When living in close quarters, everyday actions that you once performed without repercussion now affect your spouse and sometimes in a huge way.
Your inability to turn off the lights once you have left a room, when you forget to change the toilet paper roll after you use the last piece, or the obnoxious way you talk with food in your mouth are dangerous behaviors that drive your spouse crazy.
Do not allow these small annoying behaviors to fester into resentment and hatred towards one another. Face up to what is bothering you about your spouse head on, and you will be surprised at the results you might find.
Dr. Willard Harley, a licensed clinical psychologist in Minnesota, developed a six step plan to help couples tackle and prevent annoying behaviors from degrading their relationship.
1. Make a long list of all the things that annoy you
Sounds counter-intuitive right? Ponder and take the time to think of all the negative things your spouse does that drives you crazy. It sounds like madness in theory but in action it proves to be one of the most helpful tools.
Feel free to really go at it and list every little thing. This can help you vent and create a safe space to really address what annoying habits have been on your mind. Your list may contain 25 annoying habits, 6 or maybe even 100. List them all and go from there.
2. Rate your list
Next, set a scale. Dr. Harley suggests you take your list and rate each item based on a Likert scale ranging from 1 (not extremely annoying) and 6 (the most annoying).
3. Group the habits by their rating
Take your list and group the habits into categories based on their numerical rates. (Group all of the ones, twos, threes, etc.)
4. Describe in detail your high priority habits
The next step involves a little more personal investment. After you have examined and grouped the list, select the top three habits that affect you personally and drive you the craziest.
After you have identified what bothers you the most, grab a sheet of paper and write the habit on the top of the page in large letters. Below the habit, identify your role and his role. Try to identify exactly what makes you upset and why it makes you feel that way. Then below, brainstorm multiple plans of attack to help you eliminate or alleviate the bad habit.
After you have brainstormed possible game plans or solutions to tackle the annoying habit... STICK TO IT!
For example, if your spouse talks with their mouth open while they eat, create a plan to openly and bluntly call them out every time you notice that habit. It's best you keep your word and call them out. It may seem tough at first, and your spouse may feel defensive and annoyed they are getting called out on their habits, but openly addressing the issue every single time it occurs will invite the individual to hate the attention their habit receives and over time lead them to form new habits.
Everyone likes to be told they are doing a good job or recognized for their efforts. Taking constructive criticism and actually applying the principles is tough, REALLY tough. So the next time you are eating and your spouse keeps their mouth closed when they eat, tell them how much you appreciate their effort and that you love them.
Habits are hard to address, especially with the ones we love, but taking the time to be honest and real in approaching habit breaking will be beneficial to everyone in the relationship.