Dear 100 Hour Board,
My husband doesn't eat with his mouth open (THANK THE HEAVENS), but he does smack his lips a few times after most meals. I try so hard to not say anything - it's not like he's being malicious - but I can hardly handle it. I feel a visceral reaction to those kinds of noises, and I just don't UNDERSTAND what he's doing that requires him to smack his lips. I've told him how much it bothers me, but he literally doesn't realize that he does it. I don't want to get after him about it every time; plus, he doesn't really understand why it bothers me so much. I grew up in a home that really emphasized good manners, so this kind of thing really bothers me. All in all, it's a really dumb, little thing, but it really throws me off when it happens, especially if I'm already stressed. Anyone have any tips for me?
AMEN SISTER!!!!! I totally feel you, I have this same annoyance. It's not just my wife though, it's people who chew gum loudly or make (what I think are) unnecessary noises. I definitely struggle with being annoyed at these noises in general, but because of the scope of your question, I will address how I handle eating at home. Here are all of the ways I can think of to deal with the annoyance:
- Play music during dinner. It doesn't have to be overbearing, just loud enough to cover the lip smacking noise. I do this fairly often in my own home.
- Get a white noise machine and play it during dinner. I've never tried this, but we do have a white noise machine that helps our baby sleep. It would definitely cut out the lip smacking noise.
- Make sure you are eating at the same time. If my wife eats before me, I notice that I am more sensitive to any noise she makes while eating.
- Help your husband realize that you don't think he is annoying, but that you can't control that you think the noise is.
- Give your husband something to do right after meals. Maybe the bed needs to be made, the dishes need to be cleaned, or maybe the weather needs to be checked...outside.
I'm sure there are other solutions out there, but my personal favorite is turning on some music. I usually turn on Pandora (but if I'm already stressed, the commercials can irritate me just as much as little noises). It can also make the meal a little more romantic while simultaneously masking the lip smacking sound.
I hope you can find something that works for your situation. I hope you don't feel like this is really dumb because misophonia is a real thing.
-Sunday Night Banter
P.S. slurping with milk & cereal, or soup is the absolute worst!
If he doesn't realize that he does it but he really doesn't mind you helping him learn to stop (you and SNB aren't likely to be the only person in the world this bothers), you could try to come up with a subtle signal that you could do as soon as he starts smacking. I attended vision therapy as a kid to help me learn how to focus my eyes together, since one of them will sometimes wander, especially if I'm tired or bored. Even as a twenty-something year old, my Dad will still occasionally do the little finger-wiggle that they came up with as a "hey, you aren't noticing, but your eyes are wandering so snap back to it, please" signal. Does it mean that I never wander? Nah, because I don't care, sometimes I let it happen, and it doesn't matter. But I have a good enough handle on it that you're to ever notice me doing it unless I show it to you on purpose. Maybe something similar could work for him if he wants to change?
Alternately, if he isn't comfortable with changing his behavior, I'm not sure I have that good of advice for you other than to take comfort that perpetual problems are an okay part of a relationship as long as you learn to handle them in healthy ways. (Perusing Gottman's website may give you ideas on that).