Research Shows Nasty Habits Can Hurt Your Marriage

A Research Study That Proves What You Already Know

irritated wife and husband
 Peter Cade/Getty Images

Did you realize that even minor irritating behaviors can possibly make you allergic to your spouse's annoying habits?

A U.S. government National Institute of Child Health and Development grant funded a research study of more than 160 relationships at Louisville University. The study revealed that the more times your spouse repeats disgusting and uncouth habits, the more irked you become and the more threat to your relationship.

Research Study on Social Allergies in Romantic Relationships

According to an article in the UK Sunday times by Roger Dobson and Lois Rogers, the report, "Social Allergies in Romantic Relationships: Behavioral Repetition, Emotional Sensitization, and Dissatisfaction in Dating Couples," set out to show the link between "nasty habits and nasty divorce."

These results really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has been married. Most spouses view nasty habits as a lack of respect and they can lead to a lack of romance in a marriage. Some folks refer to this behavior in a marriage as "deromanticisation."

The research also reported that men generally violated more behavior norms and were more uncouth than women, but that women appeared to be more inconsiderate and intrusive than men.

According to the study findings, “the basic notion that things become more irksome over time is something that has never been looked at before. Relatively minor unpleasant behaviors appear to affect a partner’s emotions in a way that resembles how physical allergens function. The first experience is likely to produce a small negative reaction, but repeated contact increases sensitivity...Wet towels on the bathroom floor cause mild irritation. But the reaction gets stronger each time it happens. Through repeated exposure, it may produce a social allergy — a reaction of hypersensitive annoyance or disgust.”


Michael R. Cunningham, Stephen R. Shamblen, Anita P. Barbee, and Lara K. Ault. "Social allergies in romantic relationships: Behavioral repetition, emotional sensitization, and dissatisfaction in dating couples." University of Louisville; Holy Family University. Personal Relationships, Vol. 12, No. 2. (June 2005), 273-295.

In no particular order, here are some of the top annoying, uncouth, disgusting, nasty, and irritating behaviors that can grow into monumental issues in your marriage.

These bad habits were gleaned from posts on our Marriage Forum.

Bad Hygiene Habits

  • Leaving wet towels on the floor.
  • Burping.
  • Lack of personal hygiene.
  • Picking your nose.
  • Using a fork as a backscratcher.
  • Passing gas.
  • Refusing to replace an empty toilet tissue roll.
  • Not picking up after yourself and acting like a slob.

Nasty Public Habits

  • Exaggerating your stories at parties.
  • Calling your partner by a baby name in public.
  • Laughing at your own jokes that others don't see as funny.
  • Putting your feet on the furniture.
  • Being drunk.
  • Laughing shrilly.
  • Taking forever to get to the point in a conversation.
  • Making embarrassing, humiliating, or degrading remarks about your spouse in public.
  • Responding in baby talk.
  • Criticizing your spouse in public.
  • Borrowing in excess.
  • Engaging in childish bickering in public.
  • Flirting with other people of the opposite sex.

Annoying Relationship Habits

  • Asking your spouse to tell you how you look.
  • Making negative comments about what your spouse is wearing.
  • Messing up the car radio stations, or the settings on your home theater set up.
  • Packing too many items on a trip.
  • Having an inability to read a map correctly.
  • Taking too long to get ready to leave the house.
  • Boring your spouse by spending too much time shopping.
  • Nagging.
  • Reading emails while talking to your spouse.
  • Being possessive.
  • Spending too much time on the computer.
  • Being bossy.
  • Spending too much money.
  • Using sex as a tool of manipulation.
  • Showing fear when watching a horror film, especially by the guy in the relationship.

Once you realize that you have habits that are legitimately annoying and irritating your spouse and hurting your marriage, the obligation to change is in your court.

Tips for Changing Your Own Bad Habits

  • Don't believe the old saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." You can break a bad habit if you really want to.
  • Be honest with yourself. Do you have some annoying, nasty habits that are hurting your marriage?
  • Share your feelings about the annoying behaviors with your spouse. Stick to "I feel..." statements.
  • Include your spouse as you brainstorm solutions to your bad habits.
  • Many people find that replacing a bad habit with a positive behavior is easier than just stopping the bad habit.
  • Don't try to change more than one irritating habit at a time.
  • Share your personal goals and expectations with your mate.
  • Share with your mate that you need support and affirmation, not criticism or nagging.
  • Don't be too hard on yourself if you slip up now and then. But don't give up either or coninually make excuses for not achieving your goal.
  • Talk with your spouse about how to reward yourself for quitting a nasty habit. Keep the reward reasonable and achievable both from a monetary and a time perspective.