The world-wide pandemic brings partners closer than ever, if only in proximity. The lockdowns, quarantines, and restrictions on movement have couples hunkered down together 24/7. Even essential workers find themselves spending an inordinate amount of time with their main squeeze. After all, once their shift ends, there’s nowhere to go but back to their cell … er, home to spend time with the one they love.
All this togetherness is great for a while. But then? Then it gets old.
We are newlyweds and it’s still a challenge
Now, I notice how long it takes my husband, Sam, to vacuum a room. He’ll fire it up, disturbing my much-needed silence as I try to focus on editing, writing, or doing something important like counting my split ends. It easily takes him a full twenty minutes to finish the living room.
The man is thorough, I’ll give him that.
The motorized vrooming sound grates on my nerves, coupled with the shrill, incessant barking from Pippa, our little dog who tries to attack the obnoxious, noisy machine. She’s has a deep-seated resentment against the vacuum that’s only festered since she was a puppy.
Now, she and I are in full agreement. The vacuum sucks.
Sam unplugs the beast and I sigh with sweet relief, only to have every hair on my neck stand up as he moves on to our bedroom. Then I wait for his nonchalant observation that he can hardly find the carpet on my side of the bed and the gentle reminder about the hamper being conveniently located just steps away in the master bath.
We aren’t the only ones
As the pandemic continues, I notice my friends griping about their partners more frequently than usual. Now, it’s the norm to receive calls at odd hours so they can vent.
“Want to know what I just realized about Pete?” my friend asked.
Not really, I think. Since last March, I know more about Pete than is proper.
She doesn’t wait for me to encourage her to continue. “When he brushes his teeth, he shakes his head like a wet dog and doesn’t move the toothbrush! Seriously, from the neck up, he looks like he’s convulsing! Yet, from the neck down, he is rigid. Who does that? It’s the most freakish thing I’ve ever seen!”
I don’t remind her of the much more freakish things she’s discovered about Pete since lockdown. I don’t know how she’s forgotten. Unfortunately, Pete’s disgusting habits are etched on my brain and scratching the cornea of my mind’s eye.
Blame it on familiarity
According to an article in Marie Claire, over time, too much togetherness makes the excitement in a relationship dim. That comes as no shock. But combine that with the stress of lockdowns and quarantines — meaning there’s no chance to get out of the house and share new adventures — and it’s no wonder many couples are giving each other the side eye more often than usual.
[Familiarity] can be a huge drag and, if not handled well, can start to lead beyond boredom and frustration to far darker and more destructive territory. Familiarity is renowned as the ideal breeding ground for contempt, the most noxious beast in the marital jungle.
5 common annoyances
Today.com breaks down the five most common habits people have that can set a partner’s teeth on edge.
Bodily quirks — Farting, belching, and nose picking are notorious turn-offs, but so is scratching genitals and picking at scabs. Cutting toes nails shouldn’t be done at the kitchen table nor should tweezing eyebrow, nose, or ear hair. While your partner knows your body intimately, spare them by keeping bodily functions and grooming routines private.
Selective listening — If you are rattling off all the things that need to get done around your home and your partner hasn’t looked up from their iPad, it gets frustrating. Especially when you follow that up with some take-out dinner options and they are all ears, jumping in with suggestions of their own. Try having a code word or a specific gesture, like placing your hand atop theirs, to signal what you are saying is important and you want to be heard.
Sloppiness — A bit of messiness one person finds reasonable can be intolerable to another. With couples spending most of their time at home nowadays, this can lead to heated arguments if there isn’t an agreement on who cleans what up and when.
Bad manners — On your first date, you probably didn’t pick at your callouses or stare at your phone during dinner. You wouldn’t have gone to each other’s homes and peed on the toilet seat or tracked mud across their carpet. And you probably didn’t confess what you really thought about their mother. Don’t do it now. Maintain mutual respect.
Control issues — Don’t let your relationship turn into a power struggle now. The remote control doesn’t belong to just one of you. Neither of you needs to tell the other what time to sleep and what time to wake up. Nobody should insist the household is going vegan. We’re adults here. If your partner needs to be boss, find out the underlying issues that makes them fearful to share the power.
Solutions for dealing with your partner’s annoying habits
Today.com offers three ways to deal with your partner’s irritating habits.
Awareness — Don’t clam up and not say what is bothering you. That isn’t a license to harp on anyone either. Try letting the person know in a nice way whatever they are doing is making you uncomfortable. If possible, offer a viable solution that would be advantageous for both of you. Example: “Hey, babe, I know your scalp is especially itchy in the winter months, but the sound of you scratching makes me uneasy. Maybe we should look into getting you a good dandruff shampoo the next time we go to the store?”
Prioritize — At this point in the pandemic, you may have a long list of things you find intolerable about your partner. Decide which one is the most offensive. Yes, start with just one. Offer to quit/work on one of your most unbecoming habits if they’ll work on one of theirs. It’ll be a trade off and something you can work together on.
Emphasize the positive — There is a reason you chose your partner to be your partner. You fell in love and overlooked some things because the plusses outweighed the minuses. They probably still do. Start noticing all the things you still can swoon over. The award-winning smile. The wicked sense of humor. The soft-hearted generosity.
I’ve been reminding myself to be thankful Sam is an avid vacuumer. There’s only one thing I hate worse than the sound of the vacuum and that is running the vacuum myself. Now he warns me in advance, and Pippa and I take a long walk. When I get home, I am thankful for a tidy house and a meticulous husband.
Nagging, begging, or shunning your partner is not going to change the other person. And while you are convinced your partner must stop doing the things that really bother you, be ready to do some changing of your own. This includes taking inventory of your own bad habits and making steps to limit them. It also means changing how you are interacting with your partner on a daily basis.
As we continue living through Covid-19, I hope it brings us all closer to our partners — emotionally, not just physically.