How to Stop Misophonia From Ruining Your Relationship

Couple sitting at their breakfast table, having an argumentMisophonia, sometimes called selective sound sensitivity syndrome, is sensitivity to specific sounds. Some common triggers include eating sounds such as chewing, throat sounds, nasal sounds such as a person blowing their nose, and repetitive noises such as tapping or clicking a pen.

While it is a potentially challenging symptom, misophonia is not a mental health diagnosis. A 2015 study of more than 300 people with misophonia found that only 2.2% had a mental health condition.

Misophonia can be extremely distressing both to the person with misophobia and their loved ones. It can cause conflict in relationships and make it difficult for couples to go to certain public places. In addition, sensitivity to the sounds a romantic partner makes may be hurtful and feel overbearing or critical.

How Misophonia Impacts Relationships

People with misophonia may struggle to gain understanding and acceptance from their partner. A partner might dismiss the misophonia, arguing the person is being too sensitive or controlling. The person with misophonia may also be critical of their partner when they make noises perceived to be annoying.

In relationships, misophonia can be a source of conflict, hurt feelings, and criticism on both sides. Some common issues include:

  • Parenting children together. Many children make loud, annoying, or repetitive noises. This can make it difficult to equitably distribute the parenting load and may also cause the person with misophonia to be angry or impatient with the child.
  • Going out in public. Common misophonia triggers include the sounds of people eating, clicking sounds such as pens and clocks, sounds associated with driving and traffic, and other people’s body sounds.
  • Eating together. Many people with misophonia are sensitive to sounds such as chewing and silverware scraping against a plate.
  • Understanding and identifying misophonia. The partner of a person with misophonia may think their partner is exaggerating or being excessively critical. The person with misophonia may not understand that their sensitive reaction to sounds is not typical.

A person with misophonia isn’t just annoyed by certain sounds; they find these sounds intolerable. Some even describe the sensation as physically painful, while others experience revulsion and disgust. In the context of a relationship, both partners may feel they have to plan their lives around misophonia. When a partner of a person with misophonia makes a triggering sound, they may feel judged, shamed, and criticized.

People with misophonia may struggle to gain understanding and acceptance from their partner. A partner might dismiss the misophonia, arguing the person is being too sensitive or controlling.

Misophonia Relationship Tips

People with misophonia may be able to improve their relationships by:

  • Talking openly with their partner about their misophonia.
  • Seeking individual treatment for misophonia. Some research suggests that the way a person emotionally processes sounds can lead to misophonia, and therapy may help with this.
  • Ruling out medical causes. Some studies suggest misophonia occurs in as many as 60% of people with tinnitus (persistent ringing in the ears). Autism, sensory processing disorder, and other diagnoses may also play a role in misophonia.
  • Talking about how certain sounds make you feel rather than blaming or shaming your partner. Expressing disgust at the sound of chewing can be hurtful. Telling your partner that loud chewing makes you feel anxious or overwhelmed, even when you love the other person, is often more productive.
  • Practicing strategies for managing your emotional reactions. Deep breathing, visualization, and positive affirmations, for example, may help with angry reactions to everyday sounds.
  • Identifying your misophonia triggers. The more specific you can get, the better. One strategy for coping with misophonia is to slowly expose yourself to your triggers at low doses and in low-stress situations. This strategy works best with the help of a therapist or doctor.
  • Try carrying earplugs when you go out in public. This may enable you and your partner to enjoy yourselves in public settings that might otherwise prove difficult or overwhelming.

People in relationships with partners who have misophonia can support their relationship and partner by:

  • Taking misophonia seriously. If your partner says they cannot stand a sound, believe them and empathize with their emotions. Your partner may feel panic, rage, or pain in response to sounds that are neutral or only mildly annoying to you.
  • Practicing self-care. If your partner is unable to go to certain places or do activities that you enjoy, do them on your own or recruit a friend.
  • Separating your partner’s reaction to sounds from their feelings about you. It can be hurtful if your partner dislikes a sound you make, such as chewing or clicking a pen. This reaction is about the sound, not their feelings for you.
  • Making reasonable accommodations for your partner’s needs. If you make a sound your partner cannot tolerate—such as chewing with your mouth open—it’s easy to feel defensive. But when this sound is something you can easily change, try to do so. People make many changes, small and large, in relationships. Reminding yourself of this fact can make it easier to change the sounds you make.
  • Helping your partner identify misophonia triggers. Try to narrow to a list of specific triggers. For example, “traffic sounds” is vague and make numerous public outings difficult. Disliking squealing tires is more specific. Specific information makes it easier to work around your partner’s sound sensitivities.

