I love being married to Kelly. Like every relationship, ours has its share of challenges. If you’ve read any of the rest of our blog, you know that Kelly has misophonia, and I don’t. Since we’ve been together, we’ve met a small handful of couples where one person has misophonia, but not many more. A lot of the time we meet these couples, the person with misophonia is afraid to tell their husband or wife about misophonia. This means the person suffering is also the only one making sacrifices so that they can live together.
I want to share a bit of my story living with someone who has misophonia. If you or your partner have misophonia, Kelly and I have discovered that the best approach to marriage is to be one team, fighting against misophonia together. I’m not saying we’ve mastered it, but we work together as a unit to keep our marriage strong. In a lot of ways, our marriage is no different than anyone else’s. We just have to be a lot quieter.
My Intro to Miso
I was introduced to misophonia by the “death glare,” something miso sufferers practice with regularity (not because they want, to but because they often have no choice). Kelly and I were at my college apartment a month after we’d started dating. I was chewing gum. She was giving me the death stare.
After I got rid of the gum and threw the rest of my uneaten stash away, she told me that certain sounds make her really angry. It had been that way for a long time, but there was no real reason for it that she knew of. She had been diagnosed with ADD, but that was about it.
Other than not chewing gum, not much else in my life changed. We went on dates together and with friends. We spent a lot of time watching movies, playing video games, and catching up on Lost. I didn’t really think a lot about the issue for a long time.
Things did start to change though. My apartment bedroom had a huge walk-in closet (by college standards), and we started taking turns studying separately, one of us at the desk in my room, the other in the closet. If we ever went to her apartment, we’d often end up in her room working the a white noise generator on while her friend made dinner or watched TV downstairs. We hardly ever went to the library, and while I didn’t ask about it, I now know that deathly silent environments are generally the enemy. There might not be much talking, but you’re guaranteed that 99% of the people there are chewing gum, eating snacks, sniffling, or typing on their computers.
In grad school, Kelly lived in a loft apartment with hardwood floors. There was hardly any soundproofing, and we spent nearly every moment there with noise generators running full blast. Still, I was a stupid graduate student, and misophonia wasn’t really a thing. I had no idea the severity of the problem. I was told she had ADD, and as someone who never knew anyone else with ADD either, that’s what I grew to believe the core problem was.
Kelly was on her way to being a teacher. During grad school, she worked with the disability office to secure a private testing environment (many of her exams were scheduled to take place in a computer lab—not cool). When she started teaching, she instituted a firm no-gum policy. I was worried that it would be too difficult to handle the students, but she ended up being on her feet all day and was in relative control of the classroom, so misophonia, from what she would tell me, wasn’t as big a problem when she was hyper-focused on teaching as it was when she went home to a thin-walled apartment with party-hardy roommates and gaming neighbors.
Many times I had to go downstairs to tell the guys in the apartment below to turn down the subwoofers so we could finish preparing for next day’s lesson.
As a boyfriend, fiancé, and now husband of someone with misophonia, I learned quickly what it means to stand up for my wife. I’ve had difficult conversations with friends, neighbors, and family about changing habits to accommodate for misophonia. No one I talk to understands the breadth of the problem. Generally speaking, people react with a quasi-“oh that’s interesting how do you adjust” attitude, but don’t ask many more questions.
That means it’s my responsibility to regularly re-inform people we’re close with about how certain noises affect my wife. I don’t expect them to change their habits immediately, maybe even ever. And because of that, I’ve become just as vigilant about seeking out the noises that might affect her and doing everything I can to keep us away from them. This is very hard when you don’t have misophonia, but I’ve come to realize that our marriage is stronger when I embrace that role.
If you’re living with someone with misophonia, don’t fall into the trap that misophonia is just part of some larger neurological disorder that can be fixed. Maybe that’s true, but science is a long way from figuring that out. The best thing you can do is embrace that misophonia is real and that it has terrible effects on the person who suffers from it. There is no better alternative than putting yourself in his or her shoes.