How to deal with your partner's annoying habits

By: Christa Connell

© Productions Author: Canadian Living Credits: © Productions


How to deal with your partner's annoying habits

By: Christa Connell
When a couple moves in together for the first time, the dynamics of their relationship can change very quickly. There are a lot of things about a person -- including their bad habits -- that you may not have previously noticed.

These habits
can range from minor offenses to more grating ones that really make you grit your teeth. So should you sweep your annoyances under the rug or should you say something?

We asked Yukimi Henry, a Toronto-based psychotherapist, to share her insights on how to tackle living with the more frustrating aspects of your partner's personality.

1. Find out if their habits are part of their personality
First off, establish if the habit that has you pulling your hair out is simply a repeated behaviour or if it has greater meaning. "There's a difference between a habit that is a routine and a behaviour that's reflective of a deeper value system or that reflects something about their personality," explains Henry.

It's the difference between your partner leaving dirty towels on the floor (which is a routine, albeit annoying, habit) and his need to telephone his mother every day. The second behaviour is more reflective of personality than the first, which is merely a routine habit that can ideally be rectified, she explains.

2. Pick your battles
So how do you choose which habits are worth tackling? The choice is less about the actual behaviour (and how annoying it is to you) and more about what it is you are willing to let go, says Henry. For example, one person may find it terribly annoying when socks are left on the floor, while another person may not be bothered by it.

"Ask yourself why you find this behaviour difficult and whether you can learn to accommodate it," Henry advises. After all, you will have to learn to live with some issues, as it's not realistic to expect your partner to drop every habit that you find frustrating.

Page 1 of 2 -- Discover three more ways to cope with your partner's annoying habits on page 2
3. Lose the idea of "fairness"
Try not to get preoccupied with the idea of "fairness" when it comes to changing bad habits. Henry points out that in her practice couples frequently bring up the notion of fairness. "We look at it almost as a tit for tat kind of situation and we lose sight of the larger picture," she says.

For example, if there are household tasks that your spouse has made a habit of avoiding and the workload has become one-sided, rather than just saying "That's not fair," try looking at it from a broader perspective, Henry advises. Figure out how to divvy things up so that no one feels taken advantage of and everyone is sharing the workload.

4. Be diplomatic
It's important to be reasonable when pointing out to your partner that something about his or her behaviour drives you crazy. "Isolating what it is that's bothering you about a particular behaviour or about somebody's habits is really important because then it's easier for them to understand why it bothers you," says Henry. "If you can put it in the context of how a particular behaviour affects you, you're much more likely to get an empathetic response from your partner."

For example, try explaining that coming home to a sink full of filthy dishes after a long day at work makes you feel even more stressed out rather than just blurting out "You're such a pig." If your partner understands why a certain habit upsets or frustrates you (rather than just feeling attacked) he is more likely to want to try and change.

5. Recognize your own annoying habits
Let's face it: We all have our own bad habits. Once you have tackled your spouse's frustrating habits, it's time to think about your own.

"Recognize your own bad habits. Be honest when a partner says, ‘This drives me crazy,'" says Henry. Ask yourself how the behaviour might be perceived as annoying, or if there is any truth behind what your partner is saying. It's also important to acknowledge when your partner accommodates habits of yours that might be considered off-putting. "Take the time to say thanks. Sometimes that's all it takes to make an annoying habit bearable."

As with most issues that crop up in relationships, communication is the key to working toward a compromise. The more you and your partner can talk about the things that cause tension in your relationship, the easier it will be to move past any issues that arise.

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How to deal with your partner's annoying habits