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What to do when your spouse is grumpy

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Behind every grumble is a desperate cry to "love me when I least deserve it."

What can you do if your husband comes home from work every day in a bad mood and ruins the ambiance in your home… and then repents afterwards? Can you change a difficult personality? (We are not speaking here of abusive personalities, but just ill-tempered types.)

Where love is lacking, sow love and you will reap love. The truth is, it’s hard to love ill-tempered and complicated people, but it will be easier to do it if we understand that behind every grumble is a desperate cry to “love me when I least deserve it because it’s when I most need it.”

We are all born with a temperament that we have to work on in order to form our character. It’s an innate quality that we inherit, and it’s not something we can change. It’s the way our spontaneous emotions respond; it’s our typical reactions when we are faced with external stimuli.

But character is our personal way of being. It is the sum of the traits and characteristics that we have formed over the course of our life, and that make us unique. Unlike temperament, character can be formed and educated, which means that it can change, thanks to the influence of environment and education, from the things we have lived through and from our emotional intelligence, among other factors.

So temperament cannot be changed, but character can always be forged until we reach a charming personality.

If your spouse has a short fuse, is ill-temperated, or creates a bad atmosphere, I invite you to aim for the following:

Understanding

The first and most important point is to understand him with an open and merciful heart. It certainly is very tiring to deal with a personality like that, and the most frustrating thing of all is our own inability to change him. But we can choose the attitude with which we will respond to that personality or at the times when we perceive that the other person is creating a bad atmosphere in the home. Love is understanding, St. Paul said. When your husband comes home from work in a bad mood or when your wife is in hysterics, are you sure he or she is angry? Could it also be that there is something of sadness, worry, disillusionment, fear, or frustration driving his or her behavior? Think about it… If you are able to understand what is behind that “ogre” face, you will be more able to avoid getting sucked into the negative attitude.

Avoid putting him down

As much as you might want to snap at your spouse or mutter insults under your breath, no matter how much you feel they deserve it, never hurt your spouse with put-downs like “You’re an ogre” or “You’re a crazy woman; that’s why no one loves you” or “Not even your mother can stand you” or “You’re just like your mother.”

Where love is lacking, sow love and you will reap love

Although it might not feel so great to love them at that moment, do it anyway! How? Just by taking a different attitude, being gentle and not defensive. Make them feel that in your home, they are incredibly loved and accepted. In a loving way, make them know that you’re there for them unconditionally so that together you can find the root of that anger. Believe me, if it’s hard for you to be with someone like that, try being that person. It’s even harder for them to live with themselves.

Make agreements

In a moment of “lucidity,” when things have calmed down, talk about it and help them to understand  how you feel when you see that them losing control. You can make strategies and pacts, such as: “When I see that you are losing control or creating a negative atmosphere in the home, I will leave you alone and that will be the sign that you need to calm down.”

Human beings are not perfect, but we are perfectible. So a complicated personality will always have the chance to make improvements. But he or she has to be the one to decide to do it. It’s not easy but it is possible. In some cases, the person may need professional help to discover what emotional wounds need to be healed and what makes him or her react in that way. For believers, God’s help is always important to heal interior wounds and make changes.

This article was originally published in the Spanish edition of Aleteia and has been translated and/or adapted here for English speaking readers.

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