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The best thing to do when your spouse is having a bad day


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Anna O'Neil - published on 09/05/18

Don't assume that “when mamma (or papa) ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy."

Married people share everything — space, time, life, even our bodies. Sometimes I forget that we don’t have to also share our bad moods. Because honestly, if my husband wakes up on the wrong side of the bed for whatever reason, my first thought is unfortunately, “Ugh, there goes our morning.” If he’s in a funk, I take it for granted that I’m going to absorb it, too.

I mean, we live together. If there’s a rain cloud over his head, I’m definitely going to get wet, right? Not necessarily. The best thing we can do for a hot-headed or grouchy spouse is to try not to let their mood infect the rest of us.

That doesn’t mean being unsympathetic, or writing off the mood as “not my problem,” but it means challenging the assumption that “when mamma (or papa) ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

I saw somebody put this into words once, and it stuck with me. Her husband was having a rotten day — he was on edge, and frustrated, and nothing was going right — and she said breezily, “Well, that’s his bad day. It doesn’t mean we have to have a bad day too.” She wasn’t unloving in the least. His suffering absolutely mattered — it just didn’t mean she had to join in.

Actually, the most loving thing you can do for your husband in that situation is to try not to let his mood infect you. Then he doesn’t have to add guilt to his list of things that feel bad. He can see that while you’re sympathetic to his troubles, you don’t resent him for bringing you down too — because he hasn’t. And having a cheerful partner can help a bad day improve more than almost anything.

I know for sure that when my mood is in the gutter, it’s a huge relief when I can see that at least everyone else is okay. It gives me the space I need to just feel my feelings, without having the pressure to “get over it” before I’m ready. So I’m trying to extend the same grace to the rest of my family.

Beyond challenging the basic assumption that you’re both going down, a little intentional self care goes a long way. If you don’t have a way to help your spouse snap out of it, then the next best thing to do is to take care of yourself.

What keeps you cheerful? For me, it’s usually some alone time, or getting out of the house, or baking something new — but it can be anything. Keeping your own spirits up isn’t selfish; it’s a real way you can help your whole family. Whatever your version of self care is, it’s about the most real way to take care of the people you love when you can’t fix their problems.


Read more:
I do not care so much what I am to others as I care what I am to myself.

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