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Can you think of a time where there was someone tapping their pen and you couldn’t ignore it? Or maybe the constant sound of someone chewing their food loudly puts you off your food? Misophonia is when these noises are intolerable to you, causes you to feel extremely uncomfortable, creates panic inside you and urges you to leave the area where the noise is and, in some cases, can bring on extreme rage. Although misophonia is not life threatening it can have such a huge impact on your life and could potentially affect your ability to maintain relationships. A person who suffers from misophonia may feel that they cannot be as sociable as they want to be because they fear they will be judged for reacting to sounds that they cannot physically tolerate.
In a marriage two people are so close to one another that it becomes difficult to ignore sounds that evoke reactions in you – for example, if it is loud chewing that makes you mad and your spouse is someone that tends to chew their food loud or make noises that irritate you, it can cause problems in your marriage for both parties. The person who suffers from misophonia may be worried to explain their feelings to their spouse in case they offend or hurt them, on the other hand the person who makes the sound may not understand their spouses misophonia and intolerance to such sounds and may disregard them as being rude or unreasonable.
Here are some case studies of couples who are dealing with misophonia –
Case Study 1
Andy and Sarah came to see me about an ongoing issue they were struggling to deal with. They had been best friends throughout school and college, however when they got to university they made the decision to move in together and as with any couple who move in together, they noticed things they would do that would annoy one another – like Andy leaving his dirty towel on the floor or Sarah wanting to watch her favourite reality TV programmes. They were able to work through certain things like Andy’s cleanliness and take it turns when it came to Netflix shows but there was one particular thing that really took a toll on their marriage – Sarah’s hatred of certain noises.
The problem was that Andy felt he couldn’t control some of the noises he was making and this really agitated Sarah, for example the way he would breathe deeply when he was suffering from a cold, or how he tapped his foot when he was nervous. The issue was that when Andy was nervous or sick, he would want compassion or care from his wife, instead he had to figure out ways that Sarah was able to stand being in the same room as him! In Andy’s mind it was so irrational but to Sarah those noises just weren’t things she could ignore – they really created an innate raging reaction in Sarah that she was finding it harder and harder to control. Thankfully both Andy and Sarah were open to couples’ therapy and we worked out solutions to help them make living and dealing with misophonia together, much easier. Sarah needed an escape and calming routine, also it helped her to release past resentments from earlier experiences in the relationship. Feeling happier and more at peace supported her with the irritable noises. Andy did the best he could to show empathy, remove himself and minimize the triggers.
The result was they started to laugh at the misophonia, to see the funny side and when Andy now eats a pack of crisps watching the football game he turns up the volume 😊
Case Study 2
The second case study is based on a couple who had been trying for a baby and after many years they were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. One of the hardest things about parenthood is hearing your baby cry and wanting to calm it. But can you imagine finding out that own your babies cry is completely intolerable to you? Where it drives you up the wall.
Mark and Karen had prayed for a baby for years, but the time was never right and although Mark had been around children before, he had never been a parent or had a newborn baby in his care. It is only when his wife gave birth and he was alone in the hospital with the baby that he realized he could not stand the sound of a newborn baby crying – not even his own baby. Mark felt disgusted with himself and he was so ashamed to tell anyone, especially not the nurses or his wife Karen. The first few weeks of fatherhood, Mark did whatever he could to help his wife stop their daughter Isabella from crying – he would leave the baby with his wife’s mum in the house when it was his turn to look after her , and then spent hours walking around outside in the garden, praying that Isabella would be sleeping by the time he went back inside. One day it all got too much for Mark and he blurted it out to Karen that he couldn’t handle Isabella crying. Karen told him it’s normal as a parent not to want a baby to cry but she didn’t understand how badly it was affecting him. Needless to say, Mark spent a lot of time making excuses to be away from Isabella or made sure he was never alone with her! This deeply upset Karen, as she wanted her daughter to have a close bond with her father. It was only when she mentioned it to a friend that her friend mentioned misophonia. Finally, it all made sense to Karen and so she decided to seek for help and found my other articles I wrote on misophonia ‘how to know if you have misophonia’ and ‘help my husband has misophonia what can I do’. I worked with them both separately first to understand what was causing the most stress and ideas to resolve it. I always work with a couple individually first and then together because when couples come together it’s essential to be focusing on solutions, action steps and the future. Too many couples go and get marriage counseling online or in their local area and repeat all the problems which makes people feel more stressed and annoyed.
Together we worked out a way to manage the care of Isabella so that Mark could engage as much as possible with her and escape if he needed to in peace and without guilt. Mark’s anxiety, guilt and fears he was a terrible father lessened and their love grew stronger as Karen loved and accepted him through it. She also jokes that she will have responsibility for their children in the younger years and he can take over for the teenage years and give her a rest then.
There are so many more cases where misophonia affects sufferers deeply. As you can see from the case studies that there are a lot of feelings of shame and guilt when certain sounds are evoking unwanted or inexplainable responses – however it is important for us to remember that while others may perceive these as difficult reactions, they are involuntary and need attention rather than to pretend they don’t exist.
Understanding how deep misophonia is will help you to explain this to others and make changes in life that make it easier to manage your symptoms.
Thankfully, there are ways that help people who suffer misophonia to deal with those sounds that become intolerable and affect your relationships. Some of those treatments are cognitive based therapies such as hypnotherapy and sound exposure or coping strategies such as using ear plugs when possible.
(Zawn Villines: 2018).
When you are living with someone who suffers from misophonia, it can be difficult to maintain a happy marriage and can push you further apart, however there are things you can do to support your spouse and build on your love for one another. For example, taking time to talk your spouse through an episode where a sound is irritating them, ensuring they carry something with them that reduces the impact of noise, like ear plugs and distraction tools like repeating positive affirmations to replace the rage they are feeling. Additionally, something that is so beneficial in a marriage where one person suffers from misophonia is to attend action orientated couples’ therapy or marriage coaching. Someone who is able to support both spouses in their marriage and has an understanding of misophonia and who can give positive action steps to help support a spouse that is suffering from it.
When two people love each other, they are willing to do what they can to build their spouses self-esteem and create a happy, loving and secure marriage. Don’t feel ashamed to seek individual or marriage counseling in Dubai or online if you find yourself suffering from misophonia. Just be sure to choose a forward focused counsellor that spends 90% of the time on solutions. Also be sure to keep the channels of communication open so that you can both confide in each other when you are experiencing something that may build barriers around you.