12 Ways To “Hack” Your Relationship
Inspired by sites like Lifehacker.com, our experts offer you 12 creative workarounds, or “hacks,” to keep those little pet peeves from turning into real relationship problems.
"You know how people have these little habits that get you down. Like Bernie. Bernie liked to chew gum.
No, not chew. POP. So I came home this one day and I am really irritated, and I’m looking for a little bit of sympathy and there’s Bernie layin’ on
the couch, drinkin’ a beer and chewin’. No, not chewin’.
|Don’t tell her what to do, tell her how you feel.|
Poppin’. So, I said to him, I said, ‘You pop that gum one more time...’ and he did. So I took the shotgun off the wall and I fired two warning shots...into his head.”
— Merry Murderess Liz, Chicago
Sometimes it really is the littlest things that lead you to want to kill your partner (hopefully not literally, because jail time isn’t cute, but you get the gist). But before you let something minor get in the way of a perfectly good twosome, take a stab at solving your dating and relationship woes by using a clever “hack” — inspired by such sites as Lifehacker.com and Internet terminology, of course! We asked our experts to provide their most clever solutions, or “hacks,” to some extremely common relationship quandaries. Because, really, don’t you have more important things to do a deux than spending your time peeved? We thought so!
Common Peeve #1: Texting
My girlfriend always texts while we’re out to dinner. I ask her to stop, but she says that it’s not a big deal. How can I get her to listen to me?
The “Hack” to Happiness: “Don’t tell her what to do, tell her how you feel,” suggests relationship expert Laurie Puhn, author of the upcoming book, Fight Less, Love More. “Try saying, ‘When you text at the table, I feel like you’d rather be with the person on the phone than with me.’” Then ask her if there is anything she could do to limit the number of texts she reads and writes while you’re out together in general.
Common Peeve #2: Bringing up exes
My new guy keeps bringing up my past boyfriends and making jealous and cutting remarks about them, which bothers me. How can I get him to stop it and focus on the two of us instead?
The “Hack” to Happiness: “The next time he brings up a past beau, address his concerns by saying something like, ‘That was the past. YOU are my man now, and that’s all that matters to me!’” suggests Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. “Then play a song you both love and dance around together. The change in mood — and energy — will remind him how much he likes hanging out with you.”
Common Peeve #3: Terminal tardiness
I’m a huge movie buff and absolutely love, love, love watching the opening previews in the theater. Whenever we go out to the movies, my girlfriend takes forever to get ready, which almost always causes us to miss them. It’s so frustrating. What can I do to help her pick up the pace so we’re both happy?
The “Hack” to Happiness: According to Dr. Ish Major, psychiatrist and author of Little White Whys: A Woman’s Guide Through the Lies Men Tell and Why, “the solution to this issue requires that you fudge the movie starting-time truth a little. Say, for example, that a movie starts at 7:45 p.m. when the truth is it starts at 8:05 p.m. That extra 20 minutes will give you a window to be a little late AND still watch your previews. If she ever asks about it, you can always say, ‘I was mixed up about the time!’ but chances are, even if she catches on, she’ll play along so you’ll both end up happy!”
Common Peeve #4: Teasing
My boyfriend teases me in front of our friends about how we started dating. He says I called him 10 times so he had to say “yes” to a date just to get me to stop bothering him. How do I tell him that it isn’t funny or cute to me, it’s actually humiliating?
The “Hack” to Happiness: Instead of arguing about whether it’s true that you phone-stalked him, try saying something like, “Of course I called you a lot, I was CRAZY about you, but it embarrasses me when you mention it to other people,” says Puhn. Then ask if you can make this a little inside secret between the two of you.
Common Peeve #5: Incompatible sleep patterns
My girlfriend is a “close sleeper” — that is, she likes to sleep snuggled up right next to me in bed. I, on the other hand, am more of a retreat-to-your-separate-corners-of-the-bed kind of sleeper. It’s hard for me to get a restful night’s sleep otherwise, so I don’t often suggest that we spend the night together. It’s starting to cause a strain on the relationship. What can I do to make both of us happy?
The “Hack” to Happiness: “Your girlfriend likely needs to feel close and secure to relax and get to sleep, so try giving her that cuddling time for awhile. Once she’s asleep and comfortable, you can slowly put a little real estate between you two so you can also relax and get some sleep,” suggests Major. “She may look to reconnect during the night physically, but by that time, you’ll probably be so groggy that it won’t matter, so you can both wake up happy and rested.”
Common Peeve #6: Planning vs. spontaneity
My girlfriend likes to plan a whole weekend of activities, but I’d rather be spontaneous and just go with the flow. This is always a struggle between us. How can we work this out?
