Living with annoying habits
August 3, 2021 2:09 PM   Subscribe

How do you deal with your spouse or partner’s annoying habits? Not serious character flaws, but minor and ultimately harmless habits like bad grammar, verbal tics, being messy, cracking knuckles, noisy eating, etc. Is it better to try to ignore them at the risk of letting them drive you mad and becoming resentful? Or is it better to try to correct them and become possibly just as annoying with constantly nagging?
posted by roaring beast to Human Relations (25 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I let myself be annoyed by them, privately, inside my head. Then I remind myself that I probably have just as many annoying habits and my nagging at them won't solve anything. I also remind myself that in some areas my own standards are unfairly high because nothing will ever be as satisfying/correct as the Way I Do It.

I also make an effort to redirect my thoughts to things I enjoy about my partner that aren't related to the fact that he never puts towels back properly, can't make a sandwich without leaving a ton of crumbs, etc. If it's something that is legitimately a problem and can be fixed, like being messy, I ask him to not do X or try to do Y, without being accusatory or emotive. Sometimes it works.

It's totally normal to have some things that you don't like about someone you might be around 24/7, nobody's perfect, the key is trying to stop things from snowballing.
posted by fight or flight at 2:17 PM on August 3, 2021 [18 favorites]

I have a partner with some annoying habits. I am a person with some annoying habits. We do not live together. We are both significantly better at dealing with each other's annoying habits if our stress levels are lower. Accordingly, we're decent at being like "Hey I know you sneeze and blow your nose loudly through the movie and I don't mind most of the time, but right now I'm feeling a little crispy and would you mind trying to be quieter please?" if we notice that we're having outsized reactions to fairly normal things.

Now, this is a situation where there isn't a right/wrong aspect to any of it. If you're dealing with something where there's a more normative situation (grammar, messiness, things that might affect other people besides the two of you) it's worth having a conversation about how you manage these things as a couple. Do they want corrections on their grammar? If so, help them out (lovingly) if not, work on your own reactions.

Develop a joint approach to messiness that works more or less for both of you. If, after you've agreed on something that will work, your partner isn't keeping up their end of the bargain, that's a relationship issue, not just a "Do I nag or do I sulk?" situation. It's acceptable, in my world, to tell your partner they need to handle their own methods for doing the things they said they'd do with "You need to just remind me if you don't like socks all over the floor" being not an option.

And sometimes there are things you just 100% need to let go. My partner will probably never be a person who will remember to put the seat down if he wakes up to pee in the middle of the night. He's just not awake enough to be conscious and it's not going to happen. I can mention it if for some reason that makes me feel better about the whole deal but I also have to realize what is in the realm of the possible and not expect my partner to magically become someone else and I also hope they feel the same way about me.
posted by jessamyn at 2:19 PM on August 3, 2021 [15 favorites]

100% what the previous posters have said. Some issues are worth discussing, some simply aren't. When I start to get irritated the first thing I do is run through a mental inventory of all of my own behaviors.

My partner probably thinks I'm joking when I say "Sometimes, I don't know why you put up with me" but I'm really not. :-D
posted by FallibleHuman at 2:21 PM on August 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

I once dated a man who pronounced the word, "spayed," "spayded." (This is just not* attractive to me) And so on. His grammar and articulation was seriously annoying, but any time it happened, I could always let it go, because I adored other areas of the person. (also, just post-high school, and not necessarily serious)

It really is a lot of holistic acceptance. Someone recently mentioned the term, "fixer upper," (yikes), works in progress is a little more tasteful and it's always going to be anyone. It may be a grass/greener anti-philosophy.

The grass is not greener, please keep working on the garden.
posted by firstdaffodils at 2:22 PM on August 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

my spouse and i are pretty weird, but we tend to turn this stuff into a source of humor.

an example is that my spouse has the habit of eating all of the cookies in a box except for one, which he will let sit there indefinitely. my response is to take a sharpie and write something silly on the box for him to later find. he also leaves a trail of soda cans wherever he goes, so we have a series of jokes about that.

i always throw my shirts into the hamper turned inside-out, so he kids me about how EVERY SINGLE ONE of my shirts comes out of the dryer inside-out. i also have the bad habit of taking my socks off as soon as i get home from work and leaving them in an ever-growing pile, so we make a game of watching the socks collect and then hurling them onto what we call the "sock landing" on the second floor of our house.

a favorite saying we have is "pobody's nerfect!", which he mispronounces on purpose to make me laugh.

we have a good time.
posted by hollisimo at 2:23 PM on August 3, 2021 [32 favorites]