Little research on misophonia supports specific treatments, and no drug has been approved for the treatment of misophonia. Preliminary evidence, however, suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be effective. A 2017 study of 90 people with misophonia found that 48% had a significant reduction in symptoms of misophonia with CBT.

Couples Counseling and Misophonia

Individual counseling may help a person with misophonia better understand their diagnosis and triggers, develop coping skills, and perhaps even overcome their triggers through progressive exposure.

Couples counseling can help partners understand one another’s needs and may empower both partners to stop misophonia from undermining their relationship and quality of life. A compassionate therapist may:

  • Help couples strategize ways to work around the misophonia.
  • Support partners in better-balancing family and household labor when misophonia makes certain tasks—such as caring for a crying baby—difficult.
  • Empathize with one another’s emotions. People with misophonia may feel dismissed and poorly understood by their partners, who may feel criticized or judged for their own sounds or resentful that misophonia limits the activities they can do together.
  • Foster productive communication that avoids blame and shame.
  • Teach couples skills to foster intimacy and closeness even when some outings and tasks are impossible.

The right therapist helps both partners feel respected and safe. Therapists offer solutions without judgment in the privacy of a completely confidential session and can help you set goals that align with your values. Find a therapist near you who can help.

References:

  1. Kumar, S., Hancock, O., Cope, T., Sedley, W., Winston, J., & Griffiths, T. D. (2014). Misophonia: A disorder of emotion processing of sounds. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 8(85). Retrieved from https://jnnp.bmj.com/content/85/8/e3.32
  2. Palumbo, D. B., Alsalman, O., Ridder, D. D., Song, J., & Vanneste, S. (2018). Misophonia and potential underlying mechanisms: A Perspective. Frontiers in Psychology, 9. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00953
  3. Schröder, A. E., Vulink, N. C., Loon, A. J., & Denys, D. A. (2017, August 1). Cognitive behavioral therapy is effective in misophonia: An open trial. Journal of Affective Disorders, 217, 289-294. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032716321681

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  • 30 comments
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  • will

    April 22nd, 2020 at 2:40 AM

    Great article. tiwas a great help in understanding this issue between the two of us. now we feel better that we can make changes to work together in undertanding ths issue. Thanks,

  • Ann

    May 11th, 2020 at 8:25 AM

    I wish I have read this years ago. This has caused so much problems between us its almost unbearable. Mainly because Ive felt that he is trying to control me, how I eat, when I make the dishes, how I close cupboards and doors, the list goes on forever. Ive had an attitude of You cant control me I do as I want. From now on I will try to change my behaviour. He on the other hand has not allways been respectful in his way of telling me off.

  • Rebekah

    September 10th, 2020 at 11:29 AM

    I wish I knew about this about 30 yrs ago!! I just thought I was crazy! I hate loud noises that stand out. If noises blend it doesn’t seem to agitate me. Eating, loud chewing, lip smacking, banging of silverwear when eating, cracking gum, banging cubbord doors, the sound of emptying the diswasher……the list is endless. White noise helps tremendously at night, and I always have the TV or radio on during the day. I can’t stand the silence….makes me nuts! Definitely deal w/anxiety and depression so guess that seems to make you susceptible to something like this. Was a relief to find so much information about this topic.

  • Melissa

    December 17th, 2020 at 9:44 PM

    My jaw dropped when I read your comment Rebekah. I have the same triggers!!!

  • Kellie

    January 15th, 2021 at 10:07 AM

    My husband has misphonia. It took a long time for me to understand the issue. I have changed my habits, but some days I feel like I am walking on eggshells. The hardest part for me was separating his reactions from his feelings about me.

  • Mark

    February 6th, 2021 at 10:12 PM

    Thank you all for opening up about this issue. I upset wife and daughter cause I feel rage from triggers mentioned. They can’t understand my feelings so they taunt me by overdoing the chewing noises. Now that I know that this is a recognized condition I can hopefully help me to deal with this.

