The Problem With Annoyance in Relationships


Relationships often begin with lots of laughter, smiles, goofing around, and a general sense of lightheartedness. People don't call it the "honeymoon phase" for no reason. We can easily overlook the fact that our partner slurps when (s)he eats soup, or that they always leave the kitchen cabinet open after grabbing a water glass. But as we become more comfortable with our partner the tolerance we once had during the early stages of the relationship begin to wear thin.

On your worst day, the things we once found endearing/cute/charming now irritate you. We get it, some days are worse than others and our emotions can vary from one end of the spectrum to the other. However, when it comes to feelings of "annoyance" we must learn to tread lightly. In truth, annoyance can be absolutely destructive to a relationship. This is because the underlying emotion wrapped up with annoyance is typically judgement. And the last person we should be judging is our significant other.

Psychology Today's article on the subject recommends 5 Things to Do When You Are So Annoyed with Your Partner:

1. Understand how feeling annoyed hurts your relationship.

Whenever you feel annoyed, even if you keep it to yourself, you are making a judgment about the other person. Judging is an alluring path because it makes you feel self-righteous and “better than” someone. But this lasts for only for a moment, after which you’re likely to feel drained, deflated, and distant from your partner. When judgment becomes a habit, it leads to contempt, which can destroy your partnership. To avoid this trap, when you feel exasperation begin to rise, remember that the long-term consequence of passing judgment is that it poisons your relationship by reducing your connection with your beloved. Instead, vow to take a nonjudgmental stance with your partner, such as: “That is my partner’s way and it’s not my place to question it." “My partner’s focus is on other issues, and we are both doing the best we can at this time.” “Live and let live.”

2. Take responsibility for the part you play in the dynamic.

Your feelings are not the other person’s fault. He or she is being annoying? That’s your personal judgment and your subjective perspective, but not necessarily absolute reality. What you judge as annoying may be considered charming or inconsequential in other couples—or cultures. And what you judge as annoying your friends may consider cute or charming. Own your feelings and see them as a reflection of your sensitivities. In other words, you are not the victim of your partner’s quirks; you’re the victim of your own. Blaming your partner for your misery, discomfort, or irritation is unfair and leads to unnecessary suffering for you both.

3. Instead of trying to improve your partner, focus on improving yourself.

It’s tempting to try to mold your partner to make them less annoying. You may even think, “Wouldn’t he benefit from my critiques and coaching?" "Doesn’t she want to behave (or look, or sound, or feel) better?" "I need him to be better!” But try turning this around: How would you feel about your partner thinking you should be "better"? How would you feel if your partner believed you’d benefit from his or her critiques and coaching? How would you respond to his or her evaluation? Most people would feel uncomfortable, infuriated, embarrassed, or ashamed. Is this the emotional landscape you’re trying to cultivate? Instead, be the change you want to see. And support each other by making a deal like this: “I’ll focus on my own self-improvement and personal growth while you focus on yours, and we won’t give suggestions unless invited to.”

4. Be aware that when you express annoyance, you’re being annoying.

“Do you have to talk so loudly at parties?” “Why can’t you chew with your mouth closed?” “You’re wearing that?” “You’re so bad at managing money.” “I hate how stubborn you are!” “Do you have to disagree with everything I say?” “You never listen to me!” When you nag, it’s annoying. This only adds to your problems by reinforcing the combative aspect of your relationship. Expressing your judgment and annoyance is akin to declaring war.

5. Remember: You are allies, not enemies.

After all, isn’t your alliance the foundation of your relationship? You’re on the same side, working for the same team, right? Keep this goal in sight at every turn. Make it a vow and renew it often. Make “we are allies” your new mantra.

These approaches can help you break the vicious cycle of chronic annoyance, and start to repair the damage done by more serious problems, such as poor communication, emotional withdrawal, addiction, control, or abusive tendencies, any or all of which may require professional intervention as well. But whatever is paining you, and whatever you’re working toward, these solutions can help you significantly improve your own sense of well-being in your relationship.

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