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Taming pet peeves

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Overlooking annoyances

We all have pet peeves: Those "things" that bother us inordinately. From popping gum to leaving towels on the bathroom floor, they might not annoy another person, but they get on our last nerve. They also have the distinct ability to strain relationships among romantic partners, parents, children, siblings and friends.

Overlooking annoyances

I do not have a wilting personality; nor does my husband. Neither do our kids, for that matter. When we feel something, we feel it strongly, and we tend to attach ourselves to issues -- sometimes constructively, sometimes not. As the kids get older, I'm realizing that our various pet peeves are becoming more and more of an issue.

Recognize your issue

No matter what your pet peeve, it is your issue and no one else's. I absolutely can't stand it when my son taps...anything and everything. It makes me crazy! Yet my husband doesn't even notice it. Likewise, my daughter has this one habit that I couldn't care less about, but you should see my husband's face twitch.

For the most part, none of us intentionally engages in these annoying practices. We are not trying to be annoying. The annoyer is, for the most part, just being himself -- and the annoyee needs to recognize that it's her personal issue and either learn to live with it or find a strategy to deal with it.

Look for compromise

An old friend likes to joke that I saved her marriage. Years ago, just after getting married, she and her new husband were having an escalating conflict over where the wet kitchen sponge should go: In the sink or on the counter? Not long after that, I saw a ceramic frog designed to hold a kitchen sponge; the sponge would be neither in the sink nor on the side, but in the frog's mouth. Okay, so the frog was a little kitschy, but I ordered it on a whim. My friend swears -- 18 years later -- that they still use it. It was just the compromise they needed.

The compromises you seek in managing pet peeves will be unique to you, of course, but they first and foremost involve communication and give-and-take. My husband gets annoyed by egg shells in the kitchen sink. I recognize he has this issue and try not to leave them there, but sometimes the compost bucket is full, and we're doing a lot of cooking. We agreed that, if he will keep the compost bucket empty, I will be better about the egg shell issue.

Mutual respect

The strong personalities in my family continue to work on pet peeve issues. One thought helps us keep the pet peeves in perspective: None of us is perfect, but we are all doing our best. It's mutual respect. (And really, don't so many issues come down to that?) We also try to remember that no one is trying to annoy. Treating each other as we want to be treated helps, too -- that, and a simple, kindly worded request for the person to stop the annoying action. In so doing, we accept that we can't eliminate all the pet peeves in our lives, but we can manage them without endangering important relationships.

Tell us: How do you deal with your pet peeves of your spouse or children? Comment below!

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