5 steps to take when you’re always irritated with your partner

April 30,2020

What do you do when the honeymoon period is OVER?

When all those things that you found so cute and endearing about your partner when you first started dating are now grating your last nerve?

When your patience for your partner has nosedived?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic since getting this email from a reader:

“I’ve been with my boyfriend for four years, and have lived with him for three. I love him with all my heart, but I find myself getting annoyed with him on a daily basis. Most of the time it’s when he’s trying to do something sweet, like give me a kiss or a compliment, so I feel like a terrible person for wanting to pull away. Our relationship is wonderful in so many ways, and I know I want to be with him, but I don’t understand why I get so annoyed. A lot of these moments end up turning into big fights, and I’m worried it’s poisoning the relationship.”

And I’ve experienced it myself in my own relationship too. There are days when my husband Xander can annoy me simply by looking at me! (And don’t even get me started on the burping…) 

When you find yourself getting irritated at your partner, here are my five most effective tricks to use in the moment to calm yourself down and prevent a fight from erupting.

1. Take a deep breath. 

Seriously, the best thing you can do when you’re feeling irritated is to take a deep breath. Close your eyes, and really feel your breath coming in through your nose and out of your mouth. 

You can even visualize your annoyance leaving your body with your exhaled breath, or melting off your body.

Focusing on your breath is instantly calming! Even if you take just one breath, it can make a difference.

2. Give yourself a time-out.

If deep breathing isn’t doing the trick, it’s time to take it up a notch with a time-out.

As calmly and gently as you can, tell your partner, “I’m sorry, I’m feeling really cranky right now for no reason, and I don’t want to be a jerk to you. I think I just need a minute alone. I’ll be right back.”

Then walk away and take as much time as you need to calm down.

3. Tell yourself what’s actually happening. 

Sometimes our brains can blow little moments out of proportion, or create a story out of nothing.

Just the other day, Xander tossed my phone in my direction while we were lounging on the sofa, and it hit me in my hip. Instantly my thoughts went to, “What a jerk! Why would he throw my phone at me! That’s so rude!”

In reality, Xander was just wanting to give me my phone. I had a throw blanket draped over my body, and he didn’t realize I was actually much closer to him than it looked. It was an accident, not a malicious attack.

If you catch yourself reacting strongly, it can help to acknowledge the reality of what’s going on in that moment.

The writer of the email I shared above could say to herself, “He’s trying to show his love for me by giving me a hug” or “He’s wanting more connection right now because he’s feeling sad.”

That helps remind you that your partner isn’t actively trying to annoy you!

4. Get curious about your reaction.

When you get annoyed at your partner, it’s not actually about your partner. It’s about you!

Ever notice how your partner can do the exact same thing at two different times, and one time it will annoy you, whereas the other time you’ll hardly notice?

For example, one day you get furious with your partner for looking at their phone while you’re trying to talk to them. But the next day, you hardly notice your partner’s phone habits. 

It’s not that your partner’s behavior magically became un-annoying. It’s that something within you is different. 

That’s why it’s so important to get curious about what’s coming up for you when you get irritated.

It’s possible that you’re actually irritated at something else, but in that moment the irritation is coming out at your partner.

Or maybe you’re not feeling irritation at all, but rather sadness, frustration, or loneliness.

When you notice your irritation, try to get curious and ask yourself some questions about it. For example, “What’s coming up for me right now?” and “What am I needing right now?”

5. Try some gratitude

When we’re irritated, we’ve usually forgotten how much our partners mean to us! 

Take a few moments to think about what you’re grateful for about your partner. This can instantly increase your patience and boost your mood.

I got annoyed at Xander the other day because he put his foot in his mouth and said something frustrating. So I reminded myself, “Yep, this guy says some pretty dumb stuff sometimes. But he also says some of the most loving things too.”

You can take this a step further by verbally praising your partner. Acknowledging something they’ve done or giving them a compliment is a great way to remind yourself of your love and appreciation for them. 

Want more of our best tips and tricks on improving communication, resolving conflict and deepening intimacy?

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I'm Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist and writer specializing in helping you have more fun in the bedroom.

I have bachelor’s degrees in human sexuality and sociology from Brown University, and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. I’m also a licensed psychotherapist. I’ve been working in the sex therapy field since 2002 and have been featured by The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, and many more.

If you’re interested in improving your sex life, you can work with me via my online courses or personal coaching sessions. I look forward to supporting you in creating the sex life you’ve always wanted!