The Rx for Allergens While, as of yet, there’s no Social Al-Anon, many relationships do survive these annoyances, Cunningham says, because the perks of intimacy outweigh the quirks. Still, learning to cope requires effort and finesse. When confronting an allergen, the first step, says Kowalski, is early, clear communication. A friendly intervention, if you will. “Tell the other person how you’ve been feeling, without being accusatory, and see how they respond.” Do it early enough, and your partner may be able to curb the behavior before a bonafide allergy evolves. But the way you communicate your request for change is key, Cunningham adds. A sock in the hamper should be rewarded, yet a stray on the floor shouldn’t elicit an angry response. If you explode or act cold and aloof, he’ll have no incentive to change.And worse, that sock becomes a fight tripwire. Women, especially, should take note: Kowalski found these habits may be bigger dealbreakers for us than for men because we’re more sensitive to social allergens...and more likely to be physically turned off by them, too. But what if a mate just can’t change? You have two choices, says Cunningham: “Honey, you left the cap off again. I want a divorce.” Run screaming—or learn to accept. “If you’re getting a lot of good things from the relationship, too, you can make the choice to accept the person, including that behavior, as part of your life.” And love is all-or-nothing: Chances are, when it’s for good, you’ll take the good—with the laugh. Men vs. Women: A Battle of the Irks He hates when you call him “honeypie” in front of his friends. You go nuts when he scrapes his fork against his teeth. Why? According to Cunningham’s research, particular allergens cause the different genders to bristle more. Below, the his-and-hers divide: Men can’t stand it when she: • Morphs into a Primp-a-Donna who obsesses about having every hair in place. • Croons to him in baby talk. • Criticizes him constantly. • Gives him the silent treatment. • Issues ultimatums: “If we don’t visit my best friend in Florida, we’re never going on vacation again!” Women cringe when he: • Appears to lack ambition. • Stares at or flirts with other women. • Starts arguments over seemingly insignificant issues. • Forgets important dates, like birthdays and anniversaries. • Chooses “the guys” over her: “No, I can’t go see the play. We moved fantasy football to Thursdays.” A bane to both sexes? Cursing, belching, and gas. *Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
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