Turns out those pesky behaviors might be loving gestures in disguise. As the holiday season approaches, the theme of “gratitude” often pops up as we’re encouraged to take stock of all that we’re thankful for. Yet, when it comes to thinking kindly of our partner, many couples struggle to find anything to appreciate. The day-to-day realities of life often keep our annoyance with our partners front of mind, rather than what we should be grateful for (especially when health issues, financial challenges or relationship struggles feel like extra burdens straining romantic connection).
Well, this holiday season, rather than trying to change your partner’s frustrating quirks, I suggest you embrace those pesky habits and find the love and caring hidden inside those behaviors:
1. Your spouse is a nag.
Of course, the nagging itself is annoying. However, often the nagging means that your partner really does care about you. Research tells us that married men are far healthier because their nagging wives make sure they eat better, go to the doctor and take better care of themselves. So, the next time your wife (or husband) nags you to take more Vitamin C during cold/flu season, reply with a hug and be glad someone cares enough to keep you healthy.
2. Your mate takes forever to get ready.
Waiting for your preening mate to get ready for a night on the town can make you bonkers. But there is a hidden gift in that annoying habit. Can you see what it is? The fact that they take their time means they still care about how they look. Taking pride in their appearance and wanting to look attractive for you is a very loving gesture (would you prefer they didn’t care about their looks anymore?). After a stressful, hectic week of giving-giving-giving to everyone else at home and work, that primping time may be your partner’s first moments to relax and reconnect to their own body. So if that extra 30 minutes makes you late to the event, but helps your honey relax and look his or her best—smile and appreciate their effort. When they feel good about themselves, it means a more enjoyable night ahead for you.
3. Your partner often works late.
Sure, you miss your partner and wish he or she was home with you, relaxing. However, the fact that they work late means that they take their job seriously. Your partner is responsible. The pressure to work hard and long hours is intense in the modern society. Your partner would probably like a break, too. So instead of scolding them when they stagger through the door, instead, greet your mate warmly and make coming home to you the greatest possible reward at the end of a hard day.
4. They constantly want to try something new.
You like your oatmeal the way you like your oatmeal. And you like the TV shows you’re already watching. Enough with the need to mix things up all the time. Right? Nope, though change can be uncomfortable and you may like doing things the same old way, research shows that boredom quickly kills an otherwise good relationship. Adding novelty and mixing things up is important for the partnership to feel fresh and thrive. Instead of resisting the change, be glad your partner still has some spice and curiosity left inside them. Maybe stop once in awhile (instead of complaining) and express appreciation to your partner for keeping your life interesting.
5. Your spouse is on their iPhone while you’re driving.
You’d prefer to use car time to talk and connect about your day, but your partner is constantly diving down the digital rabbit hole while you’re driving. Well, you can certainly ask your sweetie to put the tech device away, or you can enjoy the time with your own thoughts and be glad your partner’s attention isn’t focused on being a back-seat driver critiquing everything you do. Avoiding a squabble in the car sounds good to me.
6. You have conflicts with each other.
Good! A healthy conflict means you both care enough to express your point of view. Generally, couples who never argue actually don’t feel safe enough with each other to be honest or share how they truly think or feel. Or they simply don’t care enough about their partner or their relationship to bother disagreeing. And nothing tears a relationship apart faster than indifference. So, focus less on the “we see this differently” part of the conflict and be grateful your partner loves you enough to be honest.
7. Your partner asks you for help.
Though you might have enough on your plate and find their requests for assistance annoying, asking for your help or support lets you know that your mate feels safe enough with you to show vulnerability and believes in you and admires you enough to seek your wisdom, skills, and help. Our spouse should be able to come to us, it’s an amazing gesture of love and trust. Would you prefer they turn to someone else? No? Then next time, instead of grumbling, be grateful you’re the person your partner still wants to turn to most.
The truth is, the attitude we have in life is our choice. What we focus on grows. The more you choose to see your partner with a positive attitude, the more you will feel grateful, loving and empowered in your relationship.