The One Thing You Should Never Do When Your Partner Is Annoying You

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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No matter how much you love your partner, there are probably one or two—okay, maybe four or five—little things they do that drive you up the wall. Perhaps your patience wears thinner with every loud, obnoxious slurp of their seltzer. Or maybe you want to chuck their precious phone across the room every night after dinner, when they can’t seem to stop scrolling long enough to pay attention to anything you say.

If a certain habit really gets under your skin, it’s ideal to bring it up to your partner sooner rather than later—before resentment builds up and you instinctively snap at them, Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a New York City–based clinical psychologist who regularly works with couples, tells SELF. That said, Dr. Romanoff adds, there’s one common mistake a lot of people make when attempting to address or “fix” their significant other’s irritating behaviors.

“Don’t criticize someone without an actionable request,” she says. For example, she recommends avoiding critiques like, “You always forget to tell me about your plans until the last second” or “It’s so annoying that you don’t clean up after yourself and I’m stuck washing your dirty dishes.” Complaints like this will not only make your partner feel attacked (and therefore defensive), but they’re also not very productive, since you’re not offering a constructive way for them to resolve the issue.

So, instead of solely focusing on what they’re doing wrong (and how they’re pissing you off), “explain the impact it has on you and make a request for what you’d like them to do instead,” Dr. Romanoff suggests. With the scenarios above, for example, she recommends more constructive feedback like, “It bothers me when you don’t tell me about your plans until the last minute. In the future, could you give me a heads-up, so that I don’t stay up all night wondering where you are?” Or, “I’ve noticed the dishes pile up in the sink. How about we clean them together right after we eat, so they don’t linger and start to smell?”

Shifting the conversation towards a solution is more likely to lead to a meaningful discussion, Dr. Romanoff says, and less likely to result in an argument. “Your partner won’t feel like you’re nagging, and they’ll probably have a better understanding of how they influence you and how you can function better together,” she adds.

You can even use this strategy for less serious issues, like the seltzer slurping we mentioned above, she says: You can say something like, “I don’t want to nitpick you, and I know you’re not doing it on purpose, but I feel really agitated when I hear that noise. Could you possibly drink a little quieter?” That way, again, you’re keeping the focus on you and offering a quick fix, which should make your partner more open to adjusting their behavior—and prevent you from dramatically pouring their pineapple Spindrift down the drain in a fit of rage.

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