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Fixing up a house means accounting for the things that people do every day. This includes the furniture that you relax on, the bed that you sleep in, and even the refrigerator that you open multiple times a day. Love and marriage is also filled with things that you do every day that have an impact on it.
These things that you do everyday are called habits. According to Mirriam Webster’s online, a habit is a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior. Some habits are good, while others can be bad or even dangerous. When a habit really takes over, it becomes automatic. At their best, habits can be incredibly helpful and at their worst, can become an addiction.
Habits come in all sorts, and most of the time you did not make a deliberate effort to start them, you just started. I have to personally admit that I have some habits that I would like to change in my life. So let’s learn why and how you should correct the bad habits in your marriage.
1. Acknowledge that Your Bad Habits Are a Problem in Your Marriage
There is an unmistakable principle in the Bible of acknowledging your mistakes and failures. In fact it is the first step in forgiveness. By acknowledging your sin, you become a candidate for Grace and forgiveness. This is perfectly illustrated in what has become known as the Roman’s Road (a few simple Bible verses that explain the way of salvation).
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;Romans 3:23
You absolutely cannot get forgiveness for sins, until you understand that those sins are bad, and need to be forgiven. Also, in recognizing that your habits are having a negative impact on your life and marriage, you see the need to correct whatever negative behaviors you have adopted into your routines. In one of the most relatable and memorable Psalms, this principle is relayed pointedly.
I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.Psalm 32:5
Your bad habit is like a 3rd party in your marriage
Once a negative habit has infiltrated your marriage, it becomes a part of your love relationship. No longer are you husband and wife, but, husband, wife, and __________ habit.
For instance, if you develop a habit or addiction to your smartphone, it is no longer just the two of you going out to eat, it is you, your spouse, and your phone. It is no longer just the two of you in bed, it is you, your spouse, and your phone. It is no longer just the two of you on the couch watching a movie, it is the two of you with you spending time with your smartphone.
Whatever the habit is that impacts your marriage in a negative way, it becomes that 3rd party. It interferes and even replaces your relationship with your spouse. Ask yourself the following question, If I took this habit out of my life, how would it impact my marriage?
Is it a habit or an addiction?
If you just can’t make it without checking your social media feeds, it has moved from a habit to an addiction. This is not just something that you do everyday, it is something that you can’t stop doing. You no longer control the habit, it controls you. I recently noticed that the first thing that I do every morning is to check my phone for alerts, sports scores, and text messages. I don’t know when this happened, but I intend to correct this behavior. If you are not careful these things can develop into direct addiction instead of a simple habit.
For instance, when you develop a bad habit of looking at pornography or pushing the limits of what you consider pornographic it can quickly become an addiction that controls you. Popular syndicated television today is filled with nudity, rape, and even incest. If you watch those things, they will eventually infiltrate your mind. This can change what thoughts and behaviors you view as acceptable. If you have a YouTube account, I am sure you have noticed the inappropriate things that show up as suggestions. The truth is you can see more pornography on accident today than people in previous generations could have seen on purpose.
Or if you find yourself in the habit of taking painkillers, it can quickly become an addiction that controls you. The United States has recently been involved in what has been called the Opioid Crisis, which is a mass number of American citizens who are addicted and abusing prescription painkillers. The American Psychiatric Association released a poll this past May that revealed that nearly one out of every three people personally know someone addicted to opioids. They also estimate that 2 million people have a substance abuse problem related to opioids.
2. Stop blaming people or circumstances for your bad habits
People have a tendency to rationalize what they are doing wrong. It is a mistake to pair your bad habits with things that are outside of your control. You may say that you binge on ice cream because of stress. You may say that you watch things that you shouldn’t because you are having problems in your marriage. This way of thinking goes all the way back to the fall of man where Adam told God these words: The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. (see Genesis 3: 12)
In order to rightly deal with your bad habits you must first ISOLATE them. They are your problem and your responsibility to correct. You have made bad choices that have led to this bad habit in your life. Now, you have to take the steps necessary to end the negative habits that you have allowed into your life.
