What To Do With Your Irritating Spouse

Over the years in working with thousands of couples we have heard just about marriage problem one could imagine. One of the most common marriage complaints is from a spouse who is irritated, annoyed and frustrated by something their spouse does or does not do.

“Live in harmony with one another…” Rom 12:16a NIV

We are not talking about control and violence or the four marriage killers (Criticism, Defensiveness, Stonewalling, Contempt). We are talking about the frustrations of what they do (or do not do) that are “pet-peeves” of yours.

You think your spouse is a socially needy person, and your spouse thinks you are a hermit. You think it is ridiculous for your spouse to keep hitting the snooze button and your spouse thinks you are missing out on some of the best feelings sleep has to offer. You think all chores must be completed before bedtime and your spouse thinks you put chores above your relationship. You think the toilet paper should obviously roll off the top and your spouse is sure it does not matter.

Most of these irritants were never observed during the dating season. You probably both were on your best behavior. As the relationship took on more permanence you both relaxed. And now you are experiencing the irritation.

Some of the very things that drew you two together have now turned into an irritant. That cute laugh during your dating years feels like fingernails on a chalkboard to you now. How they worked out and took good care of their body feels much like selfishness now. The fact that they always wanted to eat a type of food that you had never experienced was exciting, but now you crave the foods you have always loved.

The bigger problem is usually the story that we make up in our head about why our spouse does (or does not) do what they do, and why they keep doing it after we have told them how annoying it is to us. In the absence of clear reasons and information from our spouse, we make up that the reason they left the shoes in the living room, breadcrumbs in the butter tub, lights on, gas tank empty, etc., is because they do not love us, care about us, appreciate us, respect us, value us, etc.

Here is what we have found helpful in our own marriage and with hundreds of couples with whom we have worked.

  • Pray about this issue, your spouse and your heart.
  • Remind yourself that you chose this relationship. You chose your spouse who has remarkably good qualities along with the irritating and frustrating things that they do.
  • Discover where you might be able to take responsibility and action to reduce your experience of their annoying behavior. Ask yourself, “What part am I playing (or how am I contributing) to my experience of this behavior.”
  • Decide if it is a “my way or the high-way” behavior (violence, infidelity, etc.). If it is not, then find a way to accept it. Repeat out loud several times to yourself “I love my spouse and accept that __________ is a part of who they are.”
  • Creatively brainstorm any work-around of the problem. You cannot change your spouse’s personality, preferences, and habits, but think about what can you do that will help you tolerate it better?
  • Invite your spouse to a Crucial Conversation about the issue. Make a direct and specific request of what you want. Work toward compromise to which both of you can agree.
  • Be compassionate about the changes you are requesting. There are things about you that are irritating and frustrating to your spouse, too. Remember how difficult it is to change.

As you tackle the annoying and irritating things that your spouse does by looking within yourself and having a hard conversation with them, we pray that you will remember the many benefits and positive experiences in your marriage over the years. And we hope that you will continue to grow toward each other and into the lifetime love you have always wanted.

Share with us and other couples what is working for you. We look forward to hearing from you!

This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at www.LifeTogetherForever.com © Roy and Devra Wooten 2015. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at Secret@LifeTogetherForever.com.

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