No matter how completely compatible two people are in a relationship, there are bound to some personal habits of one which drives the other crazy. Popularly termed pet peeves, these seem to pose no major danger to the relationship unlike infidelity, alcoholism or financial irresponsibility. And yet when the irritations caused by pet peeves build up over time, they can burst forth with frightening force and seriously damage a relationship. So should you or not discuss your pet peeves with your partner?
No two people can be perfect clones of each other. Indeed what attracts two people to one another in the first place is their individuality – expressed as personal values, beliefs, intelligence and also habits. While partners find such personal quirks rather endearing at the beginning of a relationship, after they have been living together for some time, they do not seem so attractive any more. Thus while you may have found your girlfriend’s habit of bringing you breakfast in bed quite flattering in the beginning, eventually the crumbs in bed become more significant than the romantic gesture. Likewise you may not have thought much about your boyfriend’s habit of picking up a fresh glass each time he has to drink something but when you are left to do all the dirty dishes, it can pile on your irritation.
While none of your pet peeves by themselves endanger your relationship, the irritation they cause can over time build up into major frustration. Eventually, such personal habits come up in the middle of a heated argument when they are hurled like missiles "And another thing, you always . . ." the listener is left shocked and hurt that something apparently so inconsequential can be used to attack him/her. So instead of letting your relationship suffer from such accusations, it is far better to set aside some time to discuss your mutual pet peeves with a partner. But before you do that, make sure that you keep in mind certain things or you will end up having a fight and nothing else.
Set aside some time say every month when you can discuss such disconnects with your partner. Ensure that you are free from interruptions during your chat and that both you and your partner are not worrying about work or other issues.
When discussing your pet peeves, be as objective as possible. Keep in mind that it is a particular action of your partner that is bugging you and not the whole person. focusing on this difference will help you to bring up the specific habit without hurting your partner.
Always come to the discussion table with certain solutions in mind. If you are driven wild by the smell of cigar in the car, suggest keeping a can of air freshener in the glove compartment so that after your partner uses the car, he/she can spray away the lingering cigar fumes.
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Give and take a little. Maybe this time you can agree to watch yourself carefully and try to avoid the activity all together. Or perhaps another time you can become more flexible and allow for personal quirks to remain without the buildup of underlying resentment.
Finally use humor while discussing your pet peeves. This will help lighten the situation even as you both recognize that it is important to bring up these issues in order to prevent them from flaring up in a major way. Joke about each other’s individual quirks in a light-hearted manner or make a game of monitoring each other. Phrases like "mayday", "bingo" or "who let the dogs out?" can act as a cue word for a pet peeve and alert the partner in a humorous, non-threatening way so as to avoid a defensive response.
However discussing pet peeves can bring their own potential problems. While acts such as leaving the wet towel on the bathroom floor or leaving the toilet seat open does cause irritation to the other person, they can hardly be seen as the deal breakers in a relationship. You would have much more cause to worry if your partner ogled at other women behind your back or ‘borrowed’ your credit card and then ‘forgot’ to tell you. Compared to these acts, personal habits, no matter how annoying, are rather inconsequential and should be accepted as such. Indeed when you make a great deal of noise about your pet peeves, your partner is likely to feel that your focus has shifted from loving each other to finding flaws about each other.
In addition a discussion over pet peeves when not done right can take the form of venting anger and frustration which may not even be related to the habits concerned. When people vent, they tend to stay in the negative moment and bring up even more negative thoughts and triggers. Venting can become a habit just like the reaction to the pet peeve. Unfortunately during such times, venting can intensify the feelings of the pet peeve and cause even more stress, frustration and irritation.
So while periodic emptying of the pail of pet peeves is important in a relationship, it is extremely important that you discuss things in the right way. Also understand that your partner does not mean to irritate you when he/she closes the refrigerator door with a slight bang. It is good to remember your pet peeves belong to you, that they are your reactions and hence you own them. This awareness will prevent your personal irritation from festering into damaging anger or retaliation against another person.
Finally the secret to every successful relationship is love and acceptance. Knowing that you have your own set of annoying habits will help you to be more tolerant of your partner’s quirks. Find a healthy release like listening to your favorite music or going out for a walk instead of seeking to confront your partner. In the end remember all the nice things he/she does for you; looking at the wonderful person that he/she is as a whole will help you to understand your pet peeves for what they are – minor annoyances which can be overcome with tact and understanding.