How to Help Your (Non-Misophonia Suffering) Partner Deal With Misophonia

by | Jan 23, 2015 | Articles | 24 comments

How to talk to your partner about misophonia

Let’s face it, misophonia is not a people-friendly condition.

Imagine if you were eating your dinner, minding your own business, and someone came up to you, jabbed a finger in your face and screamed:

“UGH! What the HELL are you doing!? You’re DISGUSTING. You sound like a pig eating slop from a trough”.

Imagine that person was your partner. It wouldn’t be very nice would it? In fact it would be unreasonable, irrational, offensive. RUDE.

While we misophonia suffers are mostly able to control ourselves (and refrain from verbally or physically abusing strangers and loved ones while they’re eating) we often experience a surge of emotion that makes us feel like we want to behave that way.

The problem is this can often leak out in other, more subtle ways while we’re experiencing an ‘episode’.

Friends and family may think that we can occasionally be a bit weird or grumpy. That our rage-filled glances at the dinner table or snipey comments are mood swings.

The reality is that they’re not – we’re suffering from a very specific and strange condition – and when you live with someone I’ve come to the realisation that it’s much better to let them know that you have this condition than let them think you’re a complete and utter psycho.

6 things to bear in mind when telling a partner or loved one about your misophonia

1. You need to give them time. They’re not going to understand it to begin with. Even if they are absolutely lovely and understanding about it, at first they’ll probably just think that you’re a bit OCD. Remember, for the longest time we, as sufferers, didn’t even know this condition had a name. Give them time to get their head round it.

2. Educate them. Let them discover a little bit about this disorder for themselves. You’ll probably feel like you want to open the floodgates and let them know everything right this second… to describe the exquisite pain that you feel when you hear someone biting a spoon 40 yards away… or the blood boiling fury you suffer when someone breathes irregularly nearby – but take a step back. This will be very strange and a little overwhelming for them too. Point them to useful websites where they can read up about it. Let them come to you with questions.

3. Make sure they don’t blabber about it to everyone they meet. Yes, secrecy is bad – of course we want to educate people about misophonia – but telling everyone in the world that you have this weird ‘thing’ about eating sounds/certain noises right away doesn’t help either. Why? Because that’ll be all people talk about. Friends will get self conscious eating around you. On top of that, there’s always be some comedian desperate to test your condition. Before you know it you’ll have your best friend’s mum in a headlock after she’s hilariously pretended to eat a nectarine too close to your face.

4. Let them know it’s you, not them. That sounds cheesy as hell, but it’s absolutely true. Make it very clear that you’re aware that you are the one with the problem here, not them. You’re aware that it’s irrational and you know that when they make a noise, they aren’t doing it to hurt, or get at you. This is really important, because ultimately they’ll have to put up with some dark times. You need to let them know that despite your Jekyll and Hyde episodes you love them and you’re on their side.

5. Try and have a laugh about it. This is a serious condition, but the best way to diffuse the aftermath of any awkward episodes is to laugh about it. Let’s face it, it’s pretty ridiculous. We can’t even eat soup with our own mothers without wondering whether she’s an alien creature from outer space sent to crush our sanity. Laughter makes everything better, even bad sex.

6. You don’t always have to tell them when you’re having an episode. This is a tricky one. Normally if you’re feeling uncomfortable or hurt or angry it’s best to tell someone. BUT, if you suffer from misophonia it’s unkind to point out that the sounds they’re making are affecting you. All it does is make them feel uncomfortable and nervous around you.

Remember, 99.9% of people don’t have this problem – we’re not going to convince everyone to stop scraping or chewing. It’s far better that we try to find coping mechanisms to help us deal with the problem – rather than the put that responsibility onto the rest of the world.

I hope you found these tips helpful, now it’s over to you!

Please feel free to add your thoughts/tips/ideas/comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

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  1. Suzy

    Thank you for writing this. Very helpful! I will share with my misophonia support group.

  2. oui

    yo, that was amazingly accurate. nice wording

  3. ouch!

    Hi,just now i found out that my wife suffers from misophonia.i saw a post from ig,read the link attached to it and then read it with her.suddenly she’s hitting me in the face.

  4. John

    “We can’t even eat soup with our own mothers without wondering whether she’s an alien creature from outer space sent to crush our sanity.”

    lol this is funny but 100% accurate.

