Were boyfriends born to bug us? Why do they do it... And can they be cured?
We’re not talking about bad boyfriends, the ones that cheat on you and treat you like dirt. This is about the guy we’re madly in love with and thinking of setting up home and happy ever after with. But god he can be annoying, can’t he? The good news is, it’s not just your fella – all men are guilty of the following crimes! But the reason these things go from slightly irritating to relationship deal breakers is because most of us don’t know how to fix the problem. Accept there isn’t a magic spray that will make him change, find out why he persists on being a pest when he knows it does your head in, and follow our solutions to see how many irritating sacrifices can be changed into happy(ish) compromises…
Irritation: When he’s hooked on something – be that football, or Angry Birds – there’s no letting up. When an addiction is not shared (for instance, it’s not an issue if you both smoke), it leads to isolation and, to avoid getting caught out despite the promises, deception.
Justification: He can do what he likes in his free time. It’s just his way letting off steam, meaning you get a relaxed boyfriend afterwards.
Solution: Banning obsessions breed retaliation, so ask him to cut down while he’s around you, and explain why (that you want more time with him) rather than insulting him with ‘what kind of halfwit plays computer games when he’s 30 years old anyway?’ Even if that’s what you’re really thinking.
Irritation: Testosterone has a lot to answer for. Whether they’re defending their territory (which can be a beer just as easily as a woman) or trying to grab what’s not theirs, men can get fight-happy on a hair-trigger.
Justification: You need to fight for what’s yours, and you’re a coward if you let someone mouth off at you and get away with it. Women do exactly the same thing when they’re confronted with a obnoxious cow in the loos anyway.
Solution: Focus on calming your man down with soothing tones (men get as primal as forest creatures when they’re angry so just pretend you’re placating a grumpy bear). Failing that, distract him with your cleavage – all he needs is a second of clarity before he realises how pointless the fight is.
Irritation: So he gets that terrified ‘deer-in-headlights’ look any time you mention marriage or babies? Whether they avoid the subject, or run screaming for the hills, the idea of settling down with just one woman is a sure-fire way to freak most men out.
Justification: Ambitious as they can be at work, men rarely set out a map for their personal life for years to come – they know the bits they like and want to keep things that way. While you’ve got it all planned out! Where you see security, he sees a life sentence. Society still pressures men to be the providers, and while he’s accepted one day he’ll have to man up and take responsibility, does it really have to be today?
Solution: Just because he gets jittery at the idea of settling down, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want it. But he might be blinded by panic. If you can see a beautiful life together, then make sure he does too. He just needs to feel like he’s not exchanging friends and fun for a daily grind of housework and a lifetime of nagging.
Irritation: Male style can utterly mystify us women. Either they are so uber-metrosexual that we have to fight for time in front of the mirror, or they think nothing of turning up at a party in a grubby old t-shirt or a sweat-drenched bhangra badboy hoodie and cap.
Justification: Men prize comfort, and can’t imagine having a good time if they’re hemmed in by uncomfortable shoes or a tight jacket. You know how we want to wallow in our comfiest clothes when we’ve got PMS or are hungover? That’s how men feel all the time. Plus, they hate looking like they’ve made too much of an effort – it screams uncool.
Solution: Realise that all fashion sends a message, even if it’s not immediately obvious. If he wears black Converse rather than formal shoes with a suit, don’t assume he doesn’t care - he just thinks it makes him look quirkier and cooler than, say, a banker. Flatter his ego: tell him how buff he looks in that black shirt or those dark jeans, and you’ll have your very own Ken doll, ready to wear what you want.
Irritation: Salad is for girls. Cliched but true, and the more laden with grease a meal is – think family-sized buckets of KFC – the more men seem to like it. Unless he’s an athlete though, stodge can lead to podge. What’s more, by eating like your boyfriend, you’re likely to rocket up the dress sizes as well.
Justification: Dieting isn’t manly is it? Nor is it filling. Men would argue that denying yourself something as fundamental as food is lunacy, and they’d be right – you’ve been miserable on enough fad diets to know this. Indulging in food that makes you feel good is actually, psychologically speaking, a way of looking after yourself.
Solution: Counting calories is boring for sure, but you could encourage your man to eat healthier versions of food he loves so he doesn’t feel like he’s missing out. Cooking your own food tends to be healthier too, so try having an evening in making dinner together. There are many cookery courses you could join to help you spice things up in the kitchen (we love the one offered by anjumanand.co.uk). And golden rule: always eat at the table, never on the sofa.
