We would all like to think that the bonds of marriage are strong enough to withstand “for better and for worse.” Indeed, many a person finds their enhanced strength and resolve to get through the big, bad things that can happen in a relationship and our vows to do so often help. However, what can be the ultimate marriage destroyer is one’s every day mood.
The problem with mood is it whittles away on the other’s energy little by little. The nasty barbs, sarcastic comments, negativity, lack of appreciation, stress, overwhelm, the eye rolling sighs, all add up one small behavior at a time until the weight becomes unbearable. Any one of those moments alone is surmountable. All of them piled up on top of each other over time can be crushing to a relationship.
A bad mood every so often is understandable, but take a moment to reflect on how often your bad mood or bad attitude gets spewed all over those you care about deeply. Consider whether certain ways of being have turned into habits that may not be serving you—or helping your relationships.
When I was working as a school counselor, there was a teen girl regularly sent to me by the teachers and friends for various wrongdoings. After numerous occasions, I realized a pattern, or habit, in her responses. One day I suggested to her, “Simply notice that you deny everything you are accused of…” She immediately responded with, “I do not!” at which point I started laughing and she suddenly became aware that she had just done it again. Until you know what you do, you can’t change what you do. So, for starters, simply notice.
As you observe yourself, notice if you tend to be a naysayer—someone who is always pessimistic or negative in response to others and their ideas. Perhaps you are a “mismatcher,” a label in Neuro-Linguistic Programing for one who always responds with the exception to the rule or with the one possible way that the other person could be wrong. Notice if you thank your partner when he or she does something for you, or if you appear to take their efforts for granted. Do you constantly blame others for your circumstances? Are you amenable or do you deflect everything people try to discuss with you? Do you always say no to advances for intimacy or fun nights out? Do you constantly doubt or question whether the other person loves you? Do you always feel superior or inferior? Are you regularly jealous or possessive? Do you apologize continuously or second-guess everything you do? Do you complain about everything from morning til night? Do you criticize, call the other names, use put downs or sarcasm? Are you in control of these behaviors or have they begun to control you?
Everyone has moments of all of these different behaviors, but when even one of them become your constant behavior, you can be guaranteed that your partner is feeling the rub and your relationship will experience the wear and tear. You may even notice that these behaviors are triggering the same reaction from your partner, as psychologists have discovered that bad moods are contagious, labeling this phenomenon emotional contagion.
When you notice what you do, and the consequences of your behavior, you will discover how powerful you are for impacting the responses you get from others.
Put yourself in your partner’s shoes for a moment. Ask yourself, “What is it like to talk with me?” “What is it like to share creative ideas or goals with me?” “What is it like to do something nice for me?” “What is it like to ask for help from me?” If you don’t like the answers, consider what you wish the answers were. How do you want to be? How do you want your partner or loved ones to describe you?
Begin each day with the goal of elevating the mood of your marriage. You may just find good moods are contagious, too.