Your Date’s Annoying Habits - How To Deal


Your Date’s Annoying Habits: How To Deal

You’re seeing someone who’s fantastic—except for that one tiny thing that sets you edge. Here’s what to do.

By Steve Friedman

y friend Jack was dating a woman who had a great sense of humor, a doctorate in astrophysics, and the looks of Kathy Ireland. Yes, the swimsuit model.

“So why are you breaking up with her? Why are you being insane?” I asked Jack. Guys often talk to each other like this.

“She does bad impressions,” Jack said.

Bad impressions? Bad impressions? Jack had been my friend for a long time, and I knew he was picky, but now he was breaking up with a gorgeous, rich rocket
If something about your date really annoys you, wait for a time when you’re not annoyed to break the news.
scientist because she couldn’t do Jimmy Durante to his satisfaction? Couldn’t he learn to live with this small flaw?

No, he said, he couldn’t. What he had learned was that when it came to dealing with annoying habits, it was better to bail immediately.

I had to hand it to Jack, whose approach was brutal but effective. Honestly, was it really any worse than the way I had asked my then-girlfriend—a well-read, sexy triathlete and legal aid lawyer—if she could please stop pronouncing umbrella with the accent on the first syllable? She said no, she couldn’t—and why didn’t I take some of the energy I used to nag her and devote it to cleaning out my fridge every few months so she didn’t risk contracting botulism every time she came to my place and…we ended up breaking up, too.

Which leads me to ask: What is the best way to deal with the little things that bug you in the person you’re seeing? I’m not talking about critical differences in overall values, like your membership in Greenpeace and your date’s “Nuke the Whales” bumper sticker. I’m not talking about chemistry killers like incompatible kissing techniques or bad grooming habits.
Maybe, over time, couples learn to tune out each other’s idiosyncrasies—or even come to love them.
No, I’m talking about the little things: the bad impressions. The umbrella pronunciations. Overly enthusiastic food chewing. The way your date still says “Wasssuuuup!” when greeting people. Should you communicate your teeth-grinding hatred of these quirks—or just grin and bear it? And if you must opt for the former, how and when should you broach the topic? Some advice (and much-needed relief) is below:

Rule #1: Be gentle
You can’t stand the way she stirs sugar into her coffee, how she stirs for a full five seconds, then says “ahhhh” and taps the spoon on the rim. No one blames you for your feelings. Really. But you will be blamed if you say, “What’s wrong with you?” Or, “What is your problem?” Or, “I can’t stand the psychotic coffee-stirring anymore; it’s just sugar, pour, stir, drink, don’t you understand that?”

No, the better way is thus: “Sandra, I have so much fun when I’m with you and I look forward to our times together. And I hope it’s OK, but I’d like to share some of my quirky side. You don’t mind hearing it? OK, well, I don’t know why, but when people stir coffee for a long time, I just get bothered. It puts me on edge. I’m sure you had no idea this bothers me and I know this sounds a little crazy, but do you think you could stir your coffee a little less?”

Rule #2: Have a sense of humor about it
You don’t like the way he whistles the theme song from Rocky every time you two go out the door for a jog? Rather than complaining, maybe you could make a joke. “Hey, how about The Magnificent Seven for a change? Or even better, how about The Sound of Silence?”

Just keep in mind that you shouldn’t go overboard. “I wouldn’t sign up for the American Idol tryouts just yet” might seem the height of hilarity to you, but someone who really enjoys singing in the shower might not take it that way. Case in point: “I usually make fun of the habit,” says an old friend of mine, referring to his wife. “Gently at first, then with a little more edge, and finally with enough sarcasm that, even if it does not stop the habit, it destroys her self-esteem.” Actually, it’s his ex-wife now. What a surprise.

Rule #3: Blame yourself
A friend of mine, Missy, had been dating a guy—a high school teacher—for three months. He made her laugh. He kissed so well, she smiled just thinking about it. She admired the passion he had for his work, the way he worried about his students. But he said “sweaty” too much. To him, “sweaty” was an adjective that connoted not just a physical state, but also conferred value on a person or achievement. Whereas someone else would pronounce something “awesome” or “incredible,” the high school teacher would say “Sweaty!”

My friend could have said, “Enough with ‘sweaty’ already,” or “What is it with you and ‘sweaty’?” But she didn’t. Instead, she owned up to her own sensitivity. She said, “I know it’s my issue, honey, but would you mind not saying ‘sweaty’ so much? It’s just a word that makes me nuts.”  They’re still together.

Rule #4: Time it right
Keep quiet when you’re in high dudgeon over the behavior. “Must you chew so loudly?” is going to sound shrill and angry when you’re ready to strangle him at the breakfast nook as he chomps his way through a bowl of Count Chocula. Calm down first. And no fair to complain when you’re fighting over an unrelated matter. It hurts you the way his mother never utters your name? That’s OK. But when he defends her as absentminded, you don’t need to scream, “And if she were any kind of real parent, she would have taught you that’s it’s just plain ugly to tuck your Hawaiian shirt into your shorts!” Stay on point. If something about your date really annoys you, wait for a time when you’re not annoyed to break the news.

Rule #5: Ask yourself if it’s worth it
Lest you throw away a perfectly fine relationship, ask yourself: Is it really that bad? Couldn’t Jack have learned to live with a less-than-stellar “That’s all, folks?” Wasn’t Missy risking an awful lot when she brought up the “sweaty” issue with her otherwise wonderful beau? After all, no one’s perfect, in fact it’s these quirks that make us human. Maybe, over time, successful couples learn to tune out each other’s idiosyncrasies—or even come to love them.

Steve Friedman is the author of seven books, including Lost on Treasure Island: A Memoir of Longing, Love, and Lousy Choices in New York City. More information at
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