Marriage is often an exercise in tolerating whatever habits annoy you about your spouse. Still, there are scientific reasons that some pet peeves feel like nails on the chalkboard of intimacy, while other behaviors register as less offensive. Here’s why.
The Way You Chew
Neuroscientists suspect that some people are enraged by the sound of other people’s chewing, slurping, and other unpleasant sound-making because their brains are especially sensitive to those noises. The condition is known as misophonia and it may affect as much as 20 percent of the population. What separates individuals who are reactive about chewing from those who are fine with it might come down to differences in their frontal lobes, one study suggests. Brain scans have also shown that the frontal lobe and the anterior insular cortex show increased activity when people have misophonia. That’s the good news. The bad news is that telling your spouse that they hate your chewing because their brain is broken is probably not going to help.
Looking at Your Phone
People who seem more into their phones than their spouses are going to suffer many dinner table arguments. “Phubbing,” or phone snubbing, depletes marital satisfaction and can lead to depression, studies suggest. Just having a phone on the table makes people feel less connection and compromises the quality of conversation, multiple studies have shown. Conversely, conversations without smartphones present are consistently rated higher in quality. Besides, looking at your phone too much conveys to your partner that the quality of interaction does not matter at the moment. Who wouldn’t be miffed?
Bragging About Yourself
Braggers tend to do it to either impress others or get sympathy from them, and they underestimate how much other people might be put off by that, research shows. Although this particular study focused on social media bragging, other studies have found that when people brag in person, it similarly conveys a lack of empathy and an inability to read the room. Who wants to hang out with that guy? Not your partner.
Spending Money Irresponsibly
People who thought their partners were bad with money feel less committed in their relationships and report a lower sense of well-being, one study shows. Researchers believe that this reaction has less to do with money and more to do with what money symbolizes — power and control. Although financial conflict can cause big problems in relationships, other research argues that money only plays a small role in breakups compared to other issues, like sexual dissatisfaction and a lack of compatibility. Overall, coming home with an unnecessary new pair of sneakers is mostly just annoying.
Keeping Score in the Relationship
Competitive couples who keep score tend to have less happy relationships than couples who roll with the punches, studies suggest. Psychologists caution against “bank-account relationships,” in which couples track their wins and compromises, because it conveys a lack of trust about how much effort they expect their partners to put in. That can make dealing with a sore loser understandably insulting and irritating.
Simply put, being a bad teammate is the most annoying thing married people can do to their partners. “When people are in it for the long term, they are often willing to make sacrifices and view themselves as a team,” Thomas Bradbury, a psychology professor who co-directs the Relationship Institute at UCLA, said in a statement. “They both are.”