We all get annoyed with our partner from time to time. It’s inevitable. Sometimes it’s the little day-to-day things – their habits, quirks, or moments of forgetfulness. The laundry that they’ve tossed on the floor, not filling up the car with gas despite there being only a smidge left, leaving the carton of milk out on the counter. Or maybe it’s the repetitive habits like cracking knuckles, smacking gum, or clicking of a pen when they’re making the grocery list or working on paying the bills.
Then there are the bigger things that usually don’t happen all that often, but that really annoy us to the point of questioning our partner’s intentions. Things like double-scheduling an event on a day they knew we had other plans, or not doing a task we specifically asked them to do. We wonder how they could be so inconsiderate, instead of seeing it as an innocent mistake.
Either way, we get annoyed. But what we do with that annoyed feeling, how we deal with it, makes all the difference in the impact on your relationship in the long term. Annoyance can go unaddressed and turn into frustration and resentment, or you can tackle it head on and resolve it before those insidious emotions take root.
It’s hard to talk about this kind of stuff. No one wants to be the person constantly voicing annoyance or confronting their partner about being inconsiderate; however, there are ways to do so that can actually help build trust, communication, and even help establish expectations for the future.
Here is a game plan for the next time you’re annoyed with your spouse.
- Take a step back.
Reflect on the situation and try to pinpoint exactly why you are annoyed.
- Are there external factors at play? Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, or maybe you’re stressed about a work deadline or a never-ending to-do list. Or perhaps you are already feeling all the things that day, and this seemingly small thing just tipped you over the edge. Identify whether the thing that annoyed you is actually a culmination of other external factors you’re dealing with. Also consider whether your spouse is faced with their own external factors beyond their control. Put yourself in their shoes and try to gain more understanding of the full situation.
- Is it related to your partner’s personality or your own personal preference? Consider if it’s really something you have the power to change. Personality quirks are not usually on that list, but your preferences might be.
- Was there an unmet or uncommunicated expectation? Did your spouse know that this would annoy you? Were they aware of what you did or didn’t want?
- Unfortunately, it’s possible that there was direct disregard for your previously expressed thoughts/feelings, in which case, it’s valid to feel annoyed, frustrated, or angry. We all make mistakes. You can still grow from this!
- Refocus and act.
Once you’ve figured out what is driving your feelings of annoyance, it’s time to refocus on the actual issue and take action.
- If you got annoyed because of something that was more on you than on your partner, then it’s best to acknowledge the external factor and consider how you can mitigate its negative impact. If it’s out of your control, then what things can you control? Perhaps it’s setting aside time to decompress after work or setting a goal to get more sleep. Talk to your partner about it! They’ll gain a better understanding of where you’re coming from and be able to offer more support in the future.
- If the source of your annoyance was a quirk of your partner’s behavior or personality, embrace a mentality of acceptance, and remember – this trait was likely something that initially charmed you. Remembering this might help temper your annoyance.
- If you were annoyed with your spouse because they failed to meet an expectation, it’s no time for blame, but rather a conversation. Be assertive and articulate in saying what annoyed you and why, and actively listen to what they have to say. It’s possible they had no idea that action would annoy you, so this is a great opportunity to clarify and adjust expectations and learn about each other.
- If you discover it’s a case where your spouse knowingly did something that would annoy you and you’ve previously been clear about your thoughts/feelings, then it’s time for a discussion. Ask for time to talk and be clear about your needs and feelings, as well as using active listening with each other during the discussion. This conversation should help foster a more respectful understanding of each other.
We can’t avoid getting annoyed with our partner from time to time. The actual trigger for that annoyance might vary in each situation, so taking time to accurately identify it is crucial in helping you move forward in the most positive and productive way. This game plan will not only help you in your relationship with your partner, but may also be valuable in your other relationships as well. The most important takeaway is to pull back and take a broader look at the situation, focus on what is within your control, and utilize communication skills to gain a better understanding of each other.