Some women are on a mission to change their mate right after the honeymoon because of his annoying habits or conflicting personalities. Couples who have lived together before exchanging the vows may still fall into this trap because expectations change. Women tend to believe naively that their partner will turn around after they get married.

In order to coax desirable change in their spouse, some wives choose the low road of nagging and complaining. Others are more subtle. They leave pamphlets or books around hoping their partner will get the hint. Experts say don’t take either route. Instead, if you have a concern, take ownership of your feelings and voice them honestly and respectfully. Communicate with your partner why it’s a concern for you, specifically what needs to be changed and what his effort will mean to you. On top of that offer help and show genuine appreciation.

Just because you voiced your concern clearly and empathetically, don’t expect automatic and immediate results. Habits have deep roots and thus are hard to get rid of. You need to also ask yourself why you want your spouse to change. Is it simply to please yourself or make him more like you? Would this change make things easier for you while causing your spouse to feel imprisoned?

Ultimately, nobody can change another person. The only person you can change is yourself. You can learn to adjust your reactions to annoying behaviors such as his leaving wet towels on the floor or chatting on the phone while talking to you. What I’ve learned over the years is that whoever cares more about something will end up contributing the most to make it happen. For example, a clean house is more important to me than to Joe and therefore I am the one who’s been keeping it in order for the last 25 years. When you feel ignored, calmly say something like, “I’ll talk to you when you have the time for me”, most likely he’ll put the phone down.

However, if you are faced with a spouse who has serious behavioral issues such as gambling, drinking, emotionally or physically abusive, they should be dealt with it promptly. In case your partner refuses to change or seek marriage counseling, you’ll have to ask yourself some tough questions and decide if this can be a deal breaker. If any of these serious problems are manifested before marriage, you should think long and hard whether to walk away or continue the relationship.

Last week Joe asked for the fifth time what we were doing for the weekend. Normally it’d be okay, but I was stressed that day and his inquiry didn’t sit well with me. So I took a deep breath and wrote him an email indicating we had discussed it several times and it frustrated me that the communication didn’t seem to get through. I asked him if it would help in the future if I sent him a note about what we decided. He replied, “An email reminder would be nice.” I know there is no guarantee that Joe will read the email and remember the details, but my goal is to make our life together smoother and happier.

I think I can go one step further. I am going to ask Joe to name one thing I’ve been doing that annoys him the most. I’ll make a conscious effort to change it. If you believe he should follow suit because I am going out of my way to please him, you’re not getting the point.