It’s Not You, It’s … Just a Bad Day

Stabbing headacheIt’s always disappointing when you’re in a great mood, cooking dinner and looking forward to a nice evening…and then your partner comes home with a black cloud hanging over their head. Maybe they’re tired, or they’re stressed out, or both. While it’s obviously hard on the one who’s feeling down, it can be stressful for their partner too.

Of course you’re disappointed that your partner isn’t up for the plans you might have made, even if it was just a special meal you’d planned, but you also feel sympathy if they’re feeling exhausted, sick or down. Worst is if they don’t even feel like talking about it—and that’s when your partner’s bad day can really affect your mood, too … if you let it.

You don’t have to let your partner’s mood bring the whole evening down. Sure, in an ideal world, your partner would always want to share with you how they’re feeling, and you may want—or even expect—to feel needed and trusted when your loved one is having a hard time. But we’re dealing with reality here – it doesn’t always work that way. He or she might still be processing something that went wrong at work or elsewhere, but isn’t ready to talk about it. They also might just be tired or coming down with a cold. In other words, sometimes a bad day is just a bad day—and the worst thing you can do is take it personally. Instead, if you really don’t know what’s bringing them down and they’re not forthcoming at the moment, here are a few dos and don’ts to help keep things positive while not stirring up already choppy waters:

Do ask—once—what’s wrong, offer to listen and sympathize. If your partner doesn’t want to talk about it, let it go. When they’re ready to share, they will—or maybe whatever it is will resolve itself, and it will turn out to have been no big deal in the first place.

Don’t immediately ask if they’re upset with you. It’s natural for some to worry that they’re the reason every time their partner is less than their most-cheerful self, that they’re secretly angry with them. In truth, this is a self-centered—and self-abusing—assumption, and it is not healthy to be in the habit of blaming oneself every time their partner or spouse is in a bad mood.  Try to trust if that if they are angry with you, they’ll say so.

Do offer to make them feel better in ways that don’t involve intense discussion about whatever is bothering them. Suggest that maybe you just take it easy tonight and eat a casual dinner in front of the TV. Tell them it’s okay if they just want to lie down and read, and tonight you’ll give the kids baths, help with the homework and give them a break for an evening. Giving them kindness of a little time to work through what’s bringing them down can work wonders on a bad mood.

Don’t let it ruin your day. It’s always troubling when someone you love is upset, and most of us want to try to do anything we can to make things better, but if there’s truly nothing you can do about it at the moment, feel free to go about the business of taking care of your own needs. The alternative is to play guessing games and let your mind run wild, assuming all kinds of upsetting scenarios that your partner is mysteriously keeping from you.

Obviously, if a pattern develops and silent brooding becomes your partner’s default position, you have every right to know what’s really going on. But for now, give him or her some space, and accept that it’s normal to have bad days. Everyone has a bad day every once in a while, and when it happens, you might appreciate a little of the same quiet sympathy coupled with a healthy dose of “me” time.

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