Saturday, August 24, 2019

6 Practical Tips on How to Deal with Difficult People (Especially if it's Your Spouse)

Everyone is unique. That means even the closest person to us is different. We have our own likes and dislikes. We have different personality traits and characteristics. What someone else enjoys may be what annoys us the most. Because of this, we may have a hard time coping with others, especially those who are our extreme opposites. Relatively, these are who we may consider as difficult people who we need to deal with in our daily lives.

A classmate, a co-worker,  a close friend, a co-member in an organization, a relative, or even your own child, parent or spouse can be that difficult person that you have to withstand many hours in a day.

Well, we may have our own techniques and strategies on how to survive being with these people. After all, we can't simply avoid them all the time. Besides, I'm sure that there must have been at least one moment, whether in the past or at present, when we have enjoyed that person's company.

How to Deal with Difficult People

I am not an expert in psychology or whatever field it is that teaches how to deal with difficult people. As I have said, we have our own techniques. So let me share mine. By the way, I purposely did not read any book or article about this topic so whatever I am writing here is solely based on my own personal experience.

I have mentioned in my "About" page that my husband and I "come from entirely different backgrounds". That alone is where most of our conflicts arise. Through the years, he has become one of the most difficult people that I have to deal with every single day of my life. Perhaps he feels the same way about me. So how was I able to survive 26 years of marriage with my sanity still intact?

1. Acceptance and Understanding

As long as you expect the other person to behave differently and question why he cannot be the person you want him to be, the difficulty of dealing with that person remains. So, let's change our mindset. Instead of expect, accept. Once you've learned to accept, try to do some background check, or you can do it the other way around. Look back to his roots and try to find out (in other words, justify) why he is the way he is. Acceptance and understanding go hand in hand. How can you accept if you do not understand the why?

In my case, my husband has 12 siblings, while I am an only child! While I grew up being the center of attention, well-loved and taken care of by both parents, he grew up rarely getting much attention. There was even favoritism among the siblings. 

As a consequence, I have always felt secure with what I have and it is easy for me to give love the way my parents gave me love. On the other hand, I noticed my husband's constant need for recognition. He does this by always talking (usually all about himself), unable to listen to what others have to say.

I used to be so annoyed with this. Perhaps I still am. But now, I have accepted and understood why he is like that. So I listen to him for as long as he wants to talk. For someone else, he can be perceived as talkative or just someone who always wants to brag. But for me who knows, accepts and understands him, he is someone who was deprived of attention and appreciation during his growing years when he needed it most.

2. Patience and Self-Control

It's a no-brainer that we badly need tons of these two virtues when dealing with difficult people. We should always remember that we can never control the other person. What we CAN control is our reaction to what the person does.

It is hard for me to understand why my husband spends a lot of time playing video games and scrolling through the news feed on social media at any time of the day. If it is just an outlet to relieve stress after a hard day's work, then that should be fine. But he actually doesn't work full time. He works at home, answering real estate sales inquiries online every once in a while and that's it. No follow up, no prospecting and almost no marketing, which he should be doing in the first place. No wonder a closed sale is hard to come by, except for those rare incidents wherein a client calls, almost ready to make a reservation. 

Equally hard for me is to resist the urge to say something that would point out this flaw, especially when he continues to do it despite the fact that the family is already experiencing a financial crisis.

But I usually choose to keep quiet because if I say even just one sentence about this, it could trigger a super defensive reaction on his part, followed by being in a bad mood for the rest of the day.

Admittedly, I'm not always successful, but gradually, I am getting better at it.

So, instead of showing my disgust and expressing my thoughts (which never worked well anyway), I am doing my best to exercise maximum patience and self-control. I cannot stop him from playing. I cannot stop him from scrolling through the news feed. I cannot force him to prioritize work. I have absolutely no control over what he wants and what he doesn't want to do.

What do I have control over? Only myself. I can ignore him. I can accept that that's just who he really is. I can work more to earn more and compensate for whatever he lacks in providing for the family. I can pray and hope that he stumbles upon better opportunities that will drive him to be a good provider.

