The sound of my husband eating drives me insane

What you need to know:

While eating, my husband smacks his tongue against the roof of his mouth and makes sloppy noises

While eating, my husband smacks his tongue against the roof of his mouth and makes sloppy noises. I thought it was me being intolerant so I did not mention it but now our teenage children are getting seriously upset at every meal time because of it. During a family meeting, we brought up the subject, without mentioning any names or accusing anyone. My husband’s comment was that he was brought up with the idea that eating like this was a compliment to the chef. How can I tell him to change without hurting his feelings?

Moving away from the noise as much as possible will minimise stress

Jessica

Dear Jessica,

The condition you mention is known as misophonia, which means a hatred of particular sounds. It is a condition where a strong arousal response is triggered when hearing specific human-generated sounds, such as chewing, and/or repetitive tapping noises, such as a pen clicking. There is no official criteria for diagnosing misophonia in the most recent edition of the (DSM-5); however, it has been proposed that misophonia may be most appropriately categorised under obsessions. 

The children could be reacting after noticing how they feel about their father’s noisy eating or could be that one of them gets irritated every time they hear the sound. For the sake of harmony, you could try not to stereotype their father even when his behaviour irritates you. People are different and sometimes, different things trigger their emotions.

Just like your husband mentioned, to a chef, the sounds of lip-smacking, slurping, and swallowing are the highest form of appreciation. But to someone with a certain type of misophonia, these same sounds can be torturous.

“The one suffering will usually experience a sense of loss of control, invasion of personal space, or interference with current goals and actions,” according to the study authors.

There are things you could do which might help. You could wear noise-cancelling headphones or play music to create a distraction. However, these will not solve the problem.  Psychological treatment might be needed, but in the short term, it might take the stresses away. Take care of how you feel and let go of focusing on your husband’s way of eating.

“Do not worry if you have to eat separately when the need arises. Moving away from the noise as much as possible will minimise stress. Talk to your partner, try to help them understand that it is a noise aversion and not just a personal aversion.

 “People might at times think that those who have this condition just do not like the sound or are rude or oversensitive. But those who suffer from this describe experiencing distress or physical discomfort.

Hatred of sounds can make people very intolerant of others to the point where families can be damaged. It is important to be self-aware and get help to reduce suffering.

Reader advice

Tolerate his behaviour

Isaac Kimbugwe. Sometimes, you have to tolerate some of your partner’s weaknesses. If your partner is not going to change, then what are your options, other than continually banging your head against a brick wall? When you accept your partner’s flaws, it can help you mentally move on to thinking about what the practical options are.

Let it pass

Martin Ssebyala. That is a tough one but I think the fact that you all mentioned it and nothing changed, just let it pass. If you have tolerated this behaviour for all these years, he is not going to change tomorrow but insisting on it will make him uncomfortable and create bigger problems such as eating out. This way, you will miss out on all the good family time that you enjoy during meals.

Avoid forcing change

Jules S. Nkwikiize. The biggest mistake women make is thinking they marry to change the way men behave. He will change that and you will find something else to be upset about. Imagine instead of enjoying your meal you are looking at how someone else eats. You are not his teacher but his wife. Those two are different. Try and ignore his behaviour and with time, you will start to live with it.

Talk to your husband

Hanna Bella. Actually making slurping noises while eating is a compliment to the chef in some cultures in South Korea. It means the food is tasty. However, since you cannot stand it, talk to your husband directly instead of just bringing up random topics in his presence.

It is important to date

Lubeck Fananda. This is why it is important to date someone before getting married. When you date each other before marriage, you do not have to fulfill any responsibilities. All you need to do is be together and understand each other. You are able to spend more and more time with each other. This will later help you in knowing each other in a better way. You can get to know each other’s likes, dislikes and various quirks.

Be honest with him

Phoebe Miriam. Sit your husband down and tell him directly but respectfully. Why would you fear to talk to your husband for all this time? He should be your best friend; someone you tell anything however embarrassing it might be. In this case, you hiding this from him while it hurts you and the children is a sign that you are not a good wife. Be honest and you will find peace.

Evelyn is a counselling psychologist with Sermotherapy Counselling Foundation

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