How to Tell Your Partner What's Annoying You Without Hurting Them

Communication in a relationship is an art. It helps you build the bridges that unite you, the complicity that establishes intimacy between you, and the plans for your life together. It's also how you tell your partner what bothers you about them. However, how do you do it without generating conflict? Find out here.
How to Tell Your Partner What's Annoying You Without Hurting Them
Sara González Juárez

Written and verified by the psychologist Sara González Juárez.

Last update: 18 April, 2024

Undoubtedly, one important indicator of well-being in a relationship is communication. This is especially the case when it comes to telling your partner about what’s annoying you without hurting them. In fact, addressing certain issues can be the reason for extremely intense negative feelings that often make you lose control. For example, fear and anger.

Emotional responsibility is a priority in communication. However, it’s easy to fall prey to false beliefs. For example, the belief that sincerity means saying everything that comes into your head, whether you’ve thought about it or not. In this article, you’ll find some strategies to improve your communication skills.

The importance of communication in a relationship

Communication in your relationship involves what you tell your partner and what they tell you. That said, it’s also what you don’t tell them and what they don’t tell you. Moreover, it’s what you both express and don’t express, either with words or without them. This process, far from being a mere exchange of messages, is a way of resolving conflicts, sharing special moments, taking care of yourself, and, ultimately, maintaining a healthy relationship.

According to a publication in the Iztacala Electronic Journal of Psychology, communication style influences partner satisfaction. Couples who make an effort to understand each other, solve problems constructively, and prioritize empathy, experience more satisfaction. On the other hand, those who exhibit avoidant, hurtful, or gossipy styles of behavior, experience the opposite effect.

Couple upset by communication problems
Reacting with anger doesn’t give good results. Therefore, it’s advisable to wait for emotions to calm down before talking.

How to tell your partner what’s annoying you without hurting their feelings

Building good communication as a couple requires time, effort, and dedication. That said, it’s within the reach of anyone. All you need to do is to make the decision to work on yourself and how you relate to others. Here are some tips to help you do it.

1. Make space for processing your emotions

It’s normal that you want to eliminate any discomfort quickly and instinctively. But, criticizing your partner or expressing your feelings in an impulsive manner doesn’t usually lead to a good conclusion. Under these circumstances, it’s easy for you to lose any kind of reasoning (if it existed in the first place) and you end up unintentionally causing damage.

Therefore, you should give yourself the time you need to calm down, reorganize your thoughts, and find an empathetic way of expressing yourself. Emotional regulation is directly related to the attachment style of a couple. In fact, as confirmed by this study conducted by the Comillas Pontifical University (Spain) it makes a relationship a safe place.

2. Try communication techniques

Here, the smallest of details count. So, look for strategies that facilitate the communication process between you. For example:

  • Ask, don’t demand. A request gives your partner the opportunity to show how much they want to get involved in solving the problem. On the other hand, demanding forces them to either give in or fight against you.
  • Avoid saying “always” and “never”. These two adverbs of time exaggerate your statements and make them inflexible. So, instead of saying “You never wash up the dishes,” say “I wish you’d wash up the dishes more often”.
  • Don’t criticize them for what they are. It’s preferable to refer to any specific actions that bother you instead of linking them with your partner’s personality traits. For instance, instead of calling them boring, tell them that you’d like to do more things together.
  • Ask instead of affirming. This may seem like a mere change of intonation. But, although it’s a small action, it greatly promotes the flow of a conversation. In fact, giving your partner the opportunity to express themselves is far more constructive than taking something for granted without allowing them to answer.

3. Choose a good time to speak and take care of your non-verbal language

Avoid having a conversation when you’re both feeling angry or sad, you have little time, or you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to say. Share your desire to talk by making it clear that postponement doesn’t mean avoidance but shows a sense of responsibility. Then, agree on a time to have the conversation.

Remember that you won’t be at all credible if your body language doesn’t match your words. This doesn’t mean disguising that you’re happy or upset with what your partner’s done, but regulating your expression while maintaining coherence. That said, it’s a subtle process and it takes practice.

4. Don’t confuse assertiveness with aggressiveness

Boundaries are necessary. Sometimes, you have to mark or defend them. Moreover, you have to do so against the current. This makes you feel uncomfortable because the wind isn’t blowing in your favor. Assertiveness is valuable in these instances. It’s based on sincerity, empathy, and making decisions. It means you don’t need aggressiveness to enforce your boundaries and you’re able to express what’s bothering you without hurting your partner.

Psychological therapy session to learn to express what bothers you without hurting your partner
Seeking professional help will always be useful for learning how to express what’s bothering you about your relationship.

It’s okay to visit a psychologist

Conflicts in a couple are extremely heterogeneous in terms of both course and origin.  Instances of jealousy, substance use, in-laws, and abuse may require the intervention of a professional. Research conducted by the Konrad Lorenz University Foundation (Colombia), claims that couples therapy helps partners acquire communication tools. Consequently, they’re able to address problems via guided and structured solutions.

Integrative behavioral couples therapy (IPCT) has been shown to be useful in reducing violent behavior in a relationship and increasing levels of satisfaction within it.

Remember that a healthy relationship is built on a daily basis, fostering the personal development of both you and your partner. After all, you’re together because you love each other. Don’t lose sight of this fact.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bustos Solorio, S. D. M., Téllez Girón Sicars, G., Obregon Velasco, N., & Pádros Blázquez, F. (2016). Estilos de comunicación y niveles de satisfacción en la pareja. Revista Electrónica de Psicología Iztacala19(4).
  • Echevarría Carrión, A. I. (2020). El apego adulto, y su influencia en la regulación emocional y la asertividad en pareja.
  • Sánchez Rodríguez, M. L. (2021). Efecto de la terapia conductual integrativa de pareja sobre la violencia de pareja situacional y la satisfacción marital (Doctoral dissertation, Bogotá DC: Fundación Universitaria Konrad Lorenz, 2021).
  • Bravo, C. S., Meléndez, J. C., & González, C. M. (2021). Indicadores psicológicos y de pareja relacionados con la insatisfacción marital: estrategias de intervención. Psicología y Salud31(1), 81-92.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.