I CAN'T eat in front of my husband.
It's not me, by which I mean it's not my eating habits or anything.
It's him. Well, it's really me. Actually, it's both of us.
Let me explain.
The sounds he makes when he eats — the smacking of his tongue against the roof of his mouth, the sloppy noises as the mush of food is ground down by his teeth.
The way that, if he tries to tell me something while eating, he holds his food on the side of his mouth, or near the back of his throat, muffling his voice.
The repeated swallowing of soft, moist clumps of food.
All of it drives me truly insane.
But it's not just me. He also can't stand the way I eat.
Before you write our relationship off as a hotbed of dysfunctional diva behaviour, I should tell you that we both suffer from the same affliction: Misophonia, which translates literally to "hatred of sound."
Coined by a married couple, audiologists Margaret and Pawel Jastreboff in 2002, the condition is thought to affect between 15 and 20 per cent of the population, although, because awareness of it has only been around for 20 years, experiments have only been carried out on small samples, so nobody really knows how many people have it.
Of course, nobody enjoys the sound of a noisy eater or the repeated clicking of a pen, but, according to the couple's findings, "individuals with misophobia are sensitive to a specific set of trigger sounds, which are usually recognised since childhood."
These trigger sounds usually include chewing, sniffing, gum smacking, and I'm personally ashamed to say, breathing.
If I hear you mouth-breathing in my vicinity, so help me God.
The Jastreboff's were audiologists, but the more recent research into the condition has revealed it's not so much about hearing as it is the circuitry in the brain.
People with misophobia have a sensory processing problem, making it difficult for our brains to "tune out" ordinary noises.
If I'm at work, I always have earphones handy, in case someone decides to start crunching down on a quinoa salad.
Even writing that makes me angry.
I also like to wear earphones at shopping centres. I listen to music and never to podcasts, because, the horrible fact is that if someone has a particular voice, say, overly nasal, or overly dry, such that I can hear their saliva when they speak, it's over.
The only way I can explain it is to imagine a stranger walking up to you and picking their nose in your face. At first, you're sickened, then you'd probably think, "How dare you?! Why are you doing this?"
Well, that's how I feel when someone starts eating an apple.
Apples are the worst for me, inciting feelings of disgust, followed quickly by blind rage.
But honestly, a banana is enough to send me over the edge.
It's not just eating, though. I hate it when someone is whispering.
I hate it when someone loudly sniffs back their snot instead of blowing their nose.
But if I'm honest, I also hate it when people blow their nose.
At the office, my co-workers used to laugh at how quickly I could whip my head around to give whoever just slurped their tea a look of darkness.
I don't want them dead — although many people in online support groups for misophobia have confessed to wanting to murder the person making the noise — I just want them to stop what they're doing. Immediately.
It was probably a year into dating my now-husband that I told him about my condition.
At the time I had no idea it was a "thing", so I just said I had this weird sensitivity to sounds. He saw the way I reacted to people scoffing lollies and popcorn into their mouths at the movies, crunching and sucking and rustling, like wild, ignorant pigs in the mud.
Sorry. People are allowed to snack. Logically I know that. Of course I know that! I know it's my problem. I really do. But in that moment … I have a really hard time not screaming.
So, anyway, my husband knew not to take it personally.
Besides, he had his own triggers — including the noises of people eating.
Mercifully, I am not triggered by my own eating sounds, but I'm always surprised when I look up from my own sandwiches to discover that nobody wants to kill me.
These days, my husband and I are happy to eat separately. One of us will just sit in front of the TV to eat, and the other will sit in the kitchen. No big deal!
Unless, he starts slurping back his tea.