  • Patricia

    February 15th, 2021 at 2:44 AM

    I have had these issues since I was quite young, probably around 6 or 7 years old and was told not to be so “silly” so I am pleased to know there are others who suffer from this condition. I still have to distance myself from these irritations but now know that i’m not crazy and there is a name for this condition.

  • Chloe

    February 18th, 2021 at 12:17 PM

    I’m 15 years old, and my family tends to tell me to just ‘deal with it’. I’ve been suffering through a lot of triggers at school and at home with my family basically just grounding me and calling me sensitive when I flinch or become distressed since I was around 7 years old. At least, that’s what they did until I moved out and went with my mom. But even she doesn’t even WANT to understand it. My first ever trigger was chewing gum, then it proceeded to a huge list…
    I’m trying to get my mom to research Misophonia but she refuses to do so. I might just send this to her and have her read it. It might change something. Even if it doesn’t though, this was a helpful blog. Thank you for creating this.

  • Eve

    August 28th, 2023 at 12:10 PM

    I am 13 years old and I have known about this problem that I had for about 4 years and only found out what is was exactly about a year ago. I have done as much research as I can but I find it very hard and don’t know what to do. This has helped somewhat but not much. I know why I ruin every dinner we have as a family, why I say such hateful and hurtful things to them, it hurts me as much as it hurts them because I care and love them but it is hard. I know they try and they love me and they feel like they are walking on eggshells but I feel so much anger and like they are not trying. They annoy me by purposely by chewing loudly, or not moving into the other room while they are eating (when it is not mealtime). Worst of all I have to face it at school. With all the students chewing gum and even my teacher who I have told time and time again about how I feel and my emotions, she says she will do better that she won’t do it in the classes I am in (only one, about 1-1:30 hours) but she can’t or won’t. It is like she has to chew gum 24/7. But it has become very hard because she won’t stop herself or any of my classmates even though it is not allowed in school. I feel very stressed out I can’t deal with it much longer. I have had to hold in the anger, the pain, the hate. I have anxiety and really bad socially, but if this keeps up from my family, friends, classmates, and I feel especially my teacher some one will get hurt, me or someone else because I can’t keep this in. I am only 13 and I can’t just hold down all my anger, I don’t know how to address it.

  • monika

    September 23rd, 2023 at 12:00 PM

    Hi Eve
    I found this piece after searching for ‘I love my partner but I have misophonia’, and your comment really struck me, because I as read I can hear and feel how sad and desperate you feel. I have had ‘mouth sound related’ misophonia since I was a child too – but I only found out it was a named condition during 2020, after my partner moved in with my daughter and I for the Lockdowns, and the triggers began to include a certain sound that occurs within his speech – nightmare! I kept it secret for a while and just kept running away when he was speaking, cutting conversations short, finally sticking plugs in my ears and hiding them with my hair – but they were never good enough. I googled and found out about misophonia, and after about a month I broke down and told him and my daughter what I was experiencing and gave him all the info I had found online. He was sympathetic and supportive, but can’t seem to do anything about the sound as it happens within his normal talking, so that would mean he’d have to stop talking! Anyway, I am replying to your comment because I found a solution that might help you, and I really hope you will at least try it – it isn’t the perfect solution, but it has helped me so much so far – I obtained some little silicon devices I put in my ears, you can buy different ones, they are marketed as noise-modulating to help stress and anxiety associated with ‘busy modern environments’ – I have ones called ‘Calmers’ by ‘Flare audio’ – but the trick is that I actually added an extra bit to them by plugging up the hole in them (they are not earplugs, they are a special shape which modulates the frequencies as the sound enters the ear canal, without reducing the volume of the sound) with a small piece of silicon cut from a different, useless, earplug. These things now do reduce the volume at which I hear everything, but I can still hear well enough to carry on as normal, hear people speaking etc – I still hear my partner speaking perfectly fine, but I don’t hear the particular sound that triggered the disgusted rage of the misophonia. This also works for other triggers I always had – people chewing gum, eating with their mouth open, speaking while chewing, sucking on sweets etc – now I don’t have to literally stick my fingers in my ears like I used to, or change carriage on a train, or get off a bus and walk etc etc. I urge you to try them