    Great post! I used to think it was everyone else’s problem because they weren’t raised or taught to chew food with their mouth shut. Like it was their fault for having bad manners. I even joked about that when I found out misophonia is an actual problem.

    BTW, have you guys been around someone eating cereal? Beware. Oh my Lord. It literally sounds like a horse eating an apple to me. Worse than nails on a chalkboard.

    • Haley

      People eating apples in general is awful!

  5. Hyper-Sensitive

    Having been married to a misophoniac for 30 years has been an extremely touch and go experience. We’ve only known about misophonia for a few years and it explained a lot, but the damage done feels irreparable. As Christians, we’re committed to our marriage, but there are days when I feel that my value is less than pond scum. I understand, but I don’t understand. I sympathize, but I’m crushed by the rejection. I’m held at arm’s length, but tethered on a very short lead. I’m not only the trigger; I’m the target. The misophonia sufferer is not the only one who suffers and yet most of what I read has been written by misophoniacs.

    • Allergic to Sound

      It’s so wonderful to hear you perspective and I’m so sorry to hear about what you’re going through. Being a partner of someone with this condition is incredibly difficult and I can genuinely sympathise. It’s fantastic that you are trying to learn more about the disorder and to try to understand it. That shows real willing and I applaud you. Don’t give up. If I may offer some advice, I would say that your partner needs to learn more about the condition himself and to look at different coping mechanisms because it’s definitely us, not you. The coping mechanisms lie with the patient. However, the best thing you can do as a partner to help, if you have the energy (and this is hard) is to be understanding that this is not something he can help (and it’s not directed at you specifically, even if it feels like it is). If you can give him space and help him rationalise when he’s experiencing an episode he will feel supported and less stressed and less prone to intense reactions. It is possible to thrive with this condition.

      • Hyper-Sensitive

        Thank you for your encouragement and suggestions. I agree that misophonia coping mechanisms are the responsibility of the patient, but discovering them and getting them in place before an eruption occurs doesn’t happen often enough. I’m frequently blindsided without any warning that there’s an issue. In my opinion that’s just bad temper, but it could also be an attempt to tough it out. It’s frustrating and unfair. It’s also not always sound. There are movements like normal breathing and vibrations from snoring that have disrupted our life. We’ve been dealing with this for over 30 years and I don’t know how to heal it. Is there a system of counseling and guidance in place? Have books been written to help? Am I going to have to continue stumbling through this maze blindfolded? I’m tired of unintentionally getting in the way, being pushed away, having to hide this condition from our friends and family. It’s a prison of isolation and frustration – go away, be silent, stop breathing?! I love my misophonic, but I don’t want to be the scapegoat anymore. I want more balance in our marriage.

        • 24/7

          Hyper-sensitive, you are not alone. My misophonia husband and I have been married 43 years. Early in our marriage I realized his reaction to noises was never going to change and because I loved him, I had to accept his behavior. We had some miserable family dinners, but our girls learned at a young age not to make dad mad with eating/dining sounds.
          We retired 5 years ago and suddenly we were together 24/7. He knows he has misophonia, and is really trying not to show his anger. Instead, he is walking away, leaving the room, etc., but it does isolate me, too. We rarely eat together at home or go to a restaurant. It IS awful when you make a sound unintentionally and it causes a response. I worry whenever we’re together I will do something that will trigger a response. A trigger for him can be a sound and/or a movement (turning a magazine page, running fingers through my hair and yes, breathing!). Before unloading the dishwasher, I have think about where he is in the house and too many other daily activities to list here. So, misophoniacs, please remember, the person you love the most, suffers from your misophonia, too. Please DO NOT send me anything via email – we share the account. He would be devastated to know I wrote those response.

        • Stacey Drucker

          Things are changing. In the past couple of years, misophonia has become more commonly known to the medical establishment and the public. A recent experiment (in Scotland, I think) used MRIs to map areas of the brain that react differently to triggers in misophonics, so there’s finally solid proof that it is, in part, physical.

          My roommate has been working with a neurologist for years, trying different drugs (anti-depressants, beta blockers, benzos). About 6 months ago she started taking Abilify and it has changed our lives. She always has earplugs in her pocket, but often she doesn’t need the Bose headphones playing white noise at full volume to walk around in public. This has been a wonderful development.

          The problem is that the drug has caused tremors in her arms and legs. So we’re now trying to determine which medicine will lessen the tremors.

