annoying coupleIt's the little things. We all start out with the best intentions to see only the good in our spouses. It's easy in the beginning, what with all those pink, fluffy love hormones clouding our vision. But over time they creep into our consciousness -- those annoying little habits of our beloved. Why is he incapable of putting his dirty laundry INSIDE the bin instead of on top of it? Why does he insist on loading glasses on the bottom rack of the dishwasher, which is clearly designed for plates? Why does he have to finish the last three words of every sentence you ever say? (YOU. EVER. SAY.) 

"Fussing with each other often is a function of temperament -- especially when couples have quite different personalities," says Professor Charles R. Figley, PhD, at Tulane University. We all know what fussing leads to -- that kind of destructive constant quarrelling that can erode your relationship. But if you just ignore the annoying behavior, you will surely go mad. What to do? Here are 6 tips for handling these daily irritations. 

1. Remember: It's not just you. "Habit hating is not limited to married couples and can be found in all interpersonal relationships eventually," Dr. Figley says. You know what this means, right? You probably have some habits that annoy your spouse, too. Have some empathy and perspective.

2. Choose your battles. You really have to decide what's disturbing enough to "fight" (fairly) over and what you could accept as part of who your spouse is. Dr. Figley suggests, "When something is irritating, ask: If I can't change her or him, can I change myself to ignore or accept these differences?" 

3. Balance with the positive. Dr. Figley says it's easy sometimes to forget why you married your spouse in the first place. So if your husband is driving you crazy, go ahead and list all those irritating things. Then write a list of traits and habits of your spouse that you love -- and make sure that list is twice as long. "When the irritation happens again, think of those loving traits," Dr. Figley says. "And tell your spouse about them!"

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4. Use "I" statements. When you do choose to address an annoying habit, says couples counselor Terri Orbuch, don't just point fingers and say thing like, "You are such a slob." Instead, Orbuch says, try something like, "When you throw your clothes on the floor, I get upset because our house feels chaotic to me." In other words, explain how his behavior makes you feel or affects you. 

5. Make a "habit trade." About those habits of yours that are probably annoying your husband? Why not agree to quit them in exchange for your spouse quitting his own, suggests psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz. "Each of you working on one thing for the other." 

6. Work on your communication skills in general. "'Working' at marriage is just that. It does not come naturally," Dr. Figley says. So spend time and effort improving how you talk with each other and how you express your love. This will help offset the annoyances.

Something else to keep in mind as you're working through this: Quarreling over the little things can be an indicator of normalcy. Dr. Figley has studied and written extensively on families in crisis and trauma (Helping Traumatized Families, 2013). "When bickering RETURNS following a crisis," he says, "it's actually a good sign."

How do you usually handle your spouse's annoying habits?

 

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