  • Lyndsy

    March 31st, 2021 at 8:15 AM

    Hi,
    I’m hoping someone can help me . I’ve always had problems when I was a child and would be in school I couldn’t stand the sound of someone chewing gum loud, sniffing, coughing and the list goes on .. I have Learned to avoid my triggers and have been able to for the most part. The problem I’m currently having is I work at a warehouse and I loved working at my job because of the loud noises would over power the noises that I can’t stand, but for some reason just last week the noise of a person honking the horn on the machine they drive in the warehouse has drove me insane and in a state of rage. I actually left work early today because it drove me insane.. why is this noise bothering me when it’s never ever bothered me before ? Now I’m worried on what the hell am I gonna do if I can’t shut that noise out, I will lose my job and I need this job . I’ve worked in warehouses for at least 10 years and it’s never ever drove me crazy, why Is it now? Now, I’ve noticed my bf coughing all the time has also set me over the edge and he doesn’t understand it nor does he care to . I’m hoping their is medicine out their to help . I’ve also read something about oversensitive ADHD IM wondering if thats what I have. I can’t sit still and just relax, I have to be moving around or doing something. Anybody take medicine that helps or what has helped you

  • Blair

    August 19th, 2023 at 11:31 AM

    Ask your doctor for a high dose of Gabapentin and and SSRI (Like zoloft). This does not cure Misophonia but it will reduce the rage and you can bounce back faster after being triggered. Good luck

  • Carol

    April 11th, 2021 at 4:34 PM

    I am going crazy between my daughter and husband she complains he always loud even when quite .My family members told me to let them work it out but my daughter gets nasty . I fell bad because she hurts his feelings she is seeing a therapist but he
    is telling her to make the same noisy around . I don;t know how long i can take this please help us.
    people if she here them like copy them i am just afraid she will do it to the wrong person she had abt 6 sessions. not helping our family

  • Lisa

    June 16th, 2021 at 2:12 PM

    I don’t know if this misophonia is a disease or disorder or whatever. So many people shiver at the sound of a false note, a barking dog, nails on a blackboard. Why should being annoyed by the sound of clearing a throat or whistling only belong to the world of misophonic people? Even smelling or touching things, gave a different effect on different people.

  • Beverly

    June 17th, 2021 at 2:04 PM

    I’m so grateful I’m not crazy!!!! I do have depression, anxiety, OCD, . I never sit still, my family tells me to get over it!. So many things bother me on all your comments and I’ve done therapy for my sanity! I can only hope when we retire in September 2021 I can live with my better half after 45 years of marriage.🙃

  • JD

    November 28th, 2021 at 1:45 PM

    Today is the first day I’ve ever heard this term & now wondering if this is my situation! The sound of chronic coughing, snorting, and clearing throat makes me insane. It’s like nails on a chalkboard to me. Several family members have these chronic issues & I’m at a loss on how to cope with.

  • Beverly

    November 29th, 2021 at 8:55 AM

    I’ve had this condition for years with scraping spoons around a bowl or clinking silverware on plates, Mom used to click her nails in the table or on the arm in the car! So annoying.

  • The same man

    December 21st, 2021 at 5:07 PM

    I dislike talking people and when somebody watches on TV, the programs which I dislike. Makes me really angry.

  • BJ

    December 26th, 2021 at 5:16 AM

    I am glad to know there was reasoning behind my feelings of irritation, annoyance, frustration, and anger. I cannot stand to hear people smack when they eat, clank utensils on teeth or dishes, talk with food in their mouths, or make sounds when they swallow. I refuse to eat with certain family members and friends and avoid activities where there’s food unless there is LOUD music!

  • Cheryl

    March 25th, 2022 at 11:51 AM

    I’m SO glad I discovered that this IS a thing! I have such a hard time listening to people when they are chewing with their mouths open, smacking their lips, or chewing gum like a cow. I also can’t stand the sound of someone who is biting their nails and spits the nail out. That drives me crazy. All these sounds drive me so nuts that I can’t have a conversation as I am telling myself over and over to remain calm and it will be over soon. I’m dating someone I really like at the moment, but he chews like a cow and with his mouth open. I don’t know how to tell him, it drives me absolutely crazy. And why is it that when I’m chewing it doesn’t bother me? Of course, I do not chew with my mouth open…

  • Phil

    April 6th, 2022 at 10:14 AM

    When my wife smacks her lips I want to scream. I have to talk to myself not to friek out. It is especially bad if room is otherwise quiet.

