“Everything my husband does irritates me”

What could be the reason that a woman finds everything about her husband or boyfriend annoying and irritating, and what should be done about it? We interviewed experts asking them this question, below are their answers.

Charles Bauman, LMFT:

In 95% of the couples and families in my clinical practice (and my own family), the household is governed by a “female-centric” system. Unfortunately, the women’s movement has not had much of an impact on this traditional dynamic. In most households, the female is overburdened with responsibilities: scheduling, family communication-events, the household, and the social-emotional development of the children.

This “system” reflects another important couples dynamic – Female Pursuer and Male Distancer. Again – 90% of the couples and families in my practice (as well as my own family) follow this pattern. Females are the Pursuer – taking the initiative, forming bonds/connections with others, and generally playing a Caretaker role. The vast majority of males are Distancers – they isolate (especially with electronics), limit themselves to specific activities and roles, and are much more avoidant in getting out of their comfort-zone.

In most cases, males only “pursue” two kinds of relationships: intimacy and utility. Most males are lacking a healthy support-system. This is generally because they simply do not “pursue” meaningful relationships, and rely upon their spouse/partner for emotional support. This is a key reason why most males are “awkward” in relationships – most are insecure/anxious/avoidant. U-tube “Man-Park SNL”, where females take their man to meet and play with other males – hilarious.

Family of origin is a key factor in couples and family dynamics. With most couples and families, each partner is simply replicating the traits and behaviors learned during their childhood and formative years. This is especially evident during episodes of stress, challenge, or conflict – when each partner reverts back to their family of origin ego mass – the social-emotional age of their family of origin. Most of the couples in my practice fully acknowledge that during stress, challenge, or conflict, they revert back to being age 10-15.

Because she is the Manager-Caretaker, most females grow and mature during the course of a marriage or relationship. Males, on the other hand, often go into “stagnation”, due to their limited relationships and unwillingness to engage with that which is challenging. Most of my teen and adult clients go on and on about their mother – both positive and negative. When asked about their father, there is an “awkward-pause” (from TV series Seinfeld), in which they often say he “worked a lot”, and either was avoidant or had rages of temper. Sad.

Females need to “step-off” (reduce their assumed duties/responsibilities), while males need to “step-up.” Quite often, males bow out of couples therapy, and female continues. She then must formulate a List of Non-Negotiables for continuing the relationship.

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