The “Hack” to Happiness: “There are two days in a weekend; let her plan one, then ask her to let the
other just ‘happen,’” says Puhn. “Relationships require compromise.” Learning to mesh your styles while addressing this little peeve will pay off in the future, too, when you have to find some middle ground on a really big issue — because you will already have figured out how to work together to find a mutually satisfactory solution and have that experience to build upon.
|I’ve come to realize he’s not the neatest guy in the world.|
Common Peeve #7: No sense of style
My boyfriend is a horrible dresser! Sometimes I actually cringe at the “looks” he puts together. How can I enjoy being out with him in public when I’m totally embarrassed by what he’s wearing?
The “Hack” to Happiness: Try a preemptive fashion strike. “Check in with him periodically while you’re getting ready to go out and tell him how good he looks when he wears [fill in the clothes that you like],” says Major. “Chances are, he’ll take the hint because he wants you to think he looks hot and wear exactly what you mentioned… or something close to it.” This will be a wardrobe win-win for everybody; he’ll feel good about how he looks and you will, too!
Common Peeve #8: Insecurity
It seems like my girlfriend is always fishing for compliments lately. I thought she was pretty confident but now I’m not so sure and it’s really starting to frustrate me. I told her that if I don’t say anything, she should assume that I think she looks fine. Of course, that went over like a ton of bricks! What can I do to lighten my constant complimenting load?
The “Hack” to Happiness: “Men and women think differently — if nothing is being verbalized, men typically assume things are OK; however, women often assume that something is wrong when the other person stays silent,” explains Major. “Try taking preventive measures and offer your girlfriend that reassurance before she feels the need to ask.” A simple statement along the lines of, “I like your hair that way, honey” or “You look really cute in that dress!” or “Wow, very sexy shoes…” can go a long way towards cutting down the frequency of her “fishing trips.”
Common Peeve #9: Bad breath
My girlfriend is always nagging me about my bad breath. I know I sometimes struggle with it, but she sounds like my mother scolding me when I was a kid and I hate it. How can I get her to address this issue more sensitively?
The “Hack” to Happiness: Sometimes it’s all about the way you say it. “Decide together what wording is OK for her to use that will let you know it’s become an issue without her unintentionally hurting your feelings,” says Lombardo. “For example, ‘Would you like a piece of gum?’ might sound less like scolding to you than ‘Did you brush your teeth today?’ does.” Sure, it might essentially mean the same thing, but agreeing on a code phrase is probably easier to deal with than hearing “Yikes…your breath is horrible!” while you’re out in public.
Common Peeve #10: Cleaning habits
While I love my boyfriend to pieces, I’ve come to realize he’s not the neatest guy in the world. He’s always leaving his things lying around my place and it’s driving me nuts! Is there anything I can do to make him tidy things up a bit?
The “Hack” to Happiness: Fight fire with fire. “The next time you are over at his place, purposefully leave a few feminine things out in view and around his bathroom area, and when he brings it up, say, ‘What’s the problem? It’s no different than when you leave stuff around my place, honey,’” suggests Major. “This may not be the most straightforward way to address the problem, but he’ll get the message loud and clear so that in the future, you can hopefully enjoy more clutter-free time together!”
Common Peeve #11: Over-analyzing things
My girlfriend always wants to talk about where our relationship is going, while I just want us to enjoy the relationship instead of analyzing it all the time. How can I shut down the need for these constant “status” discussions amicably?
The “Hack” to Happiness: “Agree to have little relationship check-ins once a month or so where you can assess what’s going on with the two of you,” says Lombardo. “Limit these conversations to 30 minutes and come prepared so you know what it is you both want to address during the check-in. Then, agree to do something fun together afterwards. It’ll satisfy her need to talk about where your relationship is headed and your need to enjoy your time together equally.”
Common Peeve #12: Needing space
My job is very demanding, so I really value my “me time.” When we first started dating, my girlfriend would suggest neat things I could do with my time alone to de-stress. Lately, it seems like my girlfriend has converted this ‘me time’ to ‘we time’ and I feel like I never really get a break. How can I ask for a little space for myself without hurting her feelings?
The “Hack” to Happiness: “With this one, you may just have to come clean and tell her that, even thought you enjoy all the things you do and the time you spend together, sometimes, it’s hard for you to really be into it because you’re so tired or aggravated from work and haven’t had time to de-stress yet,” says Major. “Ask if she’d mind checking in to see if you’ve had enough alone time before you plan to go out in the future…the amazing thing is that, once she consistently starts giving you your space again, you may not really want it anymore.”
That’s the funny thing about all of these dating and relationship pet peeves… sometimes the only solution required is that both of you are getting your needs recognized. When couples use these “hacks” to communicate and learn how to compromise effectively, those petty issues tend to disappear!
Kimberly Dawn Neumann (www.KDNeumann.com) is a popular New York City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in such publications as Cosmopolitan, Maxim, Health, Redbook and frequently online. A certified dating/relationship coach, she’s published two books: The Real Reasons Men Commit and Sex Comes First and is the founder of www.DatingDivaDaily.com.