          I recommend a fantastic book called “Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight”

          I hope at least some of this info will help.

    • Lynn Jones

      Yes I can see where it has to be very difficult for the spouse of someone who has misophonia. Not knowing just what we go through has to be hard to comprehend sometimes. I tried so hard to get through this with my husband because he was the love of my life, but the rage I felt for him at times made me feel like I was crazy. I just learned that I have misophonia last year and we are trying to understand each other.

    • Hh

      This explaines my feelings exactly. My husband has mysophonia and wont admit it. I feel crushed by the angry outbursts and insults.

    • Mary

      Hi, I think it’s incredible that you have been married 30 years. My husband and I just got married 6 months ago and I can see that this is going to be a tough journey in some ways. Would you be willing to give me some advice/ hindsight that may have helped you had you known before? Or just encouragement? My husband and I are also Christians and are committed to marriage but there aren’t a ton of resources out there yet for how to live with a spouse with misophonia.

  6. Stacey

    Great article! My best friend/roommate has misophonia (and misokinesia). We’ve been living together for over 10 years and have developed many coping strategies.

    I have to disagree with you about not telling anyone when something they’re doing is triggering you. If the person cares about you and you tell them that when they clear their throat it makes you feel homicidal, they can be more aware of the issue and, in our case, use lozenges to calm their throat.

    I know that many triggers aren’t solved that easily. But as a person who has been learning to eliminate the word “put” from my vocabulary, I’m grateful she told me.

    Give us a chance! If you tell us what triggered you to bang a plastic cup on the kitchen counter, we’ll do our best to help!


  7. Allan

    Really?… I am so upset with my sister-in-law yelling her head off, spitting in our faces, and walking around at thanksgiving being as rude as she wants doing whatever she wants and then her excuse is “I have misophonia” every 5 frigging minutes. She won’t even say “sorry, I have Misophonia”… Can’t clean up after herself? “I have misophonia”. Cheating on her boyfriend? “I have misophonia”. If she said Sorry as part of that then maybe that would help (a little). I wish I had something I can use for every frigging stupid painful hurtful thing I do to others… I’m so angry and hurt… you forgot to add that people suffering from misophonia are unable to apologize or at least take some kind of responsibility… Or is that just my sister-in-law. Maybe she has a special case Sisterinlawaphonia…

    • Allergic to Sound

      Hi Allan, I’m sorry to hear that. That sounds very frustrating and upsetting.

      However, it’s not right to suggest that “people suffering from misophonia are unable to apologise or at least take some kind of responsibility” or that misophonia somehow relates to an individual’s empathy levels, moral code etc.

      That’s like saying dyslexics are incapable of feeling love… or PTSD sufferers are bad at tennis. There’s no connection between the two.

      Most of the amazing, thoughtful and sensitive visitors to this site are desperately aware of how their misophonia impacts others. They try extremely hard (with a debilitating disorder) to cope with and navigate difficult social situations. I hope that we can all work together to promote understanding about misophonia, and other disorders – and of course that you find respite from sister-in-law’s Sisterinlawaphonia 😉

      • Mj

        My 35 year old son apparently suffers from Misophonia. He has been plagued by hypersensitivity to
        sounds since he was young. He is also bi polar and lives at home. He hasn’t spoken to me for 7 years. He
        can’t stand it when I clear my throat and runs out of the room when I enter. He wears headphones frequently. I am having great difficulty in dealing with feelings of total rejection and hatred.

  8. Frustrated Mom

    My daughter has not been diagnosed with this, but I am positive she has it. About a year ago, she started plugging her ears when I take a drink of coffee, yelling at me when my mouth was dry and I guess smaking a little?, and I have a super slight speech impediment with th and s sounds and she started repeating the sound back to me….only exaggerated immensely. She is angry when I eat, talk, swallow. And, she has started over pronouncing all of her words, stating I am talking that way. To say the least, I hate eating with her and have begun to barely talk to her. There is nothing I can do right when I drink, eat or talk. It is literally destroying my relationship with my daughter. I only have one child and am divorced. I have put my entire life on hold for the past 15 years to raise her. WE have always been super close. But, now, after she entered college, I feel like she is beyond annoyed with me and I can no longer share a meal or have a conversation with her. I am lonely and hurt. I want to hear about what is going on in her life, but I really don’t want to be insulted and yelled at. I have started giving one word answers and rarely eat when she is home.

