Marriage Missions International

Fixing Those Irritations That Can Come Between Us

“Isn’t it usually the day-to-day, wash-the-toothpaste-down-the-sink, close-the-toilet-seat kind of stuff about living with someone that can drive us crazy? It’s funny, but you can love someone deeply and still become easily bothered by the simple act of sharing space with them” (Kristine Carlson, from book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Love).

Photo credit: katalopolis / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: katalopolis / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Isn’t that the truth? It’s amazing how much those little irritations can consume our thoughts and change our moods.

Are you irritated with your spouse? Are little irritations building up in your relationship to the point where they’re over-riding the good you once thought about each other?

“The plain truth is that it’s impossible for two human beings to live together for any length of time and not hurt each other.

All too often life gets in the way of living. If the struggles of marriage were isolated to the minor irritations that come along with being imperfect, we would probably all have great marriages. But minor irritations can grow into major problems —and major infractions can break your heart.” (Bill and Pam Farrel, from the book, Love, Honor & Forgive: A Guide for Married Couples)

It’s amazing the damage that can be caused by allowing little irritations to build up in your mind against your marital “partner!” After a while it can become difficult to be kind to the person you pledged on your wedding day to “love, honor and cherish, and that can eventually cause bigger problems.”

“The simple truth is that happy marriages are based on a deep friendship —a mutual respect and enjoyment of each other’s company. A couple that keeps their friendship strong despite the inevitable disagreements and irritations of married life, experiences what I call ‘positive sentiment over-ride’ —their positive thoughts about each other and their marriage are so pervasive that they tend to supersede their negative feelings. It takes a much more significant conflict for them to lose their equilibrium as a couple.” (Dr John M. Gottman, from article, Lessons from the Love Lab, Family Circle, 4/2/02)

So, what do you do to tend to those problem areas so you can maintain a stronger friendship and have more “positive sentiment over-rides?” We have several things you can look at that might help you in some way. The first is to go into the “Marriage Messages” section to see what we have written there that can help you. Two messages in particular (among many) would be:

• Creatively Re-framing Our Marriages – Marriage Message #259

• Love Accepts Many Irritations – Marriage Message #241

Here are some tips that Dr Gary Chapman talks about, as it pertains to “Fixing those Irritations” as gleaned from a Marriage Partnership Magazine article (by the same title):

1. “Choose your setting. By setting I mean time, place, and your mate’s feelings. The ideal time is after a meal. No one responds well when hungry! The place should be private, never public. Pointing out something in front of others is negative, even if you couch it in humor. And always consider your mate’s feelings. Is he or she emotionally ready to receive a suggestion tonight? …Ask. ‘Would this be a good night to make a request of you?’ If the answer is no, I can almost guarantee he’ll be back in less than an hour saying, ‘About that request. What did you have in mind?’ Curiosity can be irresistible!

2. “Don’t give an overdose. By nature, this is exactly what we do. We hold inside all our irritations, and when enough pressure builds, we erupt with a long list of things we wish our spouse would change. What happens when you tell your spouse five things that irritate you all on the same night? You kill the motivation to change. Try one request every two weeks. That’s 26 a year. The husband can make his request this week and the wife can make hers next week.

3. “Give compliments along with your request. Tell me three things you like about me before you tell me one thing you’d like to see changed.”

And what do you do if your spouse doesn’t change (as Gary Chapman found, with his wife who continually neglects to turn off the lights when she leaves a room)?

“The answer is found in 1 Peter 4:8: ‘Love covers over a multitude of sins.’ I’ll paraphrase that to say, ‘Love accepts many imperfections.’ Your spouse will never do everything the way you desire, even if you follow my three-step program. Some husbands have been running behind their wives, turning off lights, for 15 years. Each time they turn off the light, they mumble another noble sermon about saving money and poor stewardship. But their wives still don’t turn off the lights. While I don’t want to discourage you, if your spouse hasn’t turned off the lights in 15 years, she may never. Maybe you need to understand that she’s the light-turner-on-er, and you’re the light-turner-off-er. Love accepts many imperfections.”

