Pet peeves: How bad can they strain a relationship?

The first few months of any relationship are always the best. You love your mate and just about anything about them. They are exactly what you dreamt of in a partner and at this point, it’s hard to imagine life without them. 

But then over time, something changes and you’re not sure what it is. You begin to notice things about them, you observe little things that would otherwise seem trivial but they can’t help but get to your nerves. 


These little things (pet peeves) are habits that a particular person finds especially annoying and according to different couples, they have the potential of breaking down a relationship.


Take Olivia’s marriage for example. She almost left her husband over mishaps- habits that seemed minor but were actually driving her crazy.


Her husband is the gentle and caring kind, and that, she loves about him. However, he had habits she couldn’t seem to stand. 

She loathed him for pressing toothpaste from the middle, it also bothered her that he always left the toilet seat up and it didn’t help that he was still the same person who tossed and turned in bed, howling the entire beddings to his side. She was tired.

“At first I ignored them but I reached a point when I was completely losing it. You see, such habits are not that a big deal but are that irritating that if you don’t address them they can cost your marriage,” she says.

Forget cheating. Pet peeves are a different virus that can slowly eat up and break up a relationship. A number of people have admitted to having lost relationships and that such ‘minor issues’ were the deal-breaker.  

Alex Mugabo recalls his previous relationship that almost drove him crazy. He was dealing with a partner who was obsessed with being the centre of attention, something that drove them apart.

“She always made everything about her. Even if we were having a conversation, she always found a way of interrupting and bringing the conversation back to herself. This always irritated me and made me feel like all she cared about was herself,” he says.

Crème Kantengwa says that for her, habits that get to her nerve include someone not paying attention to her needs and concerns. 

If we are holding a conversation, you have to listen. Also, I can’t stand poor communication. If something about me bothers you or anything I need to know, please speak up, she says.

She also notes that hypocrisy is a turn-off, “just be real and let me love you the way you are because sooner than later, I’ll find out the real you”. 

Same goes to lies, according to her; they just show how disrespectful one is.

“Stinginess too, men who are tight-fisted with their money piss me off. You don’t have to go out of your way, but once in a while give a helping hand. Why are we in a relationship if you can’t help me out when the need arises?” she adds.

Juliette Karitanyi emphasises that communication is key in a relationship, and for this reason, she says she hates it when she calls and one doesn’t pick up. 

“If I call I expect him to pick up or send me a text with ‘I am busy or call you later’ at least to acknowledge my call. If you are going for a meeting, even if it is for the whole day, let me know in advance so that I don’t disturb you and waste my time,” she says. 

“There are moments when you will not see my calls, kindly call back ‘with I am sorry I missed your call, I was busy with this and that. We do this at work, with our colleagues but for some reasons people tend to forget that it is really important to do that in a relationship as well. Unanswered calls drive me nuts,” she says.

And for Sam Asimwe, it’s the silence treatment some people offer as a form of punishment.

“Women do this a lot, if something is bothering you, be open and tell me. But don’t say you are fine when in actual sense you are in pain.”

Marie France Niyonizera says she hates people who don’t pay attention to details.

Be it small or big, in a relationship everything matters, she says. 

“You know when you are in a relationship you are supposed to be there for each other and know what’s going on in each other’s lives. But at times, you find that there are guys that don’t pay attention to what their girlfriend loves- let’s say your favourite colour, your favourite hobby, he doesn’t know how to calm you down when you are angry. I think it is these small things that build a relationship,” she says.

Dealing with pet peeves 

Writer Margarita Tartakovsky notes that over time how you feel about a pet peeve or an irritating behaviour, can build and balloon.

“Not washing the dishes becomes you don’t appreciate me. Silly comments in public become you’re disrespecting me”.

She, however, shows that there are some ways one can deal with these pet peeves without hurting your partner or bruising a relationship.

Don’t raise your pet peeve in public. The writer notes that it is better to avoid nagging, or correcting the behaviour in public and that instead of embarrassing your partner, it is better to talk in private. 

Acknowledge what you do like. What works much better than nagging, is positive reinforcement. “If you compliment your partner generously and genuinely, you send a powerful message that has more impact to change his or her behaviour than criticising. So when your partner does something you like, let them know, and show your appreciation.”

Consider solutions. Let’s say your partner frequently hijacks the TV remote, can you have a second TV for watching your shows? If they regularly forget to turn off the outside lights, can you install an automatic timer? In other words, brainstorm some solutions around your pet peeves, she advises.

Tartakovsky also commends having a mutual discussion highlighting that one will be much more receptive to the conversation if it is made about the behaviours both of you can change.

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