Don't assume you know what is bothering your spouse. A simple “What's bothering you?” will sometimes work wonders!
The bother barometer is a basic tool to help you decide how much something really bothers you. Use it to rate the annoying habits your spouse has. Once you get the hang of it, you can modify it to rate everything from financial matters to dealing with in-laws.
Use the following bother barometer to rate each of the habits you wish your spouse didn't have:
Take the time to find out what would be helpful to your spouse. He or she is the single most important person in your life!
- Not an issue. Doesn't bother me at all.
- I'd prefer it didn't happen, but it's not a big deal.
- It occasionally annoys me when my spouse does it.
- It often annoys me when my spouse does it.
- It annoys me most times my spouse does it.
- It annoys me every time my spouse does it.
- It annoys me whenever I'm with my spouse.
- It annoys me even when I'm away from my spouse.
- I'm miserable because my spouse does it.
- I can't stand it. Maybe we can't live together anymore because of it.
Issues that you rate 5, 6, or 7 can escalate into worse problems if they are not dealt with. You must address them with your spouse while they are still at this manageable stage. Most differences that you rate in the middle of the scale can be resolved between the two of you. In the next chapter, you will learn specific skills to help you resolve these kinds of conflicts.
Don't discuss a problem with your spouse until you've thought through how much it's really bothering you. A problem you thought to be major might rate lower on the bother barometer than you initially thought. You might not even need to bring it up with your partner!
Issues that you rate in the 8, 9, and 10 range will be more difficult to resolve. If something your spouse does annoys you constantly and makes you miserable, there probably are many emotions underlying the issue. You can try to resolve the problem yourselves, but you might find you need outside help.
On the other hand, things that bother you very little (2 to 4 on the scale) are probably not worth bringing up at all. It's a good idea to recognize that they bother you somewhat, and pay attention if something rises on your importance scale.
Sit down with your spouse and discuss each other's answers to the quiz. Did you correctly anticipate what bothered the other person? Are there some things you had no idea bothered your spouse? Are you clear about what bothers you? This information is a crucial first step toward resolving your differences.