Studies show that long-lasting, happy relationships are predicated upon
being positive. It sounds so simple – but as we all know, it’s anything
but. After all, little things about each other are bound to get on our
nerves, particularly once we’ve been partners for a while.
Your mate never folds their clothes, and you need to rinse everything before it goes in the dishwasher. They wolf down every meal without taking time to taste it, while you order everything you consume with such precision even your local barista has to take notes. There are endless everyday frustrations in every partnership and undoubtedly, both of you have them. As a result of sharing each of these tiny troubles, even the happiest of relationships can turn negative fast – which we all know is a recipe for disaster.
So what’s the solution? Believe it or not, most of the time we’re better off not voicing our complaints! While we’re somehow trained to expect symbiotic perfection in relationships, no two people are genuinely 100% compatible on all fronts. Everything each of you does is not going to please the other all the time, but that’s not what matters in love. By learning to let go of the little things that annoy you, the two of you can – and will – have a happier relationship!
So to ensure a long, happy life together, try these three tips for nixing the nitpicking in your love life. And remember, awareness is half the battle!
1. Consider your motivations
We often think that nitpicking is really just our effort to improve things – if they’d just wipe the sink after they brushed their teeth, it wouldn’t dry up so spotty. Or if they’d stop drinking so much soda, they wouldn’t spend so much time at the dentist. But more often than not, it’s really our desire to control things – starting with the way we’re viewed.
That’s right, most of us see our partners as reflections of ourselves. As a result, any attempts to make them perfect have less to do with them, and more to do with the way we want to be perceived (by association). The error in this thinking comes from the fact that it’s our vision of perfection we’re projecting (and expecting) – not anyone else’s.
There’s no such thing as a perfect person, and if the worst thing you’ve got to worry about is a mate who watches too much mindless television or likes to dip their fries into a milkshake, be grateful! Odds are, those aren’t the worst things – which is exactly the point. There are problems that really matter – communication breakdowns, dishonesty, hurtful behavior – and then there are irksome but harmless behaviors that we need to just release. If your motivation has less to do with your partner’s actions (or either one of your feelings) and more to do with your personal view of “the way things should be,” stop yourself before you foster negativity to no good end.
2. Temper your tongue
Okay, so going cold turkey on the nitpicking will be hard. You know that things are still going to bother you – and occasionally, you’re going to wind up saying one of them out loud. But therein lies the real trick. If you can cut back on your complaints and spin those you feel compelled to make into something more positive, you’ll get a lot further, and you’ll hurt fewer feelings. Translation? Avoid accusatory phrasing “You drive me crazy when you _____,” or “Can’t you ever pick up after yourself?” Instead, express yourself in terms of your own feelings. “I feel frustrated when I find your socks on the floor the day after I did laundry and cleaned the house. Is there a better place for me to put the hamper?” Or “I feel like I need to share more of the responsibility for ____. I think we’d both benefit from your input.” This way, you’re not making your mate the problem – instead, you’re asking them to be part of a mutual solution.
3. Embrace what works
Finally, while you’re learning to let go of the behaviors that bother you, it’s vital that you learn to emphasize the ways in which your partner makes you happy. Just as all those little annoying traits don’t really matter (but yammering on about them can have a detrimental effect), tiny things your lover do that actually please you may not seem as important in your day. However, being vocal about the good stuff goes a long, long way. If you think harsh words can pack a punch (and they can), the power of positive reinforcement cannot be understated.
By pointing out the words and actions that inspire affection, amusement or adoration, you encourage more of the same. In addition, by going out of your way to make your mate feel appreciated and special, you may find that they annoy you less, and do it less often – whether they change their “annoying” behaviors or not. While that should never be the motivation for your praise, that energy shift is a sweet little side effect that will definitely bring you closer.
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