Married to a Grouch: Coping With Your Partner's Bad Moods

Updated 03/30/19
Credit: Christian Vierig. Getty Images

As infectious as a yawn or the common cold is something that can be harder to cope with: a sour mood. Keeping up with your responsibilities is tough, and when both you and your partner work full time and are raising your children together, you may feel more pressure to deliver in every arena of your life. That would make anyone grumpy. 

Remember that when you or your spouse are in a bad mood, it affects everyone. Your children or other family and friends will notice and change their behavior to be sure not to make the threat of a red-hot temper a reality. Yet, the other important thing to keep in mind is that it is no one's responsibility to deal with and fix someone else's mood. Expectations to the contrary will only create more opportunities for anger and resentment to build. 

"Like an infectious disease, the negative emotions of one family member can have long-lasting effects on the mental and physical health of the rest of the family ... The study of emotional transmission, printed in the February 1999 issue of the Journal of Marriage and the Family along with three other studies, revealed that negative emotions like anger, depression, and anxiety are more likely to be transmitted within a family than are positive emotions. Contagious joy within families seems to be a rare thing indeed." – Charles Downey. "Secondhand Emotions: Catching a Bad Mood."

When you notice that you are feeling sour, there are steps to take in order to minimize the affects on your loved ones. Read on for our advice on the subject. 

Identify Your Bad Mood

If you don't want your sour mood to lead to even more irritation and possible hostility in your marriage, it is important that you communicate the reason for your bad mood to your spouse. To identify your bad mood, it could help if you answering these questions in your own mind.

  • Is there something I'm avoiding?
  • Is there a difficult issue we haven't discussed?
  • Am I frustrated or angry about something?
  • Am I getting enough vitamins?
  • Am I feeling jealous or unappreciated?
  • Could my hormones be the cause?
  • When was the last time I laughed or smiled?
  • Do I have unmet needs?
  • Am I allowing my spouse's negativity to rub off on me?
  • Am I taking any medications that could cause moodiness?
  • Am I listening to too many news reports? 
  • Have I been getting enough sleep? Am I tired? 
  • Do I drink enough water?
  • Is my diet healthy?
  • Do I slouch or have bad posture?
  • Am I craving sunshine or fresh air? 
  • Do I work too much?
  • Do I want to wallow in my sour mood and play the poor-me role?

Bad Mood Coping Skills

Once you figure out the source of your feelings, think of ways to deal with them and make them go away. Be sure not to bury your feelings, or they may come back more intensely later on and cause more problems in your relationship. 

  • Make it a daily routine that you each have some quiet time of about 20 minutes. This includes a stay-at-home-parent, too.
  • Listen to music that could improve your mood.
  • Go outside. Take a walk. Work in the garden.
  • Play with your dog or cat. Do a stretching exercise.
  • Consider doing some breathing exercises. Breathe fresh air.
  • Visualize a serene or positive time in your life. Reflect on a favorite vacation. Meditate.
  • Consider aromatherapy and find a way to smell jasmine, eucalyptus, grapefruit, or your favorite scent. Light a candle or dab lotion on your temples.
  • Take some time alone to sort things out. Prioritize your goals.
  • Look at pictures of supportive and loving people in your life.
  • Talk to someone.
  • Eat some dark chocolate. Drink more water. 
  • Watch a funny movie. Read a book that will make you smile. Release endorphins in your brain.
  • Take a bubble bath or a shower.
  • Pick or purchase some flowers to have in your home.
  • Ask for a hug.

Some Dos and Don'ts If Your Spouse is in a Bad Mood

If you notice that your partner is in a bad mood, you will need to take your own measures to ensure that you are still safe from their temper as well as being helpful for them, should they want you to do anything for them at the time. Every situation is different; here are a few things to keep in mind. 

  • Don't assume you are the reason for your spouse's crabbiness. Don't take it personally.
  • Don't make jokes about your spouse's bad mood.
  • Don't suggest having sex.
  • Don't stomp out of the house.
  • Don't give your spouse the silent treatment.
  • Don't preach or lecture your spouse.
  • Do acknowledge the bad mood and give your spouse space.
  • Do offer support but don't nag by asking what's wrong.

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