    • Allergic to Sound

      Hi Frustrated mom. I’m so sorry to hear what you’ve been going through, it must be very upsetting.

      It does sound like your daughter could have misophonia. What I would say is that if she does it will be a very strange and confusing time for her right now. Misophonia is a neurological disorder and the reactions she’s having to certain sounds are not by choice. They are pre-conscious triggers (which occur in her amygdala) and the emotion she’s feeling ‘in the moment’ is something that’s thrust upon her. In other words her behaviour is not premeditated or directly aimed at victimising you. The rush of emotion she feels is occurring before she’s even able to conceptualise it.

      When you have misophonia but don’t realise you have it, or even know that it’s even a thing, it’s very unnerving and upsetting. You wonder whether you’re going mad… or whether people are making noises to spite you… or whether you have anger issues. It’s actually none of those and the sooner she can learn about miso and find acceptance the more things will improve. While we can’t shut off or ignore the triggers but we can gain some level of control and acceptance and adopt a whole bunch of coping mechanisms.

      Similarly if you’re able to read about misophonia hopefully it’ll give you some understanding of what it’s all about and how you can talk to her about it. I really do wish you all the best and hope that you and your daughter are able to navigate this together.

  9. Donna

    My partner has had misophonia for years & is aware of it. I have really tried to eliminate sounds that I know annoy him. But for the past year he wakes me up several times a night to tell me to “roll over”, “your snoring” or my favorite “I can hear you breathing”. Rarely does he say this in a nice way, often it is a hard nudge, kick or yell. He uses a white noise machine & wears ear plugs but he still hears every sound I make. At times I think he focuses on hearing me make a sound. This has strained our sleeping together. If I go to bed with him I end up getting up & sleeping somewhere else. I find myself being less tolerant & even angry. Yes, I have talked to him about this to no avail. Any suggestions?

    • Aurelio

      Hi Donna,

      try sleeping separately. He must be incredibly exhausted from long-term suffering /telling from my own experience being TORTURED daily for many years/. That would explain his reactions.

      I simply sleep in another room when I feel I will not make it sleeping together this night.

      I noticed that many people suffer just because they are fixated to the idea of sleeping / eating together. Life is really better when Misophonia sufferer can eat and sleep alone. Of course there is time together needed, but surely hugging in the bed for 30 minutes gives you and your partner more of relationship’s quality than eating 30 minutes together.

      I and my girlfriend we compensate with hugging, often I don’t sleep with her. No big deal.

      After that he should be able to relax a little and his reactions could be better (not guaranteed, I’m talking just from my own experience and it might apply to your case as well… just give it a try).

  10. Susan

    I’ve been married to my husband for 25 years and he suffers with Misophonia. His triggers are somewhat raspy voices, nose whistle, breathing, children playing, babies crying, sniffles, Flemy throat, snoring and the list goes on. I noticed only after we got married that anytime we would visit with his mother he would clear his throat every time his mother would speak, so loud that you couldn’t hear her speak, as well as give her evil looks, over exaggerated movements, sometimes leaving the room and then putting his fingers in his ears. I would ask him why he did this and he told me that it made him feel physically ill to hear her voice. I would try to explain she couldn’t help the sound of her voice. Most often she would avoid talking much while he would be in the room. Heartbreaking! About a year after our marriage, my husband starting doing the same with me. I’ve tried being supportive in trying to avoid triggering him. I would try to change the tone of my voice by speaking in an octave higher, making sure telly is on during meal time, sleeping facing away from him, not speaking on the phone when he is around, not inviting friends over when he is home, not having my daughter and granddaughter visit (I would go visit them). Now with the lockdown from Covid-19 after 18 weeks of being in each other company, I am ready to call it quits. Over the years I’ve tried writing letters to him explaining how I feel as well as asking him to seek help to no avail. Our conversations are completely one sided. He will talk non-stop as normal, me on the other hand can only answer in one word. He never apologizes for his outburst and never once told me it isn’t my fault, instead its the opposite. The emotional abuse, the dis-respectfulness is unbearable. I feel as though the person I was has completely disappeared and I resent him so very much. And he can’t understand why I can’t be intimate with him anymore nor why no one wants to be around him anymore. Because you have an illness doesn’t give you the right to be an a**hole to everyone around you!!


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