Share this story

 | By Steve and Bridget Patton

He says: She thinks my habits are annoying

Marriage doesn’t magically change people. Meghan is always complaining about things I do that annoy her – but those are things I’ve always done.

She says: Can’t he at least try to change?

Can’t Dan try to change? His habits are driving me crazy, why can’t he at least make an effort?

It’s important to evaluate not only Dan’s behavior, and whether it can be changed, but also how it is perceived by Meghan and whether her perception can be changed.

For instance, it can happen in a relationship that the same behavior that was once considered endearing – “He’s so spontaneous!” – can eventually be considered annoying: “He never sticks with anything!” It’s fair to ask: Who changed?

Nevertheless, it’s also important to determine whether the behavior is inherently, objectively harmful or whether it is merely subjectively annoying. For instance, if Dan has a habit of shaming Meghan, then know that this is pure poison to any relationship. Even if there was a time when it didn’t bother her, he must change it. Professional therapy might be called for.

If it’s a lesser matter, say, of a habit such as messiness, then consider a negotiated agreement of behavior modification by Dan and expectation adjustment by Meghan.

For Meghan, this could be a matter not so much of him not trying hard enough, as of him having different perceptions, skills and levels of tolerance surrounding the concept of “clean.”

Each spouse brings unique gifts to a marriage. Look more closely for his. “Now the body is not a single part, but many.  If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.” (1 Cor 12:14-15)

But, Dan, “this is just the way I am” is not a free pass for a spouse to behave however he or she wants. Your life also belongs to her. Done incrementally and with patience all around, even deep-seated habits can be gradually changed. View it as an act of love.