I interviewed a relationship expert about pet peeves, and she told me couples should talk to each other about them.
Dutifully, I approached my husband. "Do you have any pet peeves about me?" I asked, smiling sweetly.
"No," he replied, suspiciously.
"Really?" I asked.
"I've just gotten used to them all," he said. "They're now just quirks."
"So they're endearing, not peeve-y?" I asked, hopefully.
"Maybe," he said, a little grumpily. "I'm relaxing here."
"Is one of your pet peeves that I keep asking you something over and over?" I asked.
"That might be one," he said.
"I'll let you sleep if you tell me two more peeves," I said.
"Calling the furnace 'the heater,'" he said.
I decided one peeve was enough. (I didn't want to be peevish.)
I returned to my notes from my interview with Christina Steinorth, author of Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships. Some excerpts:
What are women's biggest pet peeves about men?
Men are kind of uncouth. [So] things like burping, maybe a lack of personal hygiene. They don't shower over the weekend. They may pass gas, or leave wet towels on the floor.
What are men's biggest complaints about women?
They find us more annoying. Nagging, we interrupt them when they speak. We'll call them cutesy baby names in public. We'll maybe be over dramatic, be kind of jealous."
And it's best for couples to talk about these peeves?
Why it's important to address them is because over time, these little things become a huge thing. It's like the analogy with the drop of water on the stone…Over time, we get the crevice.
How should you bring up the topic of peeves?
[Say], "I probably have some things that get on your nerves. I really don't want that to happen." That helps them feel safer that they can talk about it, and you're not going to get angry. If they're hesitant to do it, of course you don't want to bring it up every day. Maybe you bring it up once a week.
Should you ask your kids, friends, and parents if they can share pet peeves with you, too?
It works for everybody. We do have things we all do that we're not conscious of. That's who we are. Maybe you have a friend who calls you too much. I've actually had this happen to me personally. What I have told her is, "I really like talking with you on the phone," because I do. "But sometimes my schedule is so busy that it would be easier sometimes if I called you."
Would it be better to overlook a peeve?
Like anything in life, you pick and choose your battles. Are you compatible on every other level? Is it just this one little annoying habit? [Ask yourself], "If my partner got hit by a bus tomorrow, would the fact that maybe he burps once in a while matter?" It wouldn't be important to me any more. Keep it in perspective. If you have a really good relationship, it won't hurt you to overlook some flaws. We all have them.
So just bring up habits if they are truly annoying?
Then you're actually helping them out. It's how you approach it. You want to be gentle. You want to do it at a time they're not going to be stressed.
Are some people more peeve-prone?
I do think that some people are more peeve-prone. These are people who have more high-pressure jobs. They're generally more anxious in nature. Also when people are depressed, they can be a little bit more peeve-prone. When we're thinking that way and we normally aren't, we need to look and say, "Why is everything getting on my nerves?" [It may be] too much stress too much anxiety, possibly depression.
When do we start developing pet peeves in relationships?
During the first 12 months, we're generally on our best behavior. We're kind of selling ourselves. We make sure we don't mess up. During those first 12 months, we tend to see things through rose-colored glasses. We tend to overlook things. I always recommend that if couples are in a relationship, and they want to take it to the next level, they should really wait for those 12 months. Then they'll be able to see if they're compatible enough.
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