Make over your man’s bad habits

May 28, 2010 at 4:13 a.m. ET

How would you rate your man’s habits? Good habits, such as bringing you flowers on Fridays or exercising every morning, are endearing and indicative of the qualities you love. On the other hand, bad habits, such as chewing with an open mouth or constant tardiness, can be maddening and detrimental to a relationship. If you’ve had enough, maybe it’s time for a bad-habit makeover.

Woman asking man to clean

Habits, both good and bad, are the result of extremely personal decisions. Understandably, addressing the issue can be uncomfortable. But, if you are in this relationship for the long run, the rewards are worth the effort.  

The great hindrance

Some bad habits are simply annoying. Others can have a real impact on our lives. "Bad habits hold us back from our desired destinations," says Patricia Rossi, etiquette coach at the Tampa Etiquette Center. Surely, your significant other has goals for his life. Without attacking him, let him know that his bad habits can be a huge hindrance to success. Consider bringing the issue up at a casual moment such as before you go to bed or during an after-dinner stroll. Avoid harsh reactions to a habit, such as snapping at him as he saunters through the door 30 minutes late -- again.

The heart of the matter

It may take a bit of convincing before your man agrees to revamp his bad habits. Encourage him by letting him know that you want him to be the best version of himself. Then, delve a little deeper to find out why these habits have surfaced. "The best way to help is to ask questions relating to the habit," says Rossi. "Then he won't feel like you're lecturing." Don't play therapist, but try to find out if a specific reason is behind a bad habit. For example, does he leave hair in the sink after shaving because he is always rushed in the morning? The solution could be as easy as setting the alarm for five minutes earlier.

Baby steps

Depending on the extent of the habit and the length of time it has been a part of his life, adjusting his behavior may feel like walking away from an old friend. For example, some people find nail biting or knuckle cracking soothing. Help him find alternative behaviors such as chomping on a crisp carrot or grabbing a stress ball. Be sensitive to his struggle while setting realistic goals for success.

The road to recovery

Don't expect this bad habit makeover to be an overnight success. He will struggle. He may resist, maybe even falter. Commit to seeing this makeover through to the end. This will provide some much needed accountability and motivation. When he hits a wall, express empathy rather than frustration. "We all have things to fix in our lives," says Rossi. "It helps to share how you overcame a bad habit."

Maintain perspective

Remember, this makeover was your idea. While that doesn't give you license to harp, it does leave you with the responsibility to cheer him on. Celebrate the small victories and acknowledge his effort on a daily basis. In the end, he's still your man, habits and all.