3. The Battle is the Lord's

Communication is usually a major factor in maintaining a good relationship. But when we are dealing with a difficult person, more often than not, even that won't work. Why? Because most difficult people don't listen. They are usually defensive. It is hard for them to accept mistakes. They will argue and never let you win even if their arguments are out of this world.

Of course, we can always TRY to tell them how we feel and point out the things that irritate us. But even if we do it in the most calm and subtle way possible, we shouldn't be surprised if this will just be met with antagonism or resentment.

Hence, I am not including communication as part of the strategy. 

Should you give up, knowing that it's useless to change the person or make him understand your feelings? Or should you keep on fighting and arguing, hoping against hope that someday, he gets to realize that what you are telling him is for the good of everyone.

Actually, what I would urge you to do is to turn to God. This may sound like a cliché, but it is the most important tip that I can give you.

You are not alone in this battle. The Lord knows your conflicts. The Lord knows your sufferings. The Lord loves you and He also loves that person who you are having a hard time getting along with. When you have done your best to make your relationship work but the other person is not doing his part, then it is no longer your battle. Let it be God's.

Nothing is impossible with Him. He can change the heart of the worst criminal. He can also change that difficult person's heart.

When I married my husband, it didn't cross my mind that there would ever be a time when I would have problems with his drinking. I somehow knew that he was an occasional drinker, but sometime during our fifth year and onwards, long drinking sessions with friends and relatives became more frequent. Soon this became a major problem affecting his work, my work and our life in general.

I grew up in an environment where no one in my family drinks. My father did not drink and I did not know of any relative who was a drinker.

My husband grew up among relatives and neighbors whose number one pastime is drinking while having long chats. For them, joining the drinking session is "pakikisama". They have this notion that this Filipino trait requires one to join the group to prove his commitment to the friendship.

Again, there's this big difference between my and my husband's background. When he cites "pakikisama" as his reason for not avoiding the drinking sessions, I couldn't understand it. For me, it was his choice if he wanted to join or not.

This went on for many, many years and became the cause of many, many fights between me and my husband. When our son Theo was born after 11 years of marriage, I think I can remember he stopped drinking for a while. Eventually, he was at it again. I can also remember many nights when I had to bring Baby Theo out of the house to look for him and fetch him so that I could rest and wake up early the following day to work. (I was the sole breadwinner that time while he stayed at home to take care of Theo.)

I prayed to God to change him. When Theo was old enough to pray with me, we both prayed for him. Theo would even ask God to make his beer taste bitter so he would not want to drink it anymore.

A Miracle

I cannot remember exactly when he stopped drinking. All I know now is that he has not been drinking for about two or three years already. Theo is now 14. If he started praying when he was 3 years old, maybe 9 years of his young life, he prayed for his Papa to stop drinking. God answered our prayer. This hard drinker has stopped drinking for good. Indeed, nothing is impossible with God.

4. We are a work in progress.

As we pray for that difficult person in our life to change, let us also look at ourselves and see what else we need to change to become a better person. 

We have weaknesses. We still make mistakes. You may sometimes catch yourself being unkind or uncaring or impatient or self-centered. Don't despair. You are a work in progress. As long as you are living, you have the chance to redeem yourself. Stay humble so that you will remain open to admit your faults and correct them. Ask for God's help to give you strength and all the graces you need to get along with anyone, including those who are hard to deal with.

5. Believe, Hope, Trust

Never lose sight of hope even if the situation seems hopeless. Believe that there is a God who understands us and is always with us in our battles. Trust that He is so powerful and nothing is impossible with Him.

6. Let that difficult person be your mission.

Let your mission be to give that person more love, kindness, patience and understanding. Let him be your way to become more holy. Pray for him constantly and be that person's prayer warrior. 

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About the Author

Our Family | mamagoals.comJust call me MamaFel. I'm from the Philippines and I'm a work-at-home mom, homeschooling my 15-year-old son. I've been married to a faithful husband for 26 years now. This is my story.