Managing our own emotions can be tough enough. Therefore, it can be extra challenging when our partner’s moods throw us for a loop. One of the most important things you can do as a couple, however, is support each other, even when things get stressful.
Many times, as I worked in crisis intervention, my clients would struggle to know how to cope when their significant other was behaving in certain ways. Over time, I found myself giving the same advice over and over again. Here are some tips for handling your partner’s moods (even when you don’t want to!).
Don’t take it personally
When your partner is feeling frustrated, angry, or sad, they might lash out and even say things that they may not mean. Even if they say little to nothing, many of us have a tendency to take things personally.
Sometimes, people just get into a funk. There are a million reasons why this can happen (and sometimes it just happens for no good reason!). When you blame yourself for your significant other’s bad mood, you might become defensive, which can escalate the situation. Worse yet, you could prevent a conversation about what’s really bothering your partner.
Pro tip: Remember that everyone has bad days and that you aren’t responsible for your partner’s emotions.
Do take a breather
If your significant other’s bad mood has become emotionally draining, you should probably take a break for a few moments. There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself a little space since being patient and supportive while someone else is struggling can be exhausting after a while.
If you start feeling overwhelmed, annoyed, and argumentative, just take a short breather. Hop in the shower, listen to music, go for a walk, or run an errand. When you come back to your partner, you might feel refreshed and better able to cope with the current situation.
Pro tip: Let your partner know that you just need a few minutes to yourself and that you are available to them if they need you.
Don’t get sucked in
Bad moods can be contagious so steer clear of them as much as possible. Just like you might wash your hands more often during cold and flu season, make an effort to rid yourself of the negative energy that could infect your emotional state.
When you feel yourself getting sucked in to a bad mood, make the decision to choose happiness. Allow yourself to be sympathetic toward your significant other without taking on whatever is bothering them. It takes practice but it’s possible to maintain a healthy level of detachment while remaining supportive.
Pro tip: Remind yourself that your partner’s bad mood is about them and does not have to be about you. Keep your mood separate by taking ownership of your own feelings.
Do make an effort to understand
While you don’t want to get bogged down by what is bothering your partner, you may want to make an effort to understand what’s happening. Ask them to explain what has made them upset and actually sit down and listen. Make eye contact and nod understandingly, when appropriate, so that they know you are paying attention.
A great technique is to paraphrase what your significant other has said to show that you are listening while giving them an opportunity to clarify anything that you may have misunderstood. You might be surprised by what you learn.
Pro tip: Don’t initiate this type of conversation if you are in a rush, irritated, or distracted. Give your partner the attention they deserve.
Don’t lose your patience (or perspective!)
If your partner’s mood has been driving you crazy, you might be tempted to have a meltdown of your own and ask them to “snap out of it!” Chances are, they aren’t enjoying their crankiness either and, if it was that simple, they would have done it by now.
We all have moments like this so you might find it helpful to maintain a healthy amount of perspective. When you feel like you’re at your wit’s end, tell yourself “this too shall pass” and that tomorrow will be a new day.
Pro tip: Think of how it feels to be having a bad day and treat your partner in the same ways that you would want to be treated.
Do be honest about the negativity
You may have let it slide when your partner snapped at you first thing in the morning and then slammed all of the kitchen cupboards, pushed the dog or kids away, and whined and complained about how unfair their life has become. By afternoon, however, you might be entirely fed up with all of the bellyaching — and that’s okay.
Rather than internalize it, find a constructive way to share your feelings with your significant other. Share one or two concrete examples of how they have been negative (don’t just generalize and say things like “you’ve been ridiculous all morning”) and then let it go.
Pro tip: Take some deep breaths and pick a calmer moment to share this insight with your partner. If you are frustrated and angry, it won’t go over well.
Don’t play the blame game
When things aren’t going well, it’s natural for us to want to pin the blame on something (or someone) specific. “I wouldn’t be so angry if you hadn’t forgotten to set the alarm this morning” is not going to help the situation.
If certain factors played a role in making life more difficult, let your partner express their frustration and/or concerns. If you have any, you may do the same — and then let it go. You cannot change what has already been done so why ruin an entire day (or relationship) over it?
Pro tip: If you are tempted to point the finger at your partner, think about how you may have contributed to the situation. It’s likely that you both share some of the burden.
Do pay attention to triggers
Does your partner seem to react poorly in specific situations? It’s worth taking note since they (like most of us) may have triggers that have existed since long before your relationship began. Interestingly, they may not even be fully aware of how much certain situations or people can negatively affect them.
The next time your significant other is struggling, think about what happened right before things took a turn for the worse. Do you notice a pattern emerging? If so, talk to them about it in a loving and calm way. They might be surprised by your observations!
Pro tip: This is a great time to look at your own triggers. Are you fully aware of the things that can put you in a bad mood?
Do consider counseling if things get bad
When you and your partner have more bad days than good or if communication has broken down, you might want to consider professional counseling. So often, an outside perspective can shed light on dynamics and patterns that can be harmful to a relationship.
A qualified professional can also help identify if one or both partners is struggling with something on an individual level. In these situations, personal and/or couples’ therapy can be beneficial.
Pro tip: Don’t suffer longer than necessary. There’s nothing wrong with needing outside support!
Put love first
When in doubt, the best thing you can do is shower your partner with love, even if it’s from a slight distance. Be kind and patient during their lowest moments because you would want them to do the same for you.
Instead of being frustrated or annoyed by your significant other’s bad mood, find something positive for you both to focus on. See a movie, go out to their favorite restaurant, or give them a back rub. These sweet gestures can help turn things around.
If your efforts fall short, give them some space to breathe and work through their difficult emotions. It’s not always easy but that’s part of the give and take in a relationship. At the end of the day, putting love first is the best way to go!