How Can I Help My Spouse Break A Bad Habit?

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So your spouse has a bad habit. Can you help them break it?

Well, it’s possible to help, but the answer isn’t exactly straightforward – and it might surprise you. You can’t force your spouse’s change, but it’s possible to support it. If you’re wondering what you can do to help your spouse break an unhealthy habit, read on.

Realize That Your Spouse Must Want Change

However you feel about this habit, it’s not enough for your spouse to make changes just for you. They must desire change for themselves. Their motivation to change must come from within – not because you’re putting pressure on them.

It’s understandable why you might continually remind your spouse how important this change is to you. But that external pressure takes their attention away from the reasons why they should want to change for themselves. And when they’re changing for you rather than themselves, they’re more likely to be sneaky in order to continue the habit without your knowledge. It’s simply human nature.

Rather than closely monitoring their behavior and bringing up the topic over and over, continue loving your spouse. Support them as you always have. Despite the issue at hand, keep showing them unconditional love.

Understand That Breaking a Habit Takes Time

It’s important to understand that breaking this habit is going to take time for your spouse. First, consider how long they’ve been engaging in it. Even deeply-ingrained habits can be difficult to break, not to mention more addictive behaviors.

Your spouse’s bad habit doesn’t have to be an addiction, like smoking or chewing tobacco. It could be any behavior that threatens their health or wellbeing. But it’s not enough that you recognize the dangers of this habit; they have to feel that deeply, too.

Most likely, the process of breaking this habit will look and feel like three steps forward, two steps back for you. It might be tempting to conclude that your spouse isn’t really trying to make lasting changes. But the truth is, it takes focus, sustained effort, time, and patience to break habits and replace them with healthier behaviors. And research tells us that there could be some failures before ultimate success.

Be Honest About How You Feel

Even though your spouse’s motivation has to come from within, you can still let them know how you feel about this habit. With kindness, clarity, and honesty, let them know that you’re concerned for them. Tread carefully when you address habits and behaviors that are personally off-putting to you.

Try saying something like, “I love you, and I’m concerned about your wellbeing. [This habit] is something I find upsetting. I want to stay just as attracted to you as I was when we got married, but continuing [this habit] over time could get in the way of that.”

You could also say, “On a scale of one to 10, this problem is an eight or nine for me.”

Then, as stated above, you’re going to need to let go and let your spouse do what they will with the information you’ve given them. If your spouse invites you to help them make changes, great! But you might need to take a few steps back and let them be in charge of breaking this habit, and deciding how that’s going to look.

We all struggle with habits from time to time; it’s part of life. Our book, I Love You More, is a resource to help you stay connected to one another even during difficult, everyday challenges. Learn more and pick up a copy here.

Have you or your spouse broken a difficult habit? How did you do it? How did you support one another through the process?

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