How to handle pet peeves in a relationship


Here’s how to handle your partner’s annoying habits so that they don’t damage your relationship. Feeling frustrated, annoyed or irritated with your partner is a normal part of any relationship. However, if you’re feeling constantly short-tempered with your better half, you will need to look a little closer at what’s happening between the two of you.

Is it just a pet peeve?
Rachel Tillier, a Johannesburg-based clinical psychologist, says that “whatever it is that’s irritating you, try to distinguish whether this is just a pet peeve or a deeper issue. Ask yourself:
– Is it worth it?
– Is this really important?
– Can I live with this?
– Can I let this go?
If your pet peeve is a minor concern and doesn’t impact the overall happiness of your relationship, remind yourself that you are two different people and practice patience, tolerance and compromise. Not putting the lid on the toothpaste is not worth a fight or your happiness.”

Take a deeper look
Reflect if your pet peeve is really about your partner or if it’s more to do with your stress at work, control issues, perfectionism, anger issues or other external problems. “Take a deeper look at the source of your emotion and what is underlying your anger or irritation,” says Tillier. “It could be as simple as too little sleep.”

A chronic pet peeve
If your partner’s annoying habits occur often, then it may be an incompatibility between the two of you that may never be resolved. “It’s OK if there are personality traits in your partner that you simply don’t like. You may need to consider the long-term viability of your relationship and whether you will ever be happy with this person. Remember that behaviour is far easier to change than trying to change her personality.”

How to handle her pet peeves
If you feel that the relationship is worth saving and that you can live with her annoying habits, then invest in making the changes you want to see. “This will require patience and commitment from the both of you. It’s important to avoid being self-righteous and to recognise and take responsibility for your role in the relationship dynamic.” Tillier says that you should:
– Confront your partner when you’re calm rather than when you’re irritable, angry or upset.
– Don’t use the words “always”, “never”, “all the time”.
– Keep your complaints specific and in the present.
– Don’t degrade their character or break them down by over-generalising or name-calling, for example.
– Describe the specific behaviour that bothers you.
– Explain how it makes you feel or how it affects you.
– Suggest what you would prefer in your relationship – for example: “When you drink too much and start flirting with other guys, I feel hurt and insecure and then I get upset. Could you try and drink less at parties so our relationship becomes stronger?”

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