Kelly and I have been married for four years, and we were together for three before that. Except for the first month, I’ve known about misophonia (or what we now call misophonia) for the entire span of our relationship.
As you probably know after reading through our blog, she has misophonia and I don’t. When we meet other sufferers, they’re surprised we’ve been together for this long. Mostly our success is due to the fact that we’ve basically done the opposite of what doctors interviewed for a recent Wall Street Journal article said to do. Specifically, the article said that those living with misophonics shouldn’t adjust their lives to appease sufferers.
As I live and breath (considerably quieter than I may have before) if this had been my attitude toward misophonia, I would never have married my best friend. In fact, she may have considered me an enemy and left me immediately.
The article implies (it doesn’t say this) that engaging in activities that trigger misophonics while in their presence is a prosocial behavior. I disagree and believe (and have witnessed) that consciously refraining from trigger activities at home or when I’m with her has helped us grow closer together, perhaps closer than many modern couples today. In fact, I’d venture to say that we are one of the closest couples I know because the trials we’ve been through have forged an understanding of one another that many couples just don’t have.
With that in mind here are the six things I’ve changed about my lifestyle, and why I’m completely fine with it—and why you should be too.
No more meals together (sort of)
I grew up in a traditional home where dinners together were sacred. So did Kelly. Obviously we had different experiences. I loved family dinners. She didn’t. So, we needed to compromise. We still eat the majority of our meals together, especially dinner (believe it or not). But now I eat in an adjacent room, we have the TV on (in the room I’m in, I can see the TV, so we’re watching together) and I use either a plastic fork or a one of the many reusable plastic plates (got them at Crate and Barrel) we own. We hardly ever eat super crunchy food, which is fine since most crunchy stuff had been fried (think chips) and is unhealthy.
Guess what guys—the traditional family meal is over. If you think that you’re sacrificing quality family time, you’re significantly under-thinking what it means to be family-oriented. Why don’t you try stretching your brain and do something else that slows you to more realistically express your feelings (how many of us really talk while we’re eating anyway)? Try playing a game together (with music in the background of course) or going for a walk outside.
Kelly wrote a great post about how people with misophonia can socialize outside the home. It goes without saying, but we don’t go out to eat as often as others because it’s too difficult to control the noises that’ll be made. That said, we still go out and enjoy ourselves—we’re just more selective of the kinds of places we go, and we generally bring others with us to keep the conversation alive.
Going out less is actually a great way to save money and think creatively about how to do things that actually bring us closer together, like having craft time at home or think of new ways to try and start a business.
No car eating
I’ve heard it described by other misophonics that the car can be a torture chamber. It’s an enclosed space that always seems to amplify trigger noises. We’ve taken a lot of roadtrips together, and when it’s time to eat, we take the time to consider our options and find something we can take on a picnic. Guess what? This makes the road trips a ton more fun and minimizes the chances of experiencing unintended trigger sounds. It’s also safer to focus on driving if you’re not eating at the same time.
Sleeping with a noise machine
One of my favorite things about living with someone with misophonia is that I get to sleep with a white noisemaker on at night. If I’d never met Kelly, I never would have thought to add a noisemaker to my sleep routine, and I’ve got to say that I’ve slept better ever since.
No gum chewing
Gum chewing is a non-starter in our family. I wrote awhile ago about how Kelly introduced me to misophonia by giving me the death stare while I was chewing gum in front of her. Gum’s one of those things that neither of us can quantify why it’s so popular (I do get the need to chew something, but seriously the sounds people make when chewing can be beyond disgusting). I do sometimes chew gum at work, but since I’ve been off it for so long now, it’s almost annoying to chew it myself, so I typically stay away. I’m also a lot more cognizant about how annoying gum chewing and popping can be to others, not just those with misophonia.
If you have a problem with dropping your gum habit around those with misophonia, I’d strongly recommend you reconsider, and maybe start by reading this article about why it’s not all that healthy for you in the first place.
Because one of Kelly’s triggers is keyboard typing, working from home requires I work from a different room in the house. In college, I worked a lot in front of the TV. In hindsight, that probably wasn’t the most productive way to work. Today, I have a lot more respect for what it takes to get into true flow and how productive I can be once I’ve gotten there. And it’s okay if she needs to be in the TV room for extra background noise, but now I greater focus and complete tasks faster when I remove myself.
These are just a few examples of changes I’ve made because I want a good relationship with my wife. I find it hard to believe that others wouldn’t be willing to make the same basic sacrifices to help out someone they love, or are at least close to, whether through work or friendship.