our everyday life

How to Deal When a Loved One Won't Change Their Bad Habits

by Anna Green

While it can be frustrating when loved ones have bad habits they won’t change, it is often difficult to get others to change their behaviors if they are not motivated to do so. While it may be possible to persuade a loved one to change, being pushy may lead to arguments or resentment. That said, with good communication and coping skills, it is possible to deal with a loved one’s bad habits.

Explain How the Behaviors Affect You

Sometimes, loved ones cannot see how their bad habits are affecting you. If you have not already done so, have a candid but polite conversation and explain how the habits affect your life, advises Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., associate editor of PsychCentral. Avoid blaming your loved one or trying to induce guilt. Instead, focus on your feelings and needs. For example, instead of saying “Your smoking is annoying” say something like “I feel uncomfortable when you smoke in the house.” This may lead to a less defensive response.

Change Your Thought Patterns

If your love one is not receptive to change, even after understanding how the bad habits affect you, you may be forced to accept these habits if you want to maintain the relationship. One way to accept these habits is to modify your own thought patterns. Often, changing the way you think about your loved one’s bad habit can change the way you feel about it. For example, thinking “my husband is a slob for leaving his dirty clothes on the floor” can lead to anger. On the other hand, thinking “my husband grew up in a family where cleanliness wasn’t a priority and I don’t mind cleaning up sometimes” might lead to feelings that, if not positive, are at least neutral.

Set Appropriate Boundaries

If you cannot tolerate your love one’s negative behaviors, it may be necessary to set boundaries and step away from problematic habits. For instance, if you have a loved one who has a bad habit of cursing or using offensive language, excusing yourself from the room when you hear speech that offends you can help you avoid unnecessary conflicts and discomfort. Similarly, if a loved one has a bad drinking habit, avoiding being around that person in settings where alcohol is present can help you avoid—and thus cope—with the bad habit.

Coping Skills

Working on your own coping skills can help you deal with a love one’s bad habits without causing an argument. If your loved one’s bad habits make you feel angry or hurt, practicing skills such as breathing deeply from your diaphragm, meditating, praying or using other techniques that relax you can help you handle to stress without responding in overly emotional ways.

About the Author

Anna Green has been published in the "Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision" and has been featured regularly in "Counseling News and Notes," Keys Weekly newspapers, "Travel Host Magazine" and "Travel South." After earning degrees in political science and English, she attended law school, then earned her master's of science in mental health counseling. She is the founder of a nonprofit mental health group and personal coaching service.

Photo Credits

  • Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images