By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
It’s pretty safe to say every wife has habits that annoy her husband… and vice versa.
Living together under the same roof for an extended amount of time can bring out the worst in any of us. After all, familiarity breeds contempt, they say, and after a while just breathing in the same room as your man can cause him to be annoyed if he hasn’t eaten, slept, or had his space in a while.
Chances are he’s not talking about your behaviors that annoy him. Why would he load that gun? Why would he open that closet door?
But if you could get a glimpse at some of the habits or behaviors you might not even realize you have, wouldn’t it be worth it to try to stop doing them and bring a little more peace and a lot more joy back to your relationship?
While writing my book, When a Woman Inspires Her Husband, I interviewed husbands married anywhere from 5 to 50 years to find out what they needed most from their wives, what they loved most about their wives, and what made them roll their internal eyes or want to get some space from their wives.
That last category they really want to talk with you about, but don’t how to safely bring it up. Perhaps after reading this list together, and sharing these items with him to see if he agrees, you’ll have the opportunity to let him know which habits of his drive you nuts.
(But my guess is he already knows that. It’s not as if wives keep those things a secret!)
For the sake of starting a healthy conversation between the two of you--or just giving you a mission to work on in secret--here are 4 habits that most likely secretly annoy your husband:
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1. Too Much “Chick Chat”
One of the annoying things we do, as wives, is talk to our husbands like they are our girlfriends and then expect them to respond as such.
Talking girl stuff, rambling, or going on and on about topics that truly would be inane to him can drive him up the wall.
Is your husband going to tell you this? Not a chance. He will most likely quietly endure it.
But he might rather be scraping his nails on a splintery door than hearing about the female drama in your workplace, or what your best friend said to the clerk at the cosmetic counter, or how the other moms are over participating in their children’s classroom project so your child will likely not get a fair grade in comparison.
Men are wired for challenges, to provide a solution for the problem you are working on, or to help you in a tangible way.
Chances are he will tune out altogether, or offer suggestions to fix the situation, or worse yet, look at you with bewilderment while trying to figure out why you are telling him the things you are if you don’t make that clear up front.
If you truly want to vent, do that with your girlfriends or someone who is close to the situation. And if you want his help or advice, ask plainly for it before you get into the story.
But if you are chatting just to keep him “in the know” or worse yet, just for the sake of talking, you might see his eyes glaze over.
Another thing that annoys him is when you interpret his “eye glaze” to mean he’s not listening or he doesn’t care. First of all, he’s not listening, but he doesn’t want to be accused of it. Secondly, he cares about you, just not certain things you talk about.
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2. Mothering Him
Your husband wants a lover, not a mother. And when you talk to him like you talk to your children or even use the same phrases with him that you use with them, an internal annoyance meter goes off that communicates to him: She’s treating me like a child.
An example of mothering your husband, perhaps unintentionally, is telling him to “be careful.” I know you are just expressing your love and concern for him when you say that before he heads out the door for a trip, or to get together with the guys, or before he tries his hand at something new.
But, that phrase makes him believe you don’t feel he is responsible, capable, or manly enough for the task at hand.
My husband, an avid backpacker and mountain-climber, finally told me this after several years of my “be careful” routine in which I expressed my fears for his safety just prior to his trip: “When you say ‘be careful’ it sounds to me like something my mom would say. It also says to me that you’re worried about me and don’t believe I can handle what I’m about to do.”
Ouch! What should a wife say instead, when she is concerned about her man’s safety? “Have a great time!” That’s what almost every man said when I interviewed him on this subject.
Some said they’ll take an “I miss you” because it implies their wife wants them home again. But, “be careful” will always sound like what a mom says to her child before she sends him off to school.
Another way of mothering him is asking him to call you as soon as he reaches his destination (so you won’t worry about whether or not he got there). A better way to handle that is to say “Give me a call after you settle in. I can’t wait to hear how the trip went.”
When you say it that way, it conveys your intent to connect with him, rather than alleviate your worries and fears.
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3. Hovering Him
One of the things that used to bug my husband early on in our marriage--and would bug him today if I were to try it again--is hovering.
If I’m reading something over his shoulder, staying in the room to listen to how he handles a phone conversation or a situation with our daughter, or simply checking upon him to see if he did something I asked him to do (or to see what it is he’s doing at all!), it sets him on edge.
“It’s a space thing,” he told me. “And it’s a trust thing,” he later told me. “Don’t feel the need to check up on me. Trust, instead, that I’m managing myself and other things wisely.”
Hovering can also look like helping him “drive” from the passenger seat, or asking him to do something, then turning around and doing it yourself.
You may be thinking It was taking him too long or I needed it done right away, but he sees that as your lack of trust in him to follow through. If your thought is I’d rather do it myself than wait on him to do it, don’t ask him to do it in the first place.
We don’t mean to hover, but sometimes it’s just natural to hang out to see if he’s doing something the way you told him to do it, or standing over him as he fixes something to make sure he gets it right (or in case he needs help), or peeking around the corner now and then to see if he’s really watching the baby or focusing on something else.
You may just be loving the look of your man caring for kids or fixing the sink or working hard. But, what he sees as you hover (and what he hears in your unspoken words or verbal suggestions) is that you don’t think he can do the job well.
Leave him alone as he works and then dote on what a wonderful job he did once you return.
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4. Smothering Him
Smothering a man is not just wanting to be with him every moment. It can be making him feel “caged” during a discussion or argument or simply not giving him physical, mental and emotional space.
Most men need their space, as well as time to decompress. Give your man space when he first gets home from work to mentally decompress before jumping into conversations about the day.
Attempting to have serious conversations at the end of the evening or late at night when he is totally exhausted is another way he might feel cornered or smothered or a deep desire to escape.
Bob, who has been married 40 years, said “Sometimes needing space is a matter of admitting we’ve been discussing a problem for too long and it’s time to stop and relax a bit.”
Giving each other space in the course of a difficult discussion is wise so the conversation doesn’t get too intense. There will be times when you may need to say, “Let’s drop this for now until we can think more clearly.”
It’s better that you agree to take a break, while communicating a desire to eventually work through the problem, than for one of you to end up storming out of the room.
Another possibility is him clamming up completely because of a need for some personal space or an annoyance overload at how you might be closing in on him to “talk it through.”
As you become more aware of--and then avoid--these habits that secretly annoy your husband, you can be a wife who inspires rather than irritates.
And then he will wonder what your secret is.
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