My husband comes home every night irritable. He works very hard and I know he doesn’t mean to be abrupt with me, but he is. He says he has problems at work and this is what causes his moodiness. Yet, I can’t seem to stop taking his attitude personally. Can you help?

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Your story reminds me of my relationship to my parents — my mother in particular. When she came home from a particularly hard day of teaching, she’d  sit at our dining room table and be somewhat detached. On those tough days when she seemed impatient and stressed, I worried that I might have done something to make it worse and watched how I interacted with her so I wouldn’t upset her more. Now, as an adult, I see this was her issue — not mine.

Similarly, your husband’s moods are his issue, not yours. They have nothing to do with you. He clearly indicates that they stem from workplace conflicts. And because he brings home all of the day’s problems, they seep out into his interactions with you.

It’s never easy to have someone spill his negative emotions into your living space. But since you live with your husband, I doubt you’ll ever be completely immune from his emotions. Nor would you want to — it wouldn’t be good for your marriage to become too detached or unfeeling about what your spouse might be going through.

However, here are a few strategies to use so you won’t always be taking your husband’s moods so personally:

Prepare for his moodiness. Often we can handle a problem with greater effectiveness if we anticipate it. Review and rehearse your spouse’s patterns before they occur. Imagine how he will likely walk through the door and how his moods will play out.

Label what is happening. Step outside the situation as if you were watching a movie. Imagine that your husband isn’t upset with you, but rather with someone else. Label what he might be feeling and why he might be feeling it.

Remind yourself that this isn’t about you. Your husband is upset about work and the stresses he experiences there. Tell yourself he is not upset with you and that what he is experiencing has nothing to do with you.

Offer compassion and assistance. Often when we are compassionate and show understanding, emotions settle. If your husband senses you really care about him and what he’s undergoing, he may soften. Is there anything practical you can offer him that might improve his disposition?

Discuss the problems with him. Make sure your husband realizes his moods have an impact on you. He is not living in isolation, but rather in a family. Hold him accountable for how he speaks and acts with you. Let him know his behavior won’t be ignored or enabled, but rather responded to with strength and conviction.

Set healthy boundaries. Finally, take good care of yourself. Do you need to have a quiet place in the house in which to retreat in order to collect yourself? Does a long bath help you feel peaceful? Are you able to call a friend and receive necessary support? Know yourself well and what best settles your spirit.

In summary, we all live and work in close proximity to others and the way they live impacts us. Yet, we must know ourselves well and, where possible, not be overly influenced by others’ attitudes, moods, and behaviors. If you’re in a situation that calls for greater self-care, I hope you will consider these practical steps to assist you.

If you would like more information on relationships, as well how to live a stress-free life, I’d like to hear your thoughts and welcome your reactions. Contact me at drdavid@marriagerecoverycenter.com. I encourage you to read about our programs at www.marriagerecoverycenter.com.

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