3. Make Plans to Change Your Bad Habits
It is not enough to just acknowledge that your habits are problem. It is not enough to know that your behavior has bad consequences. Facts or feelings of guilt are not enough motivation for you to break bad habits. You have to do something about it! Have a determination to get rid of the bad habits in your life. Make a commitment to overcome them. Write down the date and time, right now I am making a commitment to finally get rid of this bad habit in my life.
If you have developed the habit of ignoring your family, make constructive plans to fix it. Put your phone away when you get home from work. Limit your time reading the news or social media feeds including YouTube videos to a certain block of time. How about a standard of 10- 15 minutes on electronics when you get home?
4. Seek help from God
God is interested in your daily life and is willing and available to help you. Consider the following verses from the Bible:
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.Hebrews 4: 15-16
Sometimes you hesitate to seek God’s help because you are really not ready to let go of whatever you are holding onto. You know that seeking His help means that you are losing something that you have had pleasure in.
However, when you are ready and serious about letting go of your bad habits, you can find the help that you need from God. You can pray to Him about that habit that is hurting your personal life and your marriage.
5. Use a trigger to change your behavior
There is a verse that I have quoted and heard quoted thousands of times in my life. It is so popular because it holds a principle that is powerful and life changing. It is buried within the verses of the longest chapter in the Bible.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.Psalm 119:11
You can memorize, or just write down Bible verses that can trigger your mind to change its behaviour. This is particularly relevant to bad habits in your thought life. When negative or sinful thoughts come into your mind, you can use a relevant Bible verse to initiate different thoughts.
Try writing down a Bible verse on a sticky note and placing it strategically where you will find it when you attempt the bad habit. In my case, I may need to put the sticky note on my phone, so that we I wake up in the morning, I will be reminded to spend time in God’s Word first instead of my phone! You can use the sticky note method with simple reminders as well, like “spend time with my spouse”, or “15 minutes only.” You can even set an alarm on your phone if it has become the culprit!
I have heard of people who use rubber bands on their wrists and when they are tempted to engage in a bad habit, they pop the rubber band as a trigger to change the behavior. I am sure there are many other ways to develop psychological triggers, but it seems that, for the Christian, Bible memorization would be the best way. Use the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to overcome your bad habits.
6. Allow Yourself Some Time to Change
I have heard that it takes 21 days, 30 days, and 90 days to change a habit, but the truth is, that it just takes time. According to a 2010 United Kingdom study, led by University College London research psychologist Pippa Lally, respondents reported that it took 18 to 254 days to change a habit. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip up because it takes time to correct a bad habit. If you stop to think about it you have probably spent a lot of time developing the bad habit, to begin with, so you should not expect a quick fix.
Also, consider all the good habits that you have in your life. Chances are there are some things that you are doing right, so approach your bad habits from that perspective, that you can strengthen your life more by changing certain habits.
7. Replace Your Bad Habits with Good Ones
If you take a bad habit, they actually may have been consuming more of your time than you may have initially thought, you create a void in your time. Fill that void with something good and healthy. Instead of checking your social feeds as soon as you get up, read your Bible and pray. Instead of watching that Television show on the TV or your personal device, spend that time talking with your spouse.
Recently, we started a new family tradition of pajama rides. The kids all get ready for bed and we get in our van and drive for a few minutes with nowhere in particular to go. Try this in your marriage, instead of engaging in bad habit, ride somewhere with your spouse, like the park. You could also take a walk together instead of the bad habit.
Additionally make yourself accountable to your spouse by committed time to spend with them. Commit to watching something wholesome with your spouse or just spending deliberate time together.
7 Steps to Changing Bad Habits in Your Marriage
- Acknowledge that Your Bad Habits Are a Problem in Your Marriage
- Stop Blaming People or Circumstances for Your Bad Habits
- Make Plans to Change Your Habits
- Seek Help from God
- Use a Trigger to Change Your Behavior
- Allow Yourself Some Time to Change
- Replace Your Bad Habits with Good Ones