With all of the demands for outside social distancing do you find yourself feeling a bit too crowded sometimes at home? Yes… we do too! Do you find that you are more easily irritated by your spouse lately—perhaps too easily? Do little things he or she does or says just get on your nerves to the point where you find yourself exploding more readily? Yes, sadly… we confess that we have been doing that too. (Now, if you haven’t… we applaud you! We should know better, but we recently realized that we slid into that nasty place. And now, we need to climb out of it.)
We’re used to coming and going and having more freedom to get out and about and be with a lot of different people. And although we love each other like crazy, we admit that we’re feeling more than a bit confined. Unfortunately, that can be a formula for stupid arguments.
But just because we feel a bit off-balance, we need to be careful about taking our irritations out on each other. Our marriage license doesn’t give us permission to take it out on each other. At least WE haven’t seen it written anywhere on any marriage license. Perhaps yours has an attached clause! But probably not… not unless you are attaching it with your own mindset!
So, during this time of uncertainty—if you find yourself a bit too easily irritated by your spouse, we have a few suggestions for you. Apply them, if and when you need to use these tips:
When you are Too Easily Irritated By Your Spouse:
• Be aware, and take care of your own attitude. Just being aware of this fact in the last several days has helped us to tamp down our gathering of offenses. It’s termed as “being intentional.” Since we made that determination, we are now giving each other more grace. We encourage you to do the same.
And that leads to the next point:
• Give your spouse grace whenever you can. Your spouse is probably feeling crowded too. So try to give him or her the gift of grace a bit more at this time of your life together.
“Grace comes from the Greek word charis that means ‘gift.’ It’s not earned. And it is not deserved. That’s what makes grace so valuable in marriage. In fact, it just may be the most valuable gift you ever give your spouse. And of course, when we grow in grace, we become more like Christ. Think about how you could be extending more grace to your spouse today, and then do it.” (Drs. Les & Leslie Parrot)
“Grace isn’t a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It’s a way to live.” (Jacqueline Winspear)
When You’re Easily Irritated:
• Don’t pick up that offense! It’s easier to say this than to do it! We admit that! Even so, it IS doable. We say that because we have been working harder at not picking up offenses from each other. And it is working!
“I heard Patricia King say, ‘Offenses aren’t given; they are taken.’ It’s true. It is our choice whether or not to agree with Satan’s suggestions to get offended about the ‘raw deal’ we got. And taking an offense is a great way to hinder the progress God is making in your life and work. You can get stuck as you brood on it. That old artist’s lie that ‘no one understands me, it’s me against the world’ can pop up.” (J. Scott McElroy in his article, The Art of Not Taking Offense)
Yes, there are some times when we need to “talk” to our spouse about an offense. We can’t let everything slide. But just be careful about picking up more than we should. If you need a bit more help on this, we have a past Marriage Insight for you to read that you could find helpful:
“It is the glory of a man to overlook an offense; it’s foolish and prideful to feel that every little offense is worthy of confrontation.” (Tim Challies)
“Good sense makes one slow to anger; and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11)
Doug Fields recommends that we work to minimize annoyances. How is that possible? Read the following for a few tips:
Plus, it might help to:
• Quit pointing fingers at your spouse to change. If you’re too easily irritated at your spouse, then be the first to make a positive change. Perhaps your change will spur your spouse to work on changing, as well. Here’s a great tip that Mark Merrill gives on this issue:
“I’m an agent of change…for myself. It’s always easy to focus on what the other person needs to change. It’s easy to make mental lists of what we want our spouse to do differently. But each of us needs to focus on those things that we need to change about our own behavior first. Then, when we become models of perfection, we can start working on changing our spouse.”
• Give yourself a “time out” when you need it. Ask yourself if starting an argument is really worth it. Drop it if you can. Is the temptation overwhelming? Tell your spouse that you need to put yourself into a time out. Tell him or her that you’re feeling irritated a bit too easily right now. Just ask for some grace and space and remove yourself from the situation to cool off.
Find a quite space to pray. And/or you can read your Bible. Or you can listen to praise music. Take a walk. Or maybe taking a relaxing bubble bath would help. You can reflect on your blessings. Focus on the good. This definitely helps us. It may help you too!
“Think about what life would be like without him [or her]. When we’re irritated, we’ve usually forgotten how much our partners mean to us. Taking the time to think about what it would be like to lose him [or her] is a good way to make you feel more grateful.” (Vanessa Marin)
Fellow blogger Whitney Shayo clarifies this point a bit more by saying:
“Realizing how short life actually is can help minimize arguments between husband and wife. The small things become too petty to even address. Many comments are dismissed and ignored because I don’t want to spend any time or energy fighting. Arriving to an age when you understand that time is not endless, you also begin to realize that every moment you share with your spouse is precious, and fighting becomes meaningless.” (From the article, “Forgiveness is Better than Regret”)
Whatever you do, just get away and adjust your attitude before joining your spouse again.
• Choose to love and give grace. Don’t fight with your spouse about minor irritations. As Whitney writes (and we agree):
“When you’re 95 and looking back, which will make you feel better? Knowing that you lived in complete disgust because you were easily irritated by the person you made a lifelong commitment to? Or would it be knowing that you truly lived life to the fullest because you chose love?”
So, with that in mind, here are some closing tips:
“To keep minor points of difference, little things your spouse does from becoming irritants and obstacles in your relationship, deny yourself, like Jesus said. Rather than insisting your way is right in matters of minor importance, let some stuff go. Rather than nagging and nitpicking, which is like being nibbled to death by a duck, express your dislikes in ways that don’t rankle, threaten and lead to even bigger blowups.” (Dennis and Barbara Rainey)
• “It is to a man’s [and of course, a woman’s] honor to avoid strife; but every fool is quick to quarrel.” (Proverbs 20:3)
• “A fool shows his annoyance at once; but a prudent man overlooks an insult.” (Proverbs 12:16)
Keep in mind:
• “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” (Proverbs 17:14)
And to that, we say, AMEN!
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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