11 Hints for Resolving Relationship Irritations
Dirty socks left on the floor — the fifth time this week — texting during your dinner date, forgetting to take the trash out — again — and what seems like endless interruptions when you talk. These are just some of the irritations couples deal with on a day-to-day basis.
But while we’re taught not to sweat the small stuff and to pick our battles, it’s these tiny transgressions that can build and become big stumbling blocks in a relationship. (For instance, a longitudinal study of 373 married couples found that happy couples do sweat the small stuff and work to resolve these issues right away.)
So how do you resolve relationship annoyances without nitpicking, nagging or tiptoeing around your partner (and fuming on the inside)? Three couples specialists offer their tips for finding a happy medium and fostering a fulfilling relationship.
1. Get to the real issue.
All the experts emphasize that in most cases, it isn’t the texting, trash or messiness (or insert another “minor” issue) that’s the problem, it’s what the action represents.
In other words, “the crux of most conflicts in relationships” is what the irritation symbolizes in the relationship for each person, says Robert Solley, Ph.D, a San Francisco clinical psychologist specializing in couples therapy.
As psychologist David Bricker, Ph.D, says, “it’s never about the socks, it’s what you didn’t get from your father.”
But the underlying issues are easy to miss. Why? According to Solley, there are several reasons: Oftentimes, it’s tough to see our partners as profoundly different from ourselves, as “having different needs, wants, desires [and] ways of doing things.” We also use ourselves “as a standard of reference for how people should think and act.” Plus, instead of digging deeper, we’re more likely to focus on the “thing itself (or sometimes sidebars about what we meant, or said, or didn’t say, or did, or didn’t do) rather than the values and feelings.”