Loving someone who has Misophonia: An open and honest interview

Loving someone who has Misophonia: An open and honest interview

Loving someone who has Misophonia: An open and honest interview

In this article, we will delve into a topic that affects countless relationships worldwide – coping when your partner has misophonia. Every day at Hashir International, we speak to people of all ages and backgrounds about their sound sensitivities. Often, alongside their personal struggles with the feelings that arise because of triggers – there are other complex challenges happening because of the effect misophonia has on their relationships.

Misophonia is characterized by an intense emotional reaction to specific sounds, often causing distress and discomfort to the individual experiencing it. For those who are in a relationship with someone suffering from misophonia, navigating daily life can present unique challenges, requiring understanding, empathy, and innovative coping mechanisms.

Today, we have the privilege of hearing from an incredible woman who has been supporting her partner through their misophonia journey. As the wife of someone with misophonia, she has faced the realities of living with a condition that can turn everyday sounds into emotional triggers. We’ll gain valuable perspectives on how misophonia impacts both partners, the adjustments made to accommodate triggers, and the emotional resilience required to forge a strong bond amidst adversity.

Q: Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. How would you describe your everyday life, being in a relationship with someone who has misophonia?

I want to preface all of my responses by saying I do understand how difficult and painful an experience having misophonia can be and I want to be compassionate towards the suffering of anyone with it. Part of that, I believe, is being honest about how deeply it can impact their relationships, which I think must be one of the most serious effects misophonia has on someone. I also want to say that despite all the things I say here about my struggle with my husband’s misophonia, I do love him dearly.

I would describe being the partner of someone with misophonia, and in particular living with someone who has misophonia, like living in a house of mirrors: Often what you see is a gross distortion. You bump into things, struggle with absurd views of yourself, and easily get lost in the maze of multiple competing perceptions. At its worst, it is painfully shame-filled. Depending on the situation it can also be tense, confusing and frustrating.  

At its best, it can be intriguing, enlightening and an opportunity to be creative – I must admit that everything I learn about it is objectively fascinating to me. And, like anything with shame attached to it, naming it, knowing how it operates, and speaking about it starts to reduce the sting of it. To be part of understanding something that is only just coming into the light, for all its painful aspects, does also feel like a unique adventure. It is a double-edged sword.

Q: What are the main challenges of being in a relationship with someone who has misophonia? Without a doubt the biggest challenge is being my husband’s “trigger person”. Being the trigger for someone you love, who you are committed to and in partnership with, really complicates the relationship enormously. It seems, at times, I am his arch nemesis because I have become “the fly in the ointment” of my husband’s attempts to carefully control his environment. How do you stop hurting someone you love when you aren’t always able to control the noises you make? How is it possible that they still love you when they have these kinds of reactions towards you? Knowing that they behave this way because of Misophonia helps with understanding the “why” but it doesn’t take the sting of a contemptuous glare or look of disgust away. 

Q: How do you typically handle situations when your partner experiences a misophonic trigger?

I do my level best to keep calm and carry on. Stop the trigger, apologize if I was the cause and otherwise keep doing whatever it is we were doing and try not to make a big deal of it. This also involves a good deal of self-coaching to keep me focused on making choices aligned with my values in that moment instead of getting triggered.  It works most of the time, but it’s never perfect.

For times when I’m struggling with my own reaction, I try to remove myself from the situation so I can cool down a bit. In these cases it’s phone-a-friend, write about it, cry about it, or just sit for a bit and breath so I can remember what is important to me, what I can and can’t control. It reminds me of the famous Serenity prayer “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I know many other such occasions are in my future and I hope I will get better and better at navigating them in ways that support both of us.

Q: Have you noticed any changes in your own behaviour or emotions as a result of your partner’s misophonia?

