What To Do When A Partner's Bad Moods Affect Your Relationship

A woman standing on the street looking annoyed while her partner stands behind her looking the other way.

Christian Vierig / Getty Images

Perhaps as contagious as a yawn (or more appropriately, the common cold), a partner's sour mood can actually be even harder to cope with.

Keeping up with day-to-day responsibilities can be tough enough. (Maybe you and your partner also work full-time and/or are raising children together, too...) When it comes down to it, who among us wants to come home to a partner's incessant grouchiness, or all-around ill temper? Constant grumpiness can negatively affect your relationship and everyone that's close to you, including your kids.

While you and your children (and ostensibly, all your friends) may follow the impulse to change your own behaviors to avoid conflict (or even a major blow-up), it's not your responsibility to adjust someone else's bad mood. On the contrary: Trying to do so only legitimizes such huffy behavior, and your resentment just builds. So whenever you notice that your partner is feeling particularly grumpy, here's what you can do so it doesn't rub off on you.

Acknowledge Your Reaction

It's a fact of life that you might react to your S.O.'s rotten mood by mimicking their anger, sadness, or hostility. Avoid indulging in negativity. Instead, drill down the rationale of your own reactions by asking yourself these questions:

  • What, if anything, am I avoiding?
  • Is there a difficult issue we haven't discussed?
  • What am I frustrated or angry about?
  • Am I feeling jealous or unappreciated?
  • Do I have unmet needs?
  • Am I stressed because I'm working too much?
  • Am I wallowing or playing the poor-me role?
  • Do any of my medications cause moodiness?
  • Could hormones be the cause?
  • Have I been getting enough sleep? Am I tired? 
  • Did I drink enough water today?
  • Am I eating healthy and getting enough vitamins?
  • Am I craving sunshine or fresh air? 
  • Am I allowing my spouse's negativity to rub off on me?
A girl looking the other way while a guy looks like he's in a bad mood.
 Tanveer Badal / Getty Images

Exercise Coping Mechanisms

Once you've identified the true source of your feelings, don't just bury them inside. They could come back with a vengeance later on, or cause added problems in your relationship. Here are some ways to cope when you've entered the gloomy realm of your own bad mood.

  • Give yourself 20 minutes of solitary quiet-time.
  • Make a playlist of songs you love.
  • Get some fresh air: Take a walk, garden, or forest-bathe. (Yes, it's a thing.)
  • Play with your dog, cat, or other pet.
  • Stretch out.
  • Practice breathing exercises.
  • Visualize positivity: "Visualizations can help us reprogram old fight-or-flight stress reactions and help us move into a "stay and play" mindset," says Emily Fletcher via MindBodyGreen.
  • Meditate for 10 minutes.
  • Discover the healing powers of aromatherapy: Light a scented candle or use an essential oil diffuser.
  • Look at pictures of the supportive and loving people in your life.
  • Drink water. According to a study, mild dehydration triggers moodiness.
  • Eat some dark chocolate; it triggers our brains to produce serotonin and endorphins—both are science-backed mood-boosters.
  • Watch a funny movie.
  • Relax with a shower or bubble bath.
  • Pick out some fresh-cut flowers and make a pretty arrangement. Exposure to plants and flowers have been proven to reduce pain and stress.
  • Ask for a hug; it may just end an argument.

Key Dos and Don'ts

Short of justifying your partner's mood, here's how to remain helpful (while avoiding their wrath).

Do:

  • Take responsibility for your own mood but never your partner's.
  • Acknowledge the bad mood and give your spouse space.
  • Offer support and compassion without nagging about what's wrong.

Don't:

  • Assume you're the reason for the crabbiness.
  • Make jokes about their bad mood.
  • Lecture or preach to your S.O.
  • Give the silent treatment.
  • Stomp out of the room (or house).
  • Suggest having sex.

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