I've learned a lot about my SO by asking them about the habits I find annoying in a non-judgemental manner (at least, as much as possible), so if it's something you would like to address with them I feel like communicating humbly about our respective quirks can actually be a bonding experience that helps us humanize each other more. (For example, like with the habit of leaving the last cookie mentioned above, they might have talked about a childhood experience where they were scolded for being greedy because they took the last cookie even when someone else wanted one.) You never know unless you ask. Maybe this can pivot towards a discussion about why I find it annoying and if they'd be willing to adjust their behavior, or maybe I decide that I can live with this quirk now that I know the story behind it. I wouldn't say there's a magic formula here other than having mutual respect and trust.

When resentment about habits builds I feel like there's a tendency to project ourselves onto our partners and since it's something we don't understand the why of why they're doing a thing, we resent them for not living up to this ideal we've constructed in our heads, which is very unfair to them; not only are you judging them by standards they may not be judging themselves by, you're doing so without even informing them you're doing so.

Don't be afraid to be vulnerable with each other; presumably, if you're in a healthy relationship, there is mutual trust, and this sort of communication is vital towards deepening that trust IME.
posted by Aleyn at 2:48 PM on August 3, 2021 [9 favorites]

This is a covid question if I ever saw one.. My take is it's probably not worth mentioning them if they're personal tics, but if they're more bad habits that do genuinely affect you, it's maybe worth discussing them, so long as you're prepared to find out what yours are. Be careful to frame it as such, unless you are the sort of couple that would find an Airing Of Grievances somehow bracingly useful.

First though - be kind. Be kind to your partner, who likely does not realise what they're doing to annoy you, but most of all be kind to yourself. A lot of us have been in very close quarters for a long time, and most of us aren't the sort of even keeled personality that would manage a mission to Mars without getting half way and lunging at our beloved crew mates for the weird way they eat or an absent minded whistle or something.

A good example of how weird things have been is by the end of last year I had to switch to wooden cutlery as my own eating sounds had started to drive me up the wall.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 2:50 PM on August 3, 2021 [18 favorites]

I imagine them dying suddenly and then begging the universe for one more day and I’ll never complain about X again. Or desperately missing X thing they used to do. Gets rid of it pretty quick.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:36 PM on August 3, 2021 [14 favorites]

Pick your battles. Choose the 1-2 things that bother you the most and say, "I love you, but I also want to murder you when you do X" -- and then let the rest go. Love will turn them into sweet foibles ... maybe.

Be prepared for them to tell you what pisses them off - in fact, invite it in the spirit of honesty and reciprocity, and not annoying each other any more than necessary.
posted by jb at 3:53 PM on August 3, 2021

(I don't mean "want to [literally] murder you" of course; it's just a running joke with my SO and me that wanting to murder your partner is normal, and true love is when you refrain from doing so. We've been together for 23 years, so I think it's working.)
posted by jb at 3:55 PM on August 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Person who is annoyed: "OMG WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!"

Person who is annoying: "IT WASN'T ME!" / "LEAVE ME ALONE!"

Imagine these shouted at volumes varying based on distance from one another in the house and level of wounded outrage on both sides.

Basically, we just try to have a sense of humor about it. In the grand scheme of things, is it really so terrible to take your bra off under your shirt after work and throw it on the sofa? I mean really???

(It wasn't me!)
posted by invincible summer at 4:32 PM on August 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

The "spayded" guy... you never even mentioned it to give them a chance to correct it?!

If I were a reelator, I'd go nucular, supposably.
posted by at at 5:38 PM on August 3, 2021 [12 favorites]

Short of living in a separate dwelling (not that there is anything wrong with that), you can also make a point of having your own room where you can disappear to if you need some alone time away from your partner's annoying habits.

Other than that, like some others mentioned, my partner and I use humor. I find it's more bearable to deal with some annoying ticks if I get to gently make fun of them.
posted by coffeecat at 5:39 PM on August 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Mrs. True has hardcore Misophonia. It became so much better for us when I learned that. Different people are bothered by different things, and knowing that mouth noises bother her SO SO MUCH doesn't make me feel like like she's nagging or correcting me, it just means if I'm going to go eat some chips maybe not sit right down right next to her? And maybe I should help get her away from other people who are licking their fingers before she straight up murders them? (ran this by her and she said "you running interference is very helpful"). If it's bothering you and eating away at you, say something.
posted by true at 5:55 PM on August 3, 2021 [11 favorites]

