Annoyance

Posted on May 11, 2017

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Let’s face it.  We human beings can really annoy each other.  In fact, the closer the relationship, the more we are likely to notice all of those annoyances.  When you are at home and your partner calls your name, the ensuing interaction inherently begins as an interruption to whatever you were already doing.  You might be in the middle of something important like, say, a Hearthstone battle when your wife decides that she needs your help with something (hypothetically speaking, of course).  You can really see the problem here.

A pastor I knew a few decades ago used to maintain that love was not something you feel, but rather something you do.  I tend to share his view and would extrapolate further.  I would suggest that annoyance may be something you feel, but the bigger issue is what you do.  How you handle the interruptions, differences in doing things, and general quirkiness of the human being with whom you vowed to go through life has a big impact on your partner and the health of the relationship.

Marriage researchers John & Julie Gottman have identified four patterns of interaction that are so damaging to the marital relationship that they have dubbed them the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  Of the four horsemen, the most damaging is contempt.  Contempt includes obvious things like name calling, but it can also sneak in with a sarcastic tone of voice, a rolling of your eyes when your partner is talking, or any tone wherein “you idiot” would fit well on the end of the statement.  Contempt is the pattern of interaction that is most damaging to your partner’s sense of self.  It is devastating to feel that in your closest relationship that you are held in contempt.

Conveying annoyance also runs the risk of conveying contempt.  No one wants to feel that your partner finds you annoying.  The problem is that there is a certain extent to which we all are annoying.  We are, after all, only human.

First, regarding the feeling part, how you talk to yourself about your partner matters.  If your self-talk regarding your partner is mostly negative, it takes less to generate the feeling of annoyance.  At some point, you decided there was enough that you loved about this person to say, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”  Focus on those things.  Note your partner’s positive traits and the positive things your partner does.

Second, this is the gig you signed up for (whether you knew it or not).  Instead of just getting a dog, you decided to select a mate from your own species.  You inherently signed up for interruptions, messes (or objections to messes), and general quirkiness.  Your partner is not in breach of contract.  This is how it is.

Third (as an aside), irritability can be a sign of depression.  If you are finding yourself becoming increasingly irritable, you might want to get that checked out.

With regard to what you do, watch out for the tone of voice or facial expression that says, “You are really annoying me right now.”  Not sure if you do that?  Your partner can tell you.  You can control and are responsible for controlling how you respond.  When you are in the middle of completing a thought on the blog post that you are writing and your wife wants to ask about a charge on the credit card bill (again, hypothetically speaking), this is the time to have the self-control to be able to disengage from the computer, turn to face your wife, and in a pleasant manner engage with her question.  I am not talking about being disingenuous here.  It is not about faking it, but checking the annoyance before you respond.  This is just how life is.  It is an interruption, but it is not a cause for distress if you accept it as an inevitability.  Even if your partner does something just nuts like putting the toilet paper roll with the paper going down the wall instead of over the top, you need to keep the tone loving.

Loving your partner is what you signed up for.  Often that means being focused on what your partner needs in that moment and not just your own experience.  The research has found that for relationship health, we need five positives for every negative.  Conveying that your partner is annoying you is a big negative.  To keep the ratio in line you can 1) not do that, and 2) be intentional about building your partner up.

Somewhere in your wedding vows was most likely a promise to love and honor your partner.  At least at every wedding I have ever attended, this was not a conditional promise.  The vow was not “I will love and honor you as long as you don’t bug me too much.”  You made a promise that it is your responsibility to keep.  Your job is to be the best spouse that you can be, not to make your partner the best spouse he or she can be.  Loving and honoring is something you do.  Part of that is not expressing annoyance.  You can do this.

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