In another Today’s Christian Woman article titled, “Spouse Interrupted: My Little Digs Made Big Holes” the author, Mandy Houk tells of a time when she was the one who was causing irritations in her marriage, and what she learned, which may help you.

She told of incidences when she would correct her husband in public, embarrassing him (and not making her look too good either). God convicted her of this habit and here’s what she learned to put into practice, which has helped her marriage (she likens it to gardening):

“When I correct or criticize Pete, whether it’s in front of 3 people or 300, my tongue has gone from untamed and ridiculous to dangerous. I’ve let it become like a shiny garden spade, digging a hole under Pete’s feet to make him lower so I can be higher. Maybe it’s not my conscious intent, but my intent doesn’t matter if that’s what happens in Pete’s heart. Each incident on its own seems like a tiny little dig, but each dig leaves a very big hole.

“It’s easy to minimize these incidents. To laugh them off as brief, passing things that don’t leave real damage. But the Bible is clear: ‘Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks’ (Matthew 12:34). If we think little of our spouse, or care little for his feelings, you can be sure it’s going to come out in our speech. That’s why words shaped like spades leave such gaping holes. Rather than treating the symptom, we have to get to the root of the matter. If we’re intentional and deliberate in filling our hearts with gratitude, love, and respect for our spouses, that will overflow into our speech. Now, instead of digging, we’re ready to plant.”

Mandy also give advice when it’s the spouse who does the interrupting:

“When You’re Interrupted —In the moment: resist the urge to dig back. As soon as you’re alone: if your spouse hasn’t apologized, try to express—without anger—how the dig made you feel. Next steps: forgive. And make sure to show your appreciation for the encouragement and praise that your spouse does give.”

When it comes to dealing with irritations that bother us about our spouse, Richard Carlson PhD, gives some great advice (in his book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Love). He says, “Don’t fight over stupid things”…

“The solution is really quite simple; mostly it involves intention. The trick, it seems, is to begin to see irrelevant and unimportant things in their proper perspective. It’s helpful to reflect on those things that are really important and to make a commitment to let go of almost everything else. Ask yourself the question, ‘Do I want my life to be about fighting over stupid things and demanding that everyone else, especially the people I love, be different?’ By simply asking this question in such a direct and honest manner, the answer will become an obvious …no.”

The end of all things is near. Therefore, be clear minded and self controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms (1 Peter 4:7-10).

This article is written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.


Join the Discussion!

But please observe the following guidelines:

  • Try to be as positive as possible when you make a comment.
  • If there is name-calling, or profane language, it will be deleted.
  • The same goes with hurtful comments targeted at belittling others; we won't post them.
  • Recommendations for people to divorce will be edited out–that's a decision between them and God, not us.
  • If you have a criticism, please make it constructive.
  • Be mindful that this is an international ministry where cultural differences need to be considered.
  • Please honor the fact this is a Christ-centered web site.
We review all comments before posting them to reduce spam and offensive content.


5 Responses to “Fixing Those Irritations That Can Come Between Us”
  1. Karen says:

    (USA) Great info! There is so much to learn here and great ways to apply it. Blessings!

  2. Thandi says:

    (SA) This is so enlightening. I am so blessed to have found this site just before my wedding.

  3. STANLEY says:

    (ZIMBABWE) This is absolutely perfect and helps one to have a steady and eternity marriage without hassles.

  4. Gladys says:

    (KENYA) I am from Kenya. I find your website very helpful and am glad that a friend told me about it. I am quite in a difficult time in my marriage and am hoping that God will enable me to do as is required of me in order that my marriage will be saved. Thanks and God Bless.

  5. AMB from United States says:

    My question is, why should we overlook those things, especially if changing them could improve our way of life.? I.e. Cleaning up a dirty house, or being healthier, etc? There is no good reason simple things can’t be done, other than the other person is lazy. But we have to accept that and just love them for who they are?

Marriage Missions International