Every few months I scream into the universe, "Why are there so many f-ing socks everywhere!!!" and then I move on.
posted by Toddles at 8:46 PM on August 3, 2021 [5 favorites]

When I find myself being particularly annoyed it's usually a sign that I'm more stressed than usual (thanks jessamyn for the description "crispy"! ) so that helps me to get perspective. The feeling is more about being tired and stressed, and not really because my husband's annoying habit. When I find myself mentally rehearsing the scathing things I'd like to say, or planning to put up angry notices, I imagine what I'd feel like if he did that to me about the MANY annoying things I know I do.
Of course, the reason I know about those things is because he tells me. It is important to find moments to say "it really bugs me when you.."
My husband is pretty good at finding kind and humorous ways to phrase that, but honestly, sometimes it just pops out, and the other person gets defensive, and we have a little bit of pacing around one another with our hackles raised.
But we don't let the annoyance brew into resentment. Pretty soon both of us will apologize and move on.
I find the most upsetting thing is if I realize he's been annoyed with something for ages and never mentioned it. And I'm sure he feels the same way.
posted by Zumbador at 9:27 PM on August 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Empathy is the key. You have things you hate about them, they have things they hate about you. It has always been so, it always will be.

My wife pronounces COVID as COVIC. No idea why, except that her dad always called the monthly magazine with the yellow cover National Geograph, so there’s some sort of family thing going on there. I can’t change either of them, and I’m not often one to long after things I can’t have, so I let it fade into the background.
posted by lhauser at 10:37 PM on August 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

How do you deal with your spouse or partner’s annoying habits?

Price of admission.
posted by flabdablet at 10:38 PM on August 3, 2021 [7 favorites]

It depends very much what the habits are, but some habits can be made less annoying by manipulating the environment in some way. For example: I am a really hardcore fidgeter, so to avoid annoying everyone who has to share space with me I have built up a collection of silent fidget toys. Some of them live on my desk & one often lives in my pocket.
posted by cantthinkofagoodname at 1:05 AM on August 4, 2021

This came up early in my marriage because my husband (shockingly!) does annoying things, mostly around not putting things away / cleaning up by making things messier first.

At some point he asked if I expected him to change it and I said, "No, not really, I am just going to complain or make fun of you for the rest of our life. That's the price of not changing, but I know I love you and don't really expect it to change."

I will say, sometimes — when stressed or depressed — I do totally lose my shit about how messy our apartment is here in Covid-times and go storming about cleaning things up. He usually helps then and I appreciate it. Some people would find living with all my feels annoying of course and would rather I repress but he chose what he chose.
posted by dame at 3:25 AM on August 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

Don't get to a point of rage before gently talking about it but

A morbid thing I do is remember there may be a time in my life where his socks may no longer be in the way on the floor, the ice cubes may very well be perpetually stocked by me alone, and he may be gone forever. Life is too short to get upset about the little things in our face at home.
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:19 AM on August 4, 2021 [10 favorites]

Unless you are prepared to have a laundry list of the annoying things you do thrown back at you, I think it's best to just learn to just accept people as people, flaws and all.

Now, if the apparent habit is constantly being noticed by others and has the result of them avoiding you two, then I think it might be time to address it.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:58 AM on August 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Post-therapy me loves the whole person, even the things I don't like. It was a conscious shift and commitment to myself. I was willing to grit my teeth, but honestly I don't even need to do that after a little practice. My new dude does one thing that I deeply dislike, but it's what he needs to get through the day, and if I love him, I have to love that too.

Pre-therapy me just got annoyed and broke up with people. Pre-therapy me was VERY unhappy.
posted by wellred at 6:18 AM on August 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

So my partner blows their nose really loudly. Like a trumpet. We used to live by the ocean and we would often hear the chattering humpback whales. It became a joke that my partner's chatting with the whales (who are also loud). So whenever they blow their nose now, I go looking for whales. "Are there whales around?"/ "There must be some special forest whales around here." And we laugh.
posted by mkdirusername at 8:05 AM on August 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

My partner sometimes leaves "food goop" in the sink. At first it drove me bonkers — germs! clogs! — and I expressed my concern about the ick and the pipes. But after a few attempts the goop was back. But then I just decided if it bugs me so much, I can just remove it next time I am at the sink since I am the one who does the dishes most often. We joke about the food goop now. Foood gooop alert! But I love her to bits and I have many annoying habits as well. For example: I am sure she silently notes my extreme need for a spotless kitchen is a bit obsessive.
posted by Lescha at 8:20 AM on August 5, 2021

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