The Reason Your Partner’s Little Bad Habits Drive You Crazy
I’m sure you’ve had a roommate who was a slob and made a mess of your kitchen. Or maybe your mom or dad played the TV too loud. You wanted them to cut out these habits. Maybe you even brought it up once or twice, but nothing changed. So you just tolerated it.
Now imagine your partner doing any of these things. Really makes your blood boil, doesn’t it?
Have you noticed that we have a tremendous capacity to put up with small but irritating habits when it comes to most people, but when it’s our partner, it feels like the sky is falling?
The reason we feel this way is because of the permanence of it in our minds. When it’s a friend or a parent, you always know that there’s an end date to this experience. You know you’re not going to live with them forever. You know you don’t have to put up with a nasty, messy kitchen for more than a year or two.
But any time my partner cuts an apple and leaves the core right there on the counter….
My mind will invariably paint a picture forty years in the future, where I’m walking with a backache and grumbling under my breath, still cleaning the kitchen counter, this time picking up multiple apple cores because of course, he taught our kids to leave them there too!
Ok, I’m exaggerating to make a point. But you get it. The stakes are high. This isn’t a person who will leave in a couple of years (hopefully!). You want to stay with this person forever. And that makes you feel like you’re gonna have to stay with this bad habit forever too.
It’s important to remember that while this relationship is permanent, the bad habit doesn’t have to be. This is where I’ve found the concept of impermanence very helpful.
The concept of impermanence
If you’ve used the meditation app Headspace, you’re probably familiar with the concept of impermanence. This mindfulness app trains us to remind ourselves that nothing in life is permanent, including the current struggles we’re going through. They explain the concept through multiple examples in nature including beavers, jellyfish, and the 72 micro seasons in the Japanese calendar.
Think about some of your habits that have drastically changed from three to four years back. Maybe your spending habits were different. Or maybe you were a workaholic and never used to prioritize your health, but you do now. Whatever it is for you, I’m sure you can appreciate how much a person’s habits can change in a period of a few years.
I have personally heard many people say “I can never work remotely, I need an office.” They’re thriving on zoom now.
This is how our lives are going to be forever. In a state of flux. Nothing is permanent. We are not going to be the same person a few years from now.
This means something as simple as an apple core on the kitchen counter need not be extrapolated to forty years forward. That’s not helping anybody, and honestly it’s not even going to be a problem after a while. You’ll figure out a system. Or maybe he’ll start eating the core too. Or maybe you’ll become super chill about kitchen messes and it won’t bother you anymore. Whatever the case, it need not escalate so much in your mind for today.
If things will change anyway, should I even work on these problems?
Well, yes. Things will keep changing, but you’re gonna want to steer it a bit. Or it might change in a direction you don’t like, and make things worse. The point of this article is not to say “problems will go away on their own”. Of course, you have to work on them.
The point is that your mental health need not take such a big hit in the process. When every tiny problem in the house starts getting projected into “forever”, it takes a toll emotionally. It strains the relationship because you start to imagine future problems before they even occur. Leaving you less equipped to deal with the shit already in front of you.
Haven’t we all dreamt of a life where we take a deep breath, calmly state the problem at hand and have a level-headed discussion about how to solve it? Well, this article is your first step towards that. Remind yourself that this fight is impermanent. It takes a load off. Trust me.
Now go have that calm discussion about the muddy footprints on the carpet (ugh).
Pro tip: If you’ve managed to achieve this calm state and you’re getting yelled at in return, remember that your partner has just projected this fight into the future too. There’s a 70-year-old version of you yelling at them, while they’re trying to find their glasses.
It might be time to share this article with them! 😃