk.
I did a web search to see what others found to be annoying and if you do a quick Google search on spouses annoying habits, you will get thousands of hits. The most popular bad habits were leaving wet towels on the floor; burping; lack of personal hygiene; picking your nose; using a fork as a back-scratcher; passing gas; refusing to replace an empty toilet tissue roll; not picking up after yourself, and on and on.
So letís be clear about how this issue can spiral out of control: itís not an individual habit, per se, rather the accumulation of unresolved individual pet peevesóleaving the couple to manage a large spiderís web of little problems that seems too large to fix. And one of the biggest problems is that we find it really difficult to discuss these little annoyances.
When we marry someone, there is an unspoken trust they will accept us warts and all. Itís understandable when they start bringing up small things that bug them, and that we get defensive.
Iím not sure if itís the personal tick or the unwillingness to change that makes our partnerís so upset. It is difficult enough to re-learn a habit when we are motivated to change, but this is trying to make us (or our spouse) overcome a habit we donít see as a problem.
Acceptance of the Warnings
Letís say your partner chews with their mouth open. The solution comes from how both of you manage it: the partner who chews with their mouth open can choose to either ignore or do something about the requests. If they ignore it, that can turn into the other spouse resorting to verbal and non-verbal nagging.
Our responses to the behavior can actually do more damage to our relationships than the actual behavior. When our spouse is confronted with anger, disappointment and frustration, itís human nature to dig in our heels and resist change.
If you're the annoyed party and if the tick is not a deal breaker, for your own sanity, instead of being so focused on the behavior figure out how you can accept it.
It comes down to the tried couple truism: pick your battles. For the annoying habits you can live with, hereís an excellent coping strategy.
Write down two quirks and two things your spouse does that you love. When you feel like you want to rip out your hair as they continue to chew with an open mouth, take a deep breath and say, "Honey, chewing with your mouth open is just one quirk that makes you who you are. I'm lucky to have someone to share a meal with me."
Before rolling your eyes: this exchange increases your partnerís awareness and because youíve done it with kindness they will, hopefully, be more motivated to chew a little with their mouth closed next time.
On a purely selfish level, these annoying quarks are about you and your personal happiness. You could spend the next five to 50 years shaming, raging or belittling your spouse, or you could find a way to not only accept, but somehow find it in your heart to see these quarks as endearing.
Dr. Trina Read is the founder of VivaXO.com; a leading relationship and sexual health expert and educator; and is a best selling author, media expert, syndicated blogger, international speaker, magazine columnist, and spokeswoman. Trina has just launched Sensual Tastes Events, an interactive workshop blending the pleasures of food and sex education. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.