In a relationship, most couples will experience moments throughout the day when they roll their eyes at their partner. Fortunately, if you are committed to each other, things are more positive than negative for the most part. After all, why be together if you can’t stand someone?
In my work as a psychology professor and crisis counselor, I’ve noticed that many of us have a tendency to identify the ways in which someone else can be frustrating, but often, we miss the opportunity to evaluate our own behavior. Surely, none of us are perfect, right?
If, however, you are experiencing friction with your partner, it might be worth taking some time to consider the many, many ways in which you might actually be pretty annoying!
Not making eye contact
In this fast-paced world, it can feel like we never really connect with the people around us. For that reason, it’s extra important to make an effort to show our partners that we are paying attention to them. While you can throw all your effort into making grand gestures to show your affection, one of the easiest ways to truly connect is to make eye contact when our significant other is speaking to us. It’s incredibly annoying to be sharing some detail about our day while someone is looking at anything but us!
Pro tip: If you find it hard to slow down at random times throughout the day, make a daily date at a specific time when you can just focus on listening to each other.
Putting yourself down
It can be hard to accept compliments when people say something nice about us. That awkwardness is relatively normal — even though we should work on saying thank you! It’s pretty annoying, however, if someone spends much of their day pointing out their own flaws. It’s unattractive for a variety of reasons and can be exhausting for your partner since they will feel obligated to make you feel validated and worthy.
Pro tip: Every time you feel like being critical of yourself, find something positive to say instead (even if it’s just in your mind!). If this type of behavior becomes a real problem, however, consider seeing a therapist to work through any self-esteem issues.
Rehashing the past
We’ve all done it. During an argument, we might pull some relic from ancient history to hurl at our partner. It’s not the healthiest thing to do, and most of us aren’t proud of it, but it happens to most of us from time to time. It’s entirely annoying, however, if you can’t seem to let go of old fights, exes, and other aspects of the past. It can make it really difficult to focus on the present (and your future).
Pro tip: Challenge yourself to be in the here and now as much as possible. You will probably be amazed by how much more you enjoy your time with your partner — and life in general!
Picking apart their choices
This can be really, really difficult, but no one wants to feel like they are being picked apart. As adults, we’ve earned the right to live our lives on our own terms. If your partner chooses to supersize their meal or colors their hair with bright purple dye, remember that it’s their life. You can and should discuss important decisions that will impact you, of course, but don’t nag them about the little things. That’s really annoying!
Pro tip: If you feel tempted to object to something they’ve done, ask yourself if this moment will really be important two years down the road. If not, then consider letting it go.
Making yourself the priority
In a relationship, there needs to be a lot of compromise. You need to give as much to your partner as you take in order to make things fair. If your conversations and outings revolve around your work, family, and interests but rarely involve theirs, you need to find a better balance. It’s tempting, of course, to push for the movie that you want to see or talk mostly about how hard your job is, but remember that you alone are not the center of the universe.
Pro tip: Start your discussions by focusing on your partner for a while. Let them vent and share and, when they are done, do the same. Continue this way until things feel more equal.
Checking your phone
Along with a lack of eye contact, checking your phone and devices all the time can be supremely annoying (especially if you’re out to dinner!). By doing this, you send the message that your virtual relationships and interests are more important than spending time with your partner. Make a conscious effort to prioritize your attention, especially if your significant other has complained or seems bored.
Pro tip: Once a week, be unplugged from technology for an entire evening. Grab a board game or spend the night giggling and chatting like you used to when you first met.
There are few things more annoying and infuriating than dealing with someone who cannot make a decision. Where are we going to dinner? I don’t know, you pick! What color do you want to paint our bedroom? I don’t know, you’re better at that stuff! What movie do you want to see? I don’t really care, you choose! Ugh! Aside from dictators, no one wants to feel like they are in control of everything, so please speak up and have an opinion.
Pro tip: Identify why you are reluctant to make decisions (are you afraid of making a mistake, for example?) and work on that. Also, push yourself to try something on a whim. It will feel exhilarating!
Taking food from their plate
Some couples really like sharing meals, and if that works for you, that’s great! Most people, however, prefer to have their own food, and if their partner wants some, are more than willing to share after being asked! Grabbing a few fries or a bite of a burger without clearing it with your mate can be really annoying — especially if you chose to go with a salad instead of ordering what you really wanted.
Pro tip: Don’t skimp on what you want to eat and then pick from someone else’s plate. If you absolutely must sample from their meal, ask permission first!
Correcting and contradicting them
We all like to think we are pretty smart, especially when we are relaying information or telling a story. It can feel like such an insult to the ego, therefore, to suddenly be interrupted by our partner, only to be corrected or contradicted. There will be times, of course, when speaking up is important (such as reminding them of a food allergy when they order a dish at a new restaurant), but for the most part, it’s annoying to nitpick just to prove a point.
Pro tip: Let your partner enjoy sharing an interesting tidbit without feeling like they are about to get fact checked. If you absolutely must correct them, send a link by email later and let them review the information on their own time without having to deal with your “I told you so” face!
Not asking if they need a drink
If you get up to get yourself a drink or a snack, you should always ask your significant other if they need or want something. Not only is it common courtesy, but it also lets them know that you care about them. It’s so annoying to have your partner plop down next to you on the couch with arms full of goodies for themselves if they never even asked if you wanted anything.
Pro tip: Always think of your partner as an extension of yourself and assume that if you are hungry or thirsty, they are too. It’s better to err on the side of caution. Besides, who drinks enough water these days anyway?
Admit when you are annoying
Don’t go into denial if your partner accuses you of being annoying. It’s possible that the things you are doing wouldn’t bother you, but if it bothers them, you should care.
Instead of being defensive, take a moment to consider your significant other’s perspective, validate their feelings, and then do your best to work on the offensive behavior(s). Not only will it mean a lot to them, but it can greatly improve your relationship moving forward.