6 Ways to Change What Bugs You

Those things that bug you. . . 

You know what they are:

The shoes he drops on the floor.

The whiskers he leaves in the sink.

The way he grabs his Bible on the way out the door to church, but doesn't get yours also.

These little things bug us. They’re not huge issues. They’re not even issues worth fighting over, but we do sometimes. They are the little foxes that spoil the grapes. 

Dr. Gary Chapman, in his book, The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted, suggests six steps for addressing things that bug you:

1.  Choose your setting and time wisely. “Wait until he’s well-fed,” he advises. “Hungry people are grumpy people, and they’re not likely to receive anything but dinner with a good attitude.”

2.   Ask for permission to share. Ask,“Do you feel like you could take criticism tonight?” If he’s had a bad day, invite him to come back to you at a time when he’s better able to receive what you have to say. “Most of the time,” Chapman says, “your spouse will be back within the hour, because he’s curious about what you have to say.”

3.   Never share criticism in public or in front of other people. Choose a private place.

4.  Instead of accusing, “You always. . .” ,   share your feelings instead. “When you _______, it makes me feel _________.”

5.  Don’t give him an overdose. Chapman suggests not sharing more than one criticism every other week. Of course, on odd weeks, it’s HIS turn to share a criticism with you. If you bring up more than one issue at a time, Chapman says, it kills motivation to change. “There’s so much wrong with me,” he might think, “why bother trying?” 

If each of you share one criticism every other week, you can address, and hopefully change, 26 things about each other every year. You may even reach a week when you or your spouse says, “Honey, I can’t really think of anything that’s bugging me right now, so I’m going to pass this week.” WOW!

6.  Couple criticism with compliments. Chapman suggests using the model Christ uses in Revelation 2:1-4 when speaking with the church of Ephesus. Before admonishing them for leaving their first love, he points out that they have worked hard, sought what was true, labored on his behalf, and persevered. “This one thing I have against you,” he says, as he introduces his concern.

How much more receptive to criticism might our husbands be if, instead of jumping into criticism with both feet, we begin our conversation by telling them several acts or qualities we really appreciate about them? Chapman submits that this method has the highest chance of success, because our spouses feel encouraged and appreciated, instead of criticized and defeated.

Here's what a sample conversation might look like:

“Honey, is now a good time to share a criticism?” (Wait for his permission.) “You know, I really appreciate how you take the trash out without complaining. It gets really smelly some times, and I’m glad I don’t have to do that chore. And I meant to thank you yesterday for changing the oil in the Toyota. It’s so nice not to have to pay someone to do it. And the other day, when you helped your mom hang her bird feeder, that was really sweet. She told me how much she enjoys watching the birds. There is one thing, though, that I really wish you’d pay more attention to. When you shave in the mornings and leave whiskers in the sink, it makes the sink look really yucky. Do you think you could just wash them down the drain when you finish? Thanks Sweetie, you’re the best!”

Ladies, we’ve tried nagging, guilting, yelling, and all other manner of inefficient methods of communication, why not try this method? It has its roots in biblical wisdom, its branches support mutual edification, and it can bear the blossoms of a godly and fruitful marriage. Sounds like a strategy for success if I’ve ever heard one.

A special note to singles, mothers, employers, in-laws, etc. -- these steps are not limited to a marital relationship. Think of how much better our work relationships, friendships, parenting relationships, and church relationships can be if we employ this method of communicating?

During my next post on relationships, I’ll address what to do about the things our spouses cannot or will not change. If you haven’t yet subscribed today’s a great day to sign up. I’d hate for you to miss a single post.

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  1. Great tips, Lori. I often bring up a number of criticisms at once...almost like I'm on a roll. Very wise to keep it to one and choose the time wisely. Bless you, friend.

  2. Popping over from Hear It On Sunday...great tips here. I really need to change my approach in some of these areas. Thank you for a great post. Blessings from Croatia: A Little R & R:

    1. Gail & Rosilind, I came to the same conclusion, knowing that it's easy to "save up" ammunition for the next big shotgun blast that doesn't accomplish anything productive. Destructive is more like it. May we learn and grow together!

  3. Those are excellent ideas. I took a couples counseling class in college before I got married and it taught almost the exact same things. I can personally attest to the fact that when I do things "right" a lot less arguments start.

    Hopping over from the better mom
    KM from

  4. Such good ideas. And they all work! At 36 years in my marriage, it's extremely rare that I would have any criticism to share, but I have used all of these ideas in earlier years. They really do work.

  5. Great advice! Thank for linking up!

  6. This is a very special post on marriage with such wonderful suggestions. Thanks so much for sharing it over at WholeHearted Home as this needs to be shared.

  7. What wonderful advice! It's so true that the world (even the blogging world) would be a better place with all of this advice being followed on a minute-by-minute basis with everyone we meet. Thanks for linking up with Matrimonial Monday!

  8. Thank you for sharing these simple but important tips! We all need encouragement to better ourselves and be more of who we honestly want to be! Thanks for linking up at Simply Helping Him last week! Blessings!

  9. Lots of helpful ideas here--I still have room to grow! :-)