5 helpful ways to deal with annoying habits in relationships
When you first start dating someone, they might seem almost perfect. In the first flush of love, that person appears to be exactly what you were looking for and it’s hard to imagine anything about them annoying you. Then you start to notice... maybe they chew loudly, pick their teeth after a meal, or spend hours scrolling on their phone. Perhaps these habits are on your list of non-negotiables when searching for love – or are suddenly added to the list! Or it might be that some annoying habits pop up early on and an otherwise interesting person is ruled out completely before you really get to know them. That can be part of a very natural selection process - one person’s annoyance is another person’s lovable quirk – but it could also damage a promising connection. So, what should you do?
Decide how big a deal their annoying habits are
If something annoys you early on, it will likely only become more annoying! Years down the line when the honeymoon period is over, you might wonder why you didn’t mention it before. Sometimes you learn to live with the fact they’re always five minutes late or sing louder than the radio! Sometimes it becomes a make-or-break situation and lead to a couple parting ways.
It’s important to ask yourself if you can live with it. Yes, it might change, but it might not! Talking about it is good, but how do you address it? How can you show grace but bring up the frustration or embarrassment you feel?
No-one is perfect
It’s important to remember we are all sinners. We all have flaws, so you will never find the ‘perfect’ partner. Only God is perfect. Let God fill the hole in your life that seeks perfection and then the flaws in your partner will not seem so all-consuming, teaching us God’s grace. Some habits will bug you but sometimes they can mould you into a more gracious person.
God forgives us our sins and in His grace He accepts us, warts and all. We should show that same grace to our partners. God does, however, expect us to change when we become a Christian to leave ungodly and harmful habits behind, but He is full of grace and forgiveness when we mess up.
If a habit truly bothers you, bringing it up with grace and love is the way forward, showing forgiveness when the habit is hard to break, if they want to try and change. God supports us through times of changing habits. We should do the same to our partners.
Remember you have bad habits too
There are things about you that annoy your partner – it works both ways. My husband has annoying habits, but so do I! I must show patience as it’s a give and take situation. What does it say about me if I flare up in anger when he bites his nails? It shows me that I need to control my emotions, be loving and remember: love is patient, love is kind.
Flip it round to ask yourself why it irritates you so much – is there something in your past that the habit triggers, is it a character trait in you that you need to work on, or – if it’s early on – is it just first date nerves that will disappear, so bringing it up won’t help?
Think about your own actions and how they affect others. Being late looks like you have other priorities, being distracted on a phone looks like the other person is second best, biting nails makes the other person feel nervous around you, and so on.
Respect and love your partner; make them feel valued, appreciated and respected. Are your annoying habits making the other party feel valued or undervalued? That is a good benchmark for whether we should do something about it! Bringing it up with grace and peace is a good platform for difficult conversations.
Be discerning about what’s actually unsafe
There are some behaviours that are big red flags in a relationship and can not be passed off as ‘annoying habits’. An explosive temper, substance abuse, worrying behaviour with money, or disrespectful talk or actions are signs of something much more serious.
Having discernment in this is really important so that you don’t just accept something that will be harmful or abusive to you and so that you are not in danger. It is important that you respect each other in a relationship, and if that’s not present, ask why.
Sometimes these habits can creep in through the back door if someone has initially been charming, but other times they are more obvious. How you treat each other and how you let each other flourish should show respect, without putting each other down, or stamping out what makes you special, or causing physical or mental harm. Pray for discernment in this area and seek help practically if you need to.
How to bring it up
As with many situations in relationships, communication is key. Talking through the niggles really helps, but remember the fruits of the Spirit and the fact there are two sides to any relationship.
Try not to act in the heat of the moment. For example, me shouting at my husband when he is biting his nails is not going to help, nor will grabbing someone’s phone so that they’re not distracted on a date! When you’re frustrated by an annoying habit is not the right time to bring it up as it will turn into an argument.
Instead, be patient. Pray first, hand it over to God and then lovingly bring it up. Let there be a mutual respect so that if something really annoys the other, there should be a desire to change, just as being a Christian should make us want to live in a different way from the world. Seek to make your partner happy, loved and not aggravated or made to feel second best to the habit.
Seeing things from your partner’s perspective helps you deal with the habit, whether it leads to bringing it up or working through it personally with God. Above all, pray and hand over the frustrations to God. He’s the one that can deal with them and change lives.
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