Irritation: You’re out having a romantic dinner with your man, when the gorgeous waitress comes over to take your order, and suddenly your man is engaging in cringeworthy banter about how big and juicy the steak is. When your man flirts with other women in front of you, it can make you feel at best, invisible, and at worst, undesirable.
Justification: If a man has said he loves you (and let’s face it, those words don’t just trip off male tongues), he can’t understand why you’d make an issue over a little harmless flirtation. Even if the ‘L’ word hasn’t been broached, he’s with you and no-one else, right? And it’s not like we women never flirt with good-looking male air stewards or shop assistants.
Solution: Just because he’s drooling over the blonde barmaid, doesn’t mean he sees her as anything more than eye candy. Unless he’s being really disrespectful, in which case a verbal slap-down is entirely justified, let him have his fun. Why not indulge in a little light flirtation of your own? If nothing else, it will snap your man’s attention back to you.
Irritation: When a woman feels like her man isn’t spending enough on her, she interprets it as him not caring enough.
Justification: This may be the 21st century, but lots of women expect the man to pick up the bill on a date. If you both earn, why should he spend his on you, while you spend yours on shoes?
Solution: Gush about how a sweet male friend of yours treated you to one of the loveliest meals you’d had in a long time, and you’ll find yourself sitting down to a candlelit meal pronto.
Irritation: They fart like it’s an Olympic sport, forget to brush their teeth, and love nothing more than an evening in front of the TV rummaging inside their pants. What’s worse, some of them relish it.
Justification: All men like the idea of living like a devil-may-care rock star. Who needs fame when you can fall asleep in a pool of your own whisky aftermath?
Solution: Let him know that you find cleanliness sexy. Only kiss him when he’s smelling sweet. Better still, offer to shower with him.
Irritation: Men don’t need any cajoling to get naked. But after the first few weeks of dating, when they want to touch you all the time, most of the other types of physical contact that women love – kissing, cuddling, and hugging – can disappear. It can feel like now that they’ve done the legwork needed to get you, their job’s done.
Justification: What’s more intimate than having sex? You know he cares about you, so as long as you still bond in bed, he might think that’s enough. Women are guilty of doing the same under the sheets, too, and their eagerness to please their man in bed can vanish as the relationship gets comfortable.
Solution: Physical intimacy isn’t hard to get – especially if you make sure that every now and then it leads to sex. And keep your side of the bargain up; make sure you keep doing things he loves too, and he’s more likely to want to please you. To avoid slipping into a rut, turn the TV off and put some scented oils in a bath made for two.
Irritation: You do all the grocery shopping, make sure the bills are paid on time, and organise everything from flights to hotels every time you go on holiday together. It can leave you feeling that you’re more like his mum than his lover.
Justification: When it comes to planning, isn’t it better just to go with the flow? Men tend to feel that women are just better at sorting things out, and at knowing how to iron, hoover and cook (‘but you always complain I do it wrong’, they’ll wail). If they work long hours and earn more than you do, they might feel like they should be cut some slack in non-work time.
Solution: Women often treat men like brainless idiots who can’t tie their own shoelaces. Don’t do everything for him or he’ll get lazy. Negotiate your tasks equally rather than delegating to him like he’s an office intern. Ask him to plan some things, and let him know you trust him not to let you down. And try to resist criticising him when his best efforts don’t live up to your standards!
Irritation: They say one thing, then do another. Men find it worryingly easy to break promises, and are champions at making excuses for why they haven’t kept a promise – just saying sorry, and meaning it, is alien to most, but when they eventually do, they want a medal... and it’s still no assurance they won’t do it again.
Justification: It’s not their fault, honest. Women demand so much that it’s hard to keep up, and make sure they do everything. And didn’t you promise to nag less and spend too long and too much on Asos? If you’re ordering just one more shawl, then you can’t have a go if he keeps smoking even when he’s promised not to.
Solution: A promise is a vow, really, so try not to extract something so serious over putting the bins out. Appeal to his warrior-like sense of honour, and make him realise that breaking promises is a cowardly, dishonourable thing to do. And give him that damn medal once in a while.
Irritation: Whether it’s about his whereabouts and what he got up to, men find it too easy to be flexible with the facts.
Justification: You can’t handle the truth! Men operate on the basis of what you don’t know won’t hurt you. They might have a point – do you really want to know that he fancies your flatmate a little bit?
Solution: It’s tough owning up to something that’s going to get you a bollocking, so when he does, don’t instantly jump down his throat. And no double standards by editing your own truths!