  • Peggy

    April 30th, 2022 at 3:22 PM

    I’m having great stressful emotions with my husbands yawning,snoring,and the dog chewing on raw hides.I want to choke the dam dog,and scream at my husband..I’ve lost lots of sleep over his snoring and yawning during the day…he is on a cpap machine,

  • alex

    May 1st, 2022 at 8:40 AM

    I think this problem is so big that it s obvius you barely live on it. An they on the top profit and does not want to provide the solutions .I am sure of this.

  • Tina

    June 5th, 2022 at 10:44 AM

    I’ve coped in silenced most of my life. I am now 56. I was open and specific about this with my new mate..it’s mostly when we eat popcorn watching a movie that is rather quiet. I explained to him calmly when we met, that if he just closes his mouth when he chews the popcorn, the sound is not at painful. I asked calmly and he got hostile, defensive, said he likes to talk when eating popcorn and watching the movie, and that I had to cope and he shouldn’t have to change. He insinuated it’s all made up to control him, fake..and we have had hundreds of meals and I have only asked twice, if he can please not talk when sharing popcorn watching a quiet movie..he blew up and pushed popcorn away said he won’t eat it anymore with me….it hurt. Last night after I calmly asked him to pleas just close mouth, it broke out into huge fight…he shoved the popcorn bowl..i ended up throwing the whole bowl in trash and walked out to my car to leave his house..he followed..came out sat in my car…apologized..and I said for what? ..anyway i went back in but said I will never eat popcorn again with him..a beloved activity..I will not complain…will just calmly leave the room..ugh..I wonder if we can make it.

  • Goose

    December 29th, 2022 at 5:51 PM

    Exposure Therapy does not help misophonia and is known to actually make misophonia worse. Don’t encourage people to torture themselves.

  • Darlyn

    January 4th, 2023 at 6:55 PM

    My partner explodes if I yawn… or cough. He thinks I do it deliberately…I do not!! I am too scared to be myself around him!
    Nasty, hurtful, hateful comments… How can I live with this?

  • LindaX

    January 5th, 2023 at 11:29 PM

    OMG, I am so sick of the accusatory facial expressions (he pulls faces) and toddler-like behaviour. I no longer eat any chips or anything crunchy (not that I did a lot anyway) unless he is out or downstairs and I can feel as though I’m not being judged. Unfortunately I feel resentment towards him, not for the condition itself, but for his complete lack of coping skills/willingness to recognise that his reactions are contributing to the problem. It’s like walking on eggshells all the time when he’s present.
    But his communication is lacking anyway, without the misophonia and I often wonder if he would even notice if I didn’t come home…I guess so, as I cook tea, LOL.

  • LindaX

    January 5th, 2023 at 11:36 PM

    I hear ya! I don’t eat with my mouth open, or yawn without covering my mouth. If I eat chips I have found myself holding them in my mouth to make them softer and not chewing them straight away. But that means it takes forever to eat them, just extending the issue, and it seemingly makes no difference. Now it’s simply easier to not eat, or else not eat in the same room as him except for the evening meal, which I try to make not crunchy (at least on MY plate – his own crunching doesn’t seem to worry him).
    I think he has not one clue about how badly his facial expressions and lack of communication affect me.

  • Barbara

    September 5th, 2023 at 5:19 PM

    My husband avoids me or screams at me to quit it and change because he says there is something about my voice lately. He had complained for many years about our son’s voice until he became and adult. Now he complains about my voice, nothing specific, just something he hears in it. He has gone to two counsellors now who deal with misophonia and he still finds my voice too much

  • lizzie

    October 7th, 2023 at 3:45 PM

    Thank you for sharing this article. I’ve been with my husband since 2001. He is happy that he knows there is a name for his problem of being sensitive to sounds and smells do the same thing. He goes into a rage over the littlest of normal human noises. I feel so stressed and anxious always walking on eggshells over every sound and smell. I can’t even cook in our house anymore. I can’t load the dishwasher due to smell and sound, and we can’t even eat next to each other. What is very frustrating is that he goes in a complete angry rage at me for it, and never says anything to any of his friends who are super obnoxious with their eating sound, tapping, clinking ice, etc. I feel like I do everything and anything to avoid noises and smells around him but sometimes it just becomes too much for me. He says he can’t control it there is no help for someone with misophonia. So hurt and stressed.

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