4 Habits You Can’t Get Him To Change

Four that you can’t get him to change…and three you actually can! Use this information to build an even better relationship (with much less nagging.)

By Erika Rasmusson Janes

hat’s the difference between a man and a light bulb? You can change a light bulb. Sure, it’s an old joke, but there’s truth in jest. We all like to think that we’ll get our guys to drop their annoying habits (I’m still waiting for my guy to realize that empty milk cartons go in the garbage, not the sink), but the truth is, it’s unwise to think you can make someone change.

“Most of us don't change anything in our lives, unless there is some huge threat involved,” says Mary Jo Fay, author of When Your Perfect Partner Goes Perfectly Wrong.
“The longer the man has had a certain habit, the harder it is for him to break it."
“How many of us will lose 10 pounds or quit smoking just because someone asks us to? Unless we see the value of changing something ourselves, no amount of someone else nagging us to do so is realistic.”

“The longer the man has had a certain habit, the harder it is for him to break it—especially if it has rewarded him with some sort of satisfaction in the past, such as making him feel in control or more independent,” says psychiatrist Carole Lieberman. Of course, certain habits are more emotionally ingrained (and thus harder to break) than others. And while there are no absolutes—what’s impossible to change in one man might be easily changed in another—here are some unscientific examples of highly annoying bad habits that are hard to alter. Maybe you’ll want to save yourself the energy and aggravation and not even try:

The habit: Leaving the toilet seat up
How to deal: ”Look at it from a perspective of equality,” says Susanne M. Alexander, a relationship coach and president of Marriage Transformation LLC. “Perhaps he has grounds for fussing if you don't leave the toilet seat up for him!” It’s hard to make a compelling argument for this one, so move on.

The habit: Drooling over the Victoria’s Secret catalog
How to deal: “That’s one habit women are going to have a hard time breaking,” says Joe Gumm, an ESPN radio sportscaster and author of Romancing Mommy: 150 Ways to Enhance Your Marriage from Birth and Beyond. If this is a sticking point in your relationship, Gumm advises either keeping it out of your house and telling your man straight-up that his habit makes you uncomfortable and upset. Acknowledge that it may seem like a small thing, but it makes a big impact on your mental state.

The habit: Driving like a maniac
How to deal: “Once you’ve had a decade or two or four of driving a certain way, it’s hard to change,” says Alexander. You can insist on driving yourself (even if that means driving separately, to hammer home your point) and use “I” statements to let him know how you feel, like, “When you drive 20 miles an hour over the speed limit, I feel scared and unsafe.’ It’s hard to argue with that kind of direct statement,” she says.

The habit: His inability to focus on anything else (i.e., you) when a game is on
How to deal: You probably can’t compete with Shaq and SportsCenter, so find something else to do for a few hours. “My husband, Matt, zones out whenever basketball is on,” says Jennifer Jeanne Patterson, author of 52 Fights. “He makes one of those gas-station pizzas, opens a beer, and spends two hours yelling at the TV. Our dog actually gets up and leaves the room! And he ignores me. At first, I struggled to get him to turn the game off. But, after a few arguments, I realized that he had a right to choose how he spent his free time. Now when our dog leaves the room, I get up and follow her, and we go on a nice, long walk outdoors together.”

What You Can Change
The habit: Burping the alphabet (and other bad manners)
How to change it: Very, very nicely—and by pointing out that bad manners can be a career hindrance. “He’ll be more attractive and marketable professionally if he doesn't
Offer to break one of your bad habits each time he breaks his.
hold his fork like a shovel, slurp his soup and belch,” says Sandra Beckwith, a professional speaker who talks about the lighter side of gender differences. “Most men aren't attached to their bad table manners—it's just all they know. They'll be willing to learn how to improve.” Alexa Gumm changed husband Joe’s bad-mannered habit of using his sportscaster voice indoors not by shushing him, “which he told me made him feel like he was in grade school” but by finding a nicer way to ask him to lower his voice. “Now I say, ‘Babe, I enjoy listening to you, but the people next to us might be trying to have a romantic dinner.’”

The habit: His insistence on wearing his favorite ratty T-shirt to any and all social events
How to change it: “Most guys aren’t very invested in the way they dress,” Beckwith says. If you hate his sartorial style, Beckwith offers this advice: “When he wears a loathsome garment, look at him dreamily and say, ‘I love when you wear that shirt. It reminds me of an old boyfriend.’ When he wears something more in line with what you're looking for, let him know how appealing that garment is by becoming amorous. He's smart enough to know that amorous is better than mooning over an ex-love. Pretty soon, the ratty look will be history.”

The habit: Leaving dirty dishes in the kitchen sink (and other cleaning issues)
How to change it: Stop doing it for him. When Karen Seaman and her boyfriend moved in together, “He let the dishes sit for days,” she says. “So I stopped my habit of doing them before he would notice they were there, and made a point of saying ‘Eewww, the dishes smell. They really need to be cleaned.’” Her ploy paid off: “Lately, he has been doing the dishes without me saying anything. And now he thinks I'm the lazy one because he's ‘always’ doing the dishes. Amazing!”

Another tip: Offer to break one of your bad habits each time he breaks his. “This allows your guy to still feel like a man,” says Lieberman. “The very idea of giving up a habit to please a woman can be a difficult piece of cheese for a man to swallow.” So support his efforts by joining in the course-correction plan and, say, quit cluttering up the sink with all your skin cream. He’ll appreciate your effort as much as you appreciate his.

Erika Rasmusson Janes is a New York-based writer.
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