Irritation: It’s the one thing that makes women bond with their future mother-in-laws over. Wet towels on the bathroom floor, clothes all over the bedroom, and the random detritus from his pockets – men can make a mess of your place even when you don’t live together. The initial thrill of playing house as a couple can quickly fizzle out leaving you feeling like you’ve traded lives with a Victorian housemaid.
Justification: Life’s too short for housework. Men just don’t have the same ‘clean-o-vision’ that women have, and if they can’t see a mess, how can they be expected to clean it up? There’s a difference between cleaning up and obsessive tidying, which many women fail to spot. If you like your cushions plumped just so, or your photo frames arranged at a particular angle, it’s unfair to expect a man to care.
Solution: ‘Darling, let’s put these pizza boxes away before we put the movie on, so the room looks all nice and romantic.’ You’ve approached the subject with a term of endearment, didn’t make it sound like an order, suggested you’ll help, explained how it’ll be better for both of you, and hinted at physical intimacy. Putty in your hands. Now apply the same tactic to every other messy situation…
Irritation: Few men understand the horror we feel as they plonk themselves on the leather sofa with their bare sweaty arse.
Justification: It’s natural to let it all hang out. Learn not to be body shy like us, they say. Be free! Always adding: take your clothes off too.
Solution: Set some boundaries. Tell him that while you want to see him naked, your neighbours might not share your feelings. If he doesn’t want to feel hemmed in at home, then buy him a sarong. It worked for David Beckham.
ONE TO ONE
Irritation: Men will chat about anything until the cows fall asleep, but they recoil when you ‘just want to talk’. Emotional intimacy, like talking about their feelings or concerns, is hard when they would much rather deal with everything in the pub. If he doesn’t want to talk, the chances are he doesn’t want to listen to you that much either and just switches off.
Justification: He doesn’t see any point in opening up about things that not only bring him down, they upset you too. If talking solved everything, wouldn’t women have solved all the world’s problems by now?
Solution: Men are raised to cope with things alone, so the idea of crying on someone else’s shoulder is totally alien. Get him to share positive stuff like his dreams – maybe he wants to open a bar or write a book – and be supportive. When it comes to your problems, he may be your partner but he’s not your therapist. You’ve got every right to want to offload major issues, but don’t bore him (or anyone else) with petty nonsense like a weird look that some girl at work gave you.
Irritation: The male motto of ‘why do today what you can put off till tomorrow’ infuriates even the most mild-mannered lady. It can mean having to endure another bitter outcry against the system when you know he’s done sod all to try and beat it, or getting threatening letters because he’s forgotten to get round to paying the bills.
Justification: There’s always so much to do, and life is stressful anyway, so it’s just not possible to get everything done – some things just have to wait. Even with his dreams and ambitions, you can’t force these things to happen. Best things come to those who wait and all that.
Solution: It can take a saint not to explode with fury when a man seems to have oodles of time to watch a match with his mates yet never has time for the DIY he keeps meaning to do, or send off a CV for that better job you both know he could get. Practice tough love. Don’t step into help; once he misses out on something important because of his laziness, he won’t rely on you to sort it out for him. And next time he does the ‘woe is me’ speel, smile sweetly and ask: ‘So, what are you going to do about it now? And I mean now.’
Irritation: Candles, flowers, bit of good old-fashioned cheek-to-cheek dancing… it’s not too much to ask is it? Yet men seem mystified when it comes to romancing women. Some of them manage it in the early stages of a relationship, only to let their belching, scratching gremlin out once they’re comfortable. And no, handing over his wallet does not qualify as an act of Rishi Kapooresque romance.
Justification: Women have been brainwashed by Hollywood rom-coms. Men feel that they show they care in the little things like buying you your favourite glossy magazines when you’re sick, or rubbing your feet at the end of a hard day.
Solution: Romance is important, but don’t follow a tired old script. Do you really find the whole spaghetti-slurping and stringy cheese scene romantic? Tell him you’d much prefer him to surprise you with his own pasta effort. Romance is just about creating a moment for you two to connect. Even standing hand-in-hand on a damp train platform can be romantic if you’re gazing into each other’s eyes.
Irritation: He thinks he’s Nihal; you know better. But men live for music, and unless they’re into Adele, they’ll want to blast it out – the louder the better. The same goes for movies. Soon, you feel like you need sound-cancelling headphones just to get any peace and quiet.
Justification: Men are big, shouty creatures, and like hearing noise as much as they like making it. What kind of man would want to watch The Bourne trilogy with the sound down low anyway? Besides, ending shockwaves of industrial dubstep through the floorboards is a fair trade for the hours you spend screeching on the phone to your sister or during Sex And The City reruns.
