Your partner is inevitably going to let you down.
You will be irritated by your partner for different reasons throughout your life, and you may find it is increasingly so at certain times, such as during the holidays or when you have a child together.
This is part and parcel of being part of a functional relationship. Nobody sees the world exactly as you do, and everyone lives with different values, agendas, stories, and experiences which are inevitably going to run counter to yours at times.
Irritation points to a frustration or disappointment about an unmet need of ours.
Unfortunately, there’s a natural wiring of the human system to automatically blame other people for our unmet needs. We think others should know that what they do is irritating us, and we therefore take it personally when they do those things: “She knows how irritating that phrase is, why does she keep using it??? She’s intentionally trying to piss me off.”
I want to provide a simple way to deal with your irritation so it doesn’t come out sideways and instead becomes a path to a deeper and more functional connection.
Notice your irritation
We can become irritated by just about anything another person does, depending on our mood. You may find that your partner whistling in the next room sets you on edge when you’re trying to work. Maybe they are constantly leaving the milk out, or have a habit of answering easy questions in a noncommittal way, leaving you grasping at straws to understand what they want. These are all small things that ultimately don’t have a huge impact on your relationship, but the irritation they cause can easily blow them out of proportion for you.
In order to move past these patterns of being irritated with our partner over small issues, we require the ability to access mindfulness and inner work at any given moment.
This means, you need to be able to slow down and properly notice when you are irritated, and understand what your system feels when you are let down, disappointed, or angered.
Notice the part of you that wants to direct your feelings at your partner, and notice the other part of you that wants to dismiss it. How do these play off of each other, and which tends to be stronger?
Allow curiosity to come through
The second element of this is to be curious about your irritation. Where does it come from, and is it rational? Why do you feel this way? Additionally, what’s the alternative to this feeling?
Underneath the irritation we feel in these moments is a kind of pain, a preemptive response to perceived rejection, and a feeling of being insignificant to one’s partner. In fact, following the path of our irritation ultimately leads to an interesting reservoir within us, a well of disappointment which really just stems from our recognition of the ground of reality.
At the end of the day, other people are imperfect, and they are periodically going to disappoint us. The first step towards healthier relationships and better communication patterns with our partner is acceptance of this fact.
Work with your partner rather than against them
Your relationship is ultimately a collaboration towards achieving both of your needs. If you work through your underlying feelings of hurt and rejection, and instead recognize that your partner isn’t trying to irritate you, it automatically softens the approach.
Ask your partner if there’s something you can do to help them not do the thing that irritates you. Explain to them what bothers you and why, but acknowledge that they wouldn’t have necessarily known that. Let them off the hook a little bit, and remind them you’re on the same team. You may find that they are much more receptive to criticism or feedback when approached in this manner.
So much of this issue is about approaching the disconnect from a true place of collaboration and understanding. Your partner doesn’t want to be criticized, and probably isn’t doing anything irritating on purpose.
So, try to set aside any personal feelings and instead work together to develop a culture of measured, connected feedback.
If you’re interested in delving deeper into your patterns of communication and the sources of irritation in your relationship, you can always reach out to me here: https://ryanginn.com/contact/