There's a reason his music annoys the hell out of you, are you listening?
So, why do you find some — maybe not all — of your partner’s music so grating? I’ll explain it, but be warned: You may not like the reason. (But stick around until the end, there’s good news: you can change your response!)
How music affects your brain:
Science tell us that music has a very real physiological affect on us. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), we can even watch the brain respond to music. What's fascinating though, is that even when your brain can't consciously recognize the difference between Bach and Beethoven, your subconscious mind knows and responds as expected!
Remember, over our lifetimes, we accumulate associations with all of our senses, including taste, touch, smell, sight ... and hearing. As a result, we connect triggers and effects: Don’t touch the hot stove!. The smell of smoke equals fire. These associations are either dopamine-pleasant, or they trigger self-protective "fight, flight or freeze" adrenaline response. And you know from experience, one feels better than the other, right?
Music also triggers both pleasant and unpleasant responses based on our learned associations (e.g. life experiences). If you learned to love your mother’s singing voice and associate that sound with safety and comfort, feelings of contentment and safety trigger in your mind (and body) when you hear similar vocal music. But, if you're a wounded war vet and "God Bless The USA" triggers your military post-traumatic stress, your mind clearly made a very unpleasant association with that music.
This response isn’t about rational judgment: The music you hear triggers you in a unique way that's highly individualized. There are as many possibilities for response to a given song as there are human beings to hear it.
Science can’t yet explain why the same song can trigger such a wide range of responses. Interestingly, we do know there are significant positive "results" when we use music with autism, or in drum circles, or when we play an instrument or listen to music as part of trauma recovery.
So, what's happening in your relationship is that music your man loves, that conjures a positive response in his brain, triggers a negative response in yours. And if you feel forced to listen to music that triggers primal negative responses in you, that's a problem.
So, what can you do when you can't stand his taste in music?
First, you’d better start talking about it. If your partner’s music feels like torture to you, it’s time to have a little chat with your man. Do this without the offensive music playing in the background. And begin the conversation without attacking him or criticizing the music he clearly loves. This is the time to strengthen your bond with your S.O. not shut him down. So, simply explain what happens to your emotions when you hear that particular music. What you want here is a little empathy. Suggest compromises: headphones (not eardrum-busting ear buds, please!); listen in the car when driving solo; don’t blast it on surround sound.
Hopefully this little chat went well. Problem solved.
But, if the talk didn’t work — what then?
If you value this relationship and you're open with each other enough to discuss music each of you like and dislike, there are at least two possibilities:
1. Love him unconditionally
That means allowing your partner to openly love the music that makes him happy (but makes you want to hurl yourself in front of a train). This is the "suck it up!" option.
2. Stage an intervention
No, not for him ... for you. Ask your partner to give you a music appreciation course on the music he loves so that, hopefully, you can learn to tolerate "that" music as you begin to understand how it makes your partner respond and why he loves it so.
How DO you inch closer to music that makes you want to wretch? Like food, humans need variety to thrive. Think about it: How long can you go on being EMO-only until you really do kill yourself? You need a diverse musical diet. No one’s forcing you to eat this diet or that one, but you can use your own awareness to choose a musical diet that keeps you sane and your relationship strong.
Remember — there's probably reasons your partner loves that music that you don’t know about yet.
If you two can explore together what happens when you listen to the same music, even the annoying stuff, you might find there is music that gives both of you the bump you need — perhaps it's music neither of you have heard before.
Find some fresh ways to use music to grow your perfect relationship into one that’s durable and sustainable.
By taking the time to understand why your partner loves (and needs) the music you hate, you begin to understand your partner on a deeper level. Over time, that process — and the human connection that stems from it — can start to unwind your personal fight, flight or freeze response and shift it toward a more pleasant one. What you want to do is get beyond is your initial negative gut reaction.
Look, we all have music that we love that others think is lame, or even downright horrible. Yet, we all want awareness, understanding, empathy, and unconditional love from our partners. Whether it prompts a tough discussion about traumatic triggers or playfully invites you to determine the best soundtrack for making love, music is a powerful tool that sparks our innate human ability to find and keep that perfect relationship.
Bottom line, music offers you and your guy a great opportunity to deepen your bond. And that's an offer too good to refuse. Take it!
Bill Protzmann is a speaker and life coach on a mission to raise awareness about the power of music as self care. Want to join the music care movement? Check out the Music Care website or sign up for lessons.