Solution: Tell him you don’t want to live in a nightclub, and nor do your neighbours. But kill his music, and you’ll kill his soul, so negotiate a couple of nights where you go out, and he makes as much noise as he likes. And quiet after midnight, please.
Irritation: Gizmos and gadgets rock a man’s world in a way that women will never get. As well as blowing huge chunks of cash on the latest piece of kit, men bore us senseless with their explanations of why they simply had to get this cable, or buy that adaptor.
Justification: Technology is just toys for grown-ups, and men never stop loving their toys. And why not – work should be followed by play after all. Let us have our hunks of shiny metal, they say, and you have your shiny metallic nailpolish.
Solution: You know that delicious little flutter you get in your heart when you fall in love with a new pair of shoes? Men get that when they walk into the Apple store. For real. As long as it’s not bankrupting you, let them have their toys (within reason), but also let them know when play time is over. And ladies, before we start making out electronic toys are just for boys, let’s not forget about the battery powered beauty in our top drawer…
Irritation: Not talking aliens here, even though it can feel like an invasion when his weed-smoking mates are suddenly weeing on your bathroom floor at 4am.
Justification: A man’s home is his castle, so he won’t feel like he belongs there if he can’t bring his friends over. And boys don’t go to bed early.
Solution: You can’t ban his friends. Have fun yourself; when he invites them round, go out with yours. Lay down ground rules – call before they arrive, don’t let them raid your fridge, and flush the bloody toilet.
Irritation: It’s a problem when he spends longer than you preening himself. We don’t want a Neanderthal, but if we wanted to go out with a woman, we’d be lesbians.
Justification: Thanks to modern advertisements, men are under as much pressure to look good as we are.
Solution: Vanity either stems from insecurity or cockiness – don’t indulge either. Agree set time times for the bathroom and the gym, and if he won’t stop checking himself out, buy him a make-up kit to draw home the point…
Irritation: No-one likes hanging around, and as a woman, it can be super-awkward waiting on your own, all dolled-up, in a bar or restaurant. When he’s not on time, it also makes you feel like he just doesn’t care enough.
Justification: What’s the rush? Traffic, work, general… stuff. There are plenty of reasons or excuses for why he’s late, and if you see each other often, he might not want to rush every time. Plus, when he knows you like him, he knows you'll still be waiting. Women are also well-known for making men leave the house late because they’re still fiddling with their make-up or earrings.
Solution: Forgive a few minutes of tardiness here and there, but if he’s regularly late then point it out and tell him it makes you feel like you’re not important enough. He might like wasting time, you don’t. Although cut him some slack if he calls to explain why he’ll be late. But give him a time limit. Anything more than 20 minutes is rude, and if you’re still waiting after half an hour, leave.
Irritation: You have an argument, and suddenly he’s screaming in your face. Loud male voices instinctively feel threatening and scary because they’re designed to be – men can’t hunt prey or scare predators away from their cave with an un-menacing squeak.
Justification: Just as women find it hard to control the waterworks when they get upset, men find it difficult to stop their voices going to full volume. Unless they need a course in anger management, most men only tend to shout when they feel like they’re not being heard or being allowed a word in edgeways, or because he feels like he’s being pushed into a corner.
Solution: Try a little self-awareness. If you’re bawling at the top of your lungs, his shouting is actually just the male equivalent – it just sounds worse to your ears, in the way that your crying sounds like nails on a blackboard to his. At the first sign of a disagreement turning into an argument, take a deep breath. It’s hard for a man to yell when he’s not getting a reaction. If you stop, so will he.
Irritation: They fall fast asleep straight after sex, snore like an elephant being buggered, and steal your duvet. In the morning, he’s slept like a baby while you’re murderously sleep-deprived. Whoever thought men and women could share a bed in harmony?
Justification: Male hormones released after sex are designed to knock him out, and to be fair, it’s hard to control your actions when you are utterly unconscious (that applies to women too). And his point is: if something really important comes up (like a burglar rustling downstairs), he’ll immediately wake and go into protector mode and take control of the situation. Isn’t that an indicator he’s to be trusted for the time when there’s a baby in the next room?
Solution: Making sure he doesn’t eat a heavy meal just before bed should stop him from gassing you in your sleep. Cutting down on coffee and smoking, and losing weight should improve his snoring; if it doesn’t, well, he’ll have to become best friends with your sofa.
Words: Priya Shetty • Hair & Make-up: Arpita • Location: McQueen - Shoreditch, T: 020 7036 9229, www.mcqueen-shoreditch.co.uk