We know the drill: You have a man you love, but he could use a little…improvement in a few areas. Maybe he’s a slob at home, or gets you head-scratching gifts for your birthday (a leaf blower? Really?). Maybe the whole leaving-the-toilet-seat-up thing wasn’t an issue when you were dating, but now it’s just a pain in the butt (literally). Before setting out on a man-repair spree, remember that if you resort to nagging, insults and put-downs, it won’t work. “Most men respond very well to a logically presented argument for why they should change something that bugs you,”. With that in mind, check out our non-nagging strategies for eight of his most annoying—yet fixable—habits.
This is one of those perennial man-woman jokes, the stuff of many sitcom side plots. But it’s not so funny when you’re the gal with the wet tush in the middle of the night. Sometimes, it’s not just about the toilet: “If there are other problems in the relationship, the fact that he leaves the seat up feels like much more of an affront,” says relationship educator Roland Hinds, author of Are You the Right One for Me?
Solution: First, let him know that you find it bothersome to always have to check to see if you’re about to make more of a splash than you intended. Second, “turn it into a compromise,” advises Hinds. “Suggest that the toilet be kept fully closed between uses—neither in the seat-up ‘man’ position or the seat-down ‘woman’ position.” That way, you both have to do a little work.
Bad Habit #2: Same Old Date Nights
He pursued you, wooed you, bought you flowers and squired you to the hottest of hot spots. Then he “won” you, and every Friday night is spent at the neighborhood diner with, maybe, a nice restaurant thrown in on your birthday. What happened to those romantic dates? The old taking-for-granted habit is one many men are, unbeknownst to them, guilty of.
Solution: Get creative! “Send him an email link when you see a concert or play you’d like to go to,” says Hinds. Stick a newspaper clipping on his nightstand. Men want to know specifically what you want.
Bad Habit #3: Not Picking Up After Himself
It’s been years of you scooping up his dirty socks and clearing away half-read newspapers and empty coffee mugs from around the house, and you just can’t take it anymore.
Solution: First, says Stutz, “figure out what your part in it is: Has he always been this way, and you’ve always picked up, and only now are getting annoyed?” Then, tell him how you feel about being the perpetual housekeeper, and what you would like him to do to change the situation. It sounds simple, but it’s true: Men often don’t do what you haven’t asked them to do! Try: “It makes me angry and upset that I’m constantly the one who puts the clothes away. What would help is if you put your clean laundry in the closet and the dirty stuff in the hamper.” Be sure to stress how good that would make you feel, and be extra-appreciative when he does make an effort.
Bad Habit #4: Addicted to His Smartphone
We all have multiple distractions during what used to be relatively sacrosanct couple/family time—and most of us are guilty of at least a little email-checking and call-taking when it’s not strictly necessary. The problem comes when you’re in a relationship with a man who can’t put down the Blackberry, even when he clearly should be paying attention to you.
Solution: Let him know, to start with, that you don’t enjoy seeing the top of his head as he bends over a tiny screen; you much prefer the sight of his face gazing at yours. Once he knows that his behavior is leaving you out in the cold, brainstorm ways you can put the habit in perspective. Assure him you’re not going to hide the charger or yell at him, “but set expectations and boundaries,” says Hinds, “such as no texts or calls during the dinner hour.”
Bad Habit #5: He Doesn’t Listen
This is a common complaint, says Stutz, in part because women think they’re being clear about what they want—to be heard, to be able to share emotions—but they’re often not. So yes, your man may have a bad habit of not tuning in when you talk, but to be fair to him, he may simply not know how he’s supposed to react.
Solution: “Remember that when a man loves you, he is willing to do almost anything to make you happy,” says Stutz. So make sure you‘re very clear about what you need, whether it’s a sounding board, an opinion or a “You go, girl!”
Bad Habit #6: He Gives Thoughtless Gifts
Gifts are in the eye of the receiver: Some women love elaborate handmade stuff; others just want something sparkly. Some are thrilled with the meeting of a practical need (snow tires, for example), while others are after the well-researched “perfect” gift. The bad habit of getting the wrong gift for you stems from the fact that most men don’t have the same emotional connection to the meaning of gifts as women do.
Solution: “Tell him about a time that an old boyfriend got it wrong, and use that as a springboard for letting him know what kind of gift you prefer,” says Stutz, who tells the story about her college boyfriend spending an ungodly amount on a car stereo system, “when all I wanted was a pretty bag or pair of shoes!”
Bad Habit #7: He Watches Too Many Sports Events on TV
Most likely, a man who loves his favorite team (or teams!) now probably loved them when you two first met. The difference is that you have more stuff going on—a house, children, two families, friends, etc.—that make his addiction to TV sporting events and games irksome.
Solution: Let him know—as calmly and unemotionally as you can—that the hours he spends with his butt on the couch are making you feel lonely or upset. Then offer a solution: “Ask him what sport or team he can’t live without,” suggests Hinds. That way he can always watch every Yankee game or Cowboys game, but the others are subject to the family’s schedule. Another thought: “See if you can get him, or your whole family, involved in a real sport,” says Hinds. (Was he glued to the World Cup? Maybe he’d like to teach the kids how to score some soccer goals in the backyard.)
Bad Habit #8: Disregard for His Appearance
Fact is, plenty of men don’t care or notice that their shirts and pants don’t exactly match, or aren’t exactly, you know, clean.
Solution: Luckily, most men are quite happy to be helped along, especially if they know that looking sharp makes you happy. Rather than wrinkle your nose at his fashion choices, steer him back to the closet and suggest an alternative. “Then tell him how wonderful/sharp/sexy he looks,” says Stutz.