Is your partner driving you crazy?

What's normal vs. what's not

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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CLEARWATER, Fla. - There's got to be something about your significant other that drives you crazy. Irritations are inevitable in relationships. Experts agree often partners don't argue over the big issues, but quibble over the petty differences in style.

Small problems can become big problems when they take on a different meaning in your mind. Especially when you start adding them up as evidence of character flaw or moral defect.  Mental health counselor Deborah Day says it's normal to be annoyed.

"‘How dare they not go from the bottom of the toothpaste, what's wrong with him?' or, ‘[Why did he] leave that toilet seat up [and] not put the dishes away the way I want?,'" Dr. Day told Ivanhoe.

It may seem like small stuff, but when you consider them together a picture emerges of your partner as selfish or self-absorbed. Day says 80 percent of the problems stem from defensiveness.

"Defensiveness kills relationships," Day explained.

So do issues that fester, like affairs, money, sex issues, and the loss of a child.

"Many couples, if you do the research, don't survive loss," Day said.

Gender does play a role in what annoys people, according a new study at the University of Louisville. Men's complaints about women were the silent treatment, bringing up things he's done in the distant past, being too critical, and refusing to give in, which was also on the list of women's complaints. The other women complaints about men were forgetting important dates, not working hard at his job, and staring at other women. Another common complaint was not listening.

Day said it's important for women to realize that maybe their significant other is not doing the irritating behavior to bug them. Maybe it's just a mindless behavior.

Additional Information:

When you got engaged, you thought you married the perfect person who could do no wrong. But now that you are married, you've started to notice some annoying habits that are driving you crazy. However, experts say it's really a two-way street and it's normal to be annoyed by your spouse's habits. Usually partners focus on what they're getting, not on what they're giving. No matter how frustrating a partner's behavior, what matters is the meaning you attach to every situation. The ability to eliminate these irritants in relationships lies within each of us. It all depends on how you interpret the problem. A few tips to change this annoyance in a positive direction are as follows.

  • Instead of demanding change, request it. Your spouse will respond more favorably and positively.
  • Don't attack your mate. When you attack your spouse, you crush their spirit. Instead confront the problem and don't belittle the person.
  • Make sure to encourage your spouse's growth. Acknowledge their positive progress, and offer praise to your mate's efforts on moving forward.
  • Changing your perspective can not only resolve the irritating issue, it can mend the dynamic of the whole relationship. Instead of focusing on your partners sloppy ways, rethink the issue in your mind, reminding yourself how much you appreciate his or her contribution. Focus on your partners good habits and not the irritant ones.
  • Seek to change the habit, not the person. If you're trying to alter your spouse's personality, it will only end in frustration from your partner.
  • Lastly, recognize that change takes time. Be patient, and let your spouse know that you're in this together for the long haul.


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