Practice Patience with Your Spouse

practice patience

[Guest Post by Ashleigh Slater – I always appreciate returning the favor when a fellow author lets me share about my book on her blog. This is Ashleigh’s first book entitled Team Us. I appreciate her sharing wisdom on 4 steps to practice patience with your spouse’s old habits. Enjoy and be encouraged!] 

In the weeks that led up to our wedding, my husband Ted informed our friends, family, and anyone who would listen of his impending death.

“Death?” you ask.

Yep, death. Death, that is, to his single self.

The self that could buy a new Nord Electro on a whim. Or stay up until two in the morning on a regular basis. That guy who worked late into the evening because he didn’t have a wife waiting at home.

Sure, death isn’t the most romantic thing to broadcast prior to one’s nuptials, but Ted was right. Marriage doesn’t jibe well with many of the single habits brought to it. What I don’t think he anticipated, though, was that the death of old patterns takes a while.

In the last eleven years of our marriage, here are four practical ways we’ve learned to practice patience for the old habits as we work together toward the new. You may find them helpful too.

1. We Pick Our Battles

I’ve come to realize that not all of Ted’s old habits are necessarily sinful. Now, before I address a behavior of his, I first stop and categorize it.

Sin means to “miss the mark.” So I ask myself: Is Ted missing God’s mark? Or is he simply missing mine? Is it a quirk I find grating, or is it offensive to God and hurtful to our relationship? If it’s a matter of annoyance, not destructiveness, then maybe I—and not Ted—am the one who needs to change.

Sometimes the bothersome things simply aren’t worth the battle. Often when I choose to move a bothersome thing to the conversational front burner, it doesn’t improve my marriage, it simply feeds my need to have things a certain way. The majority of the time it’s better for me to apply the wisdom of Proverbs 19:11 here, which says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

2. We Have a Realistic View of Ourselves

Sometimes my habits don’t seem as bad as Ted’s do. There are instances when I’m inclined to give myself a break, but not so quick to give him one too.

The problem is, though, drawing comparisons between our habits masks the reality that I’m no better than he is. While, yes, some behaviors are more destructive than others, we can both use growth. When I put my own behavior into perspective, it gives me more patience for Ted in the areas he struggles.

tedsays013. We Sandwich Our Criticism

Ted and I both earned master’s degrees in communication. One of our favorite techniques we picked up in our studies is what’s termed the “communication sandwich.” For those of you unfamiliar with this, it basically boils down to using praise and affirmation to sandwich criticism.

What I love about this approach is that it doesn’t put Ted on the defensive. When I use it, not only do I speak well of him, pointing out the ways I recognize and appreciate him, but I’ve also made it about me. I’ve focused on a “this is how I feel,” rather than a “you did this” approach.

4. We Focus on Progress, Not Perfection

Nowadays, Ted doesn’t buy a Nord Electro on a whim. He also doesn’t stay up until two in the morning on a regular basis. But time management is still an area under construction that could easily leave me frustrated.

But I’ve determined not to focus on his failings, rather on his successes. When frustration sets in, I stop myself and focus on all the ways Ted has grown and improved in this area over the years. It’s hard to be angry when I realize just how far he’s come.

At times, it has seemed inconceivable that some of those pesky single behaviors Ted and I both brought to our marriage would change. But we’re finding that we can kill old habits with time. Ted’s not where he was ten years ago, and I know he won’t be where he is now in another decade. He can say the same for me.

Ashleigh SlaterAshleigh Slater is the author of Team Us: Marriage Together (Moody Publishers). With almost twenty years of writing experience, she loves to unite the power of a good story with practical application to encourage others. Ashleigh and her family reside in Atlanta, Georgia. To learn more, visit or find her on Facebook.

(Parts of this article have been excerpted from Team Us by Ashleigh Slater. Used with permission from Moody Publishers © 2014).

Win a copy of Team Us by Ashleigh Slater by leaving a comment below. A winner will be chosen at random.

[photo credit: analogophile via photopin cc]


  • Barbara Rivera

    Unconditional love can cover all those pesky habits. It is important to focus on progress and not live in the past. It really doesn’t matter when you think of eternity and our heavenly home. It wont matter who left the toothpaste uncapped in heaven. Always place Jesus at the center of your marriage and the little things will stay little. Look up!

  • Felicia Gonzales

    I’ve learned and grown so much since I’ve started my walk with Christ! It’s amazing the things I wasn’t paying attention to and now that Jesus is the center of my attention; everything else seems to be falling into place. I thought my marriage was over…we were in the final stages of divorce…one month until the court judgement…but I kept my faith, hope and kept praying. Finally, things started happening. I gave all of fears and worries to Him. Now, my husband and I are in Pastoral Counseling, learning to love each other again. One of my biggest mistakes was trying to force my beliefs on him, now he’s here because he wants to be next to me in church.

  • Jessica L.

    I have read & LOVED your book, Ashleigh!! If I win a copy, I will be giving it as a wedding present!

  • maggie151

    Great advise…I will definitely start to put it to use. How great God is to have put women like you in my path!!!

  • Bronwyn

    To hear an engaged man warning others of his impending death tells me a lot about Ted: he has a great sense of the gospel as well as a great sense of humor. Congrats on your book, Ashleigh!

    • ashslater

      Mardi, thanks for commenting. It really is a great tool! Ted and I use it all the time.

  • Sherri

    When my husband was single, he bought what he wanted when he wanted. We’ve been married 12 yrs with 2 kids and he is still the same. It wasn’t so bad when we were both working, but I lost my job due to a chronic illness and his habits haven’t changed. Needless to say, I don’t feel like a ‘Team Us’ anymore but I would like to again.

    • ashslater

      Sherri, I’m so sorry you and your husband aren’t feeling much like a team lately. Praying for you and your marriage today.

  • Ashley

    Ted sounds hilarious. I remember on my wedding day my cousin, 9 at the time, came running into the room where I was getting ready and told me, ” Ashley, Russell is standing by the door, and he looks nervous!!” lol. Well he didn’t run and we’ve made it 4 years and 2 kids so far! I’d love a copy of the book by the way.

  • Melissa Dickinson

    I needed to read this today! I really LOVE how the Lord bring us the things that our hearts are desiring! I am feeling convicted by this and will work to determine whether or not it is an annoyance to me or to God and then chose my battles accordingly! Thank you for this! <3