Probably too many to list! I would say that I have become more irritable because I’ve become so much more self-conscious which is, frankly, exhausting. I am also so much more aware of specific noises now. While they don’t bother me, they still occupy a certain amount of my attention.  I am also keenly aware of where my husband is in the house compared to me. I find myself constantly thinking, can I be heard? 

Q: Have you found any effective strategies or coping mechanisms to help both you and your partner navigate misophonic triggers together?

Right now, we are working on these largely as separate individuals though I would love to be able to do more as a team. I don’t think my husband is quite in that space yet. For me personally, educating myself was key. Also, speaking with Fiona, the clinical psychologist at the clinic, a few times to cross-check my understanding of the condition and to just talk about my own experience with someone who understood the misophonic terrain was really, really helpful.  Based on her recommendations, I am also reading some books on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) that are also useful. In particular, being more and more mindful of my reactions when my husband is triggered and making better choices in those moments is making a positive difference for both of us, I believe. 

Q: Do you feel that misophonia has affected the emotional connection in your relationship? If yes, how?

Yes, it has impacted it enormously. What is unique to our relationship is that we spent over 7 years living apart most of the week. His misophonia was completely unknown to me during this time– he was able to cope and hide it very successfully.  Now that we’ve moved in together though, I’ve gone from thinking of myself as someone who brought some measure of happiness and joy to him to being someone who he struggles to be around much of the time. And I am sad to say, vice versa.  I genuinely grieve for the loss of our old relationship though I still have hope a new hybrid version of us will develop as we learn to better cope with his misophonia.  We have a long way to go still, but with the treatment he is receiving at the clinic, there are improvements to be noted and it feels like there is just enough space for things to turn around slowly. And of course, we had those 7 predominantly happy years prior to all of this – so that gives me hope that we can find our way through this.

Q: Are there any specific situations or environments that you avoid to prevent triggering your partner’s misophonia and how does this impact your daily life?

Yes. We still avoid eating together unless he needs to do it for “homework” as part of his therapy. Also, part of my husband’s coping mechanisms is to feel sort of quarantined from others – he hates people in his way as he is trying to move about the house.  So I actively avoid the kitchen if he is in there – and if I am in there and he needs something, I try to step to the side or sit down until he is done. It just adds a whole other series of things to consider and do in what is already a busy life. It makes it difficult to truly partner with each other – to act as a team. 

Q: How do you balance accommodating your partner’s needs with maintaining your own well-being and mental health?

I don’t know that I’ve found a balance just yet, but we do have a fairly regular routine established that helps both of us navigate and side-step the most trigger-inducing activities. More recently, I made time to spend away from home with friends and that was especially helpful. I’ve also gotten a bit better about having some space that is just mine – so I have a safe spot to be when I need it and where I can’t trigger him while I’m there.

Q: Are there any misunderstandings or misconceptions about misophonia that you’ve encountered in your relationship, either from your partner or others?

Because it’s still a long way away from being something people commonly have heard of or know anything about, I think it is a very common misconception to assume the misophonia is “just being difficult” and has more control of themselves than they actually do.

Also, there is a lot of speculation out there in terms of why so many misophones have a specific trigger person even though there is no scientific answer for this yet. I did like Dr Mercede Erfanian’s explanation (the neuroscientist on the team at the clinic), that it tended to be worst with the people you had the highest expectations you would be safe with such as mothers and partners.  This explanation at least gave me the compliment that my husband otherwise felt safe with me which made me a bit more compassionate towards my husband’s experience. 

Q: And lastly, do you have any advice for other partners of people with misophonia?

Yes. Focus on what you can change, not what you can’t. Get support if you need it, and you probably do. And stay informed – there is new information coming out all the time. 

Misophonia may pose many difficulties, but it also offers an opportunity to strengthen the foundations of love, compassion, and understanding. This interview serves as a testament to the power of love and commitment and the importance of acknowledging and supporting those with misophonia and their loved ones. If you or a loved one are struggling with misophonia being part of your lives, please get in touch and speak with one of our understanding experts.

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