How to Deal with an Irritated Spouse
Anyone who has been married for a short while has most likely experienced an irritated spouse or felt irritated as well. In that moment, it feels like nothing you say is right and your presence is simply unwelcome. How can you handle this, or better yet, how do you prevent it?
First of all, do not assume that you are the reason that they are irritated. Frustrations with work, finances, and personal roles often overflow to the marriage relationship. People tend to release their negative energy where they feel most comfortable and safest (typically to their spouse). When a person is dealing with physical illness, pain, fatigue, or stress it often comes across as irritation. Try to see things from their perspective and show some empathy.
Secondly, it is important to note that you are not responsible for your spouse’s behavior or emotions. It is not your job to make them happy and you cannot control your spouse. You are only responsible for your own behavior! However, your behavior has the power to influence the behavior of those around you. When your spouse snaps at you, respond with a firm and loving statement; such as, “I understand you’re upset, but I don’t deserve to be talked to that way” or “I love you and I want to be there for you, but I need you to use a kinder tone.”
Thirdly, moods are contagious! That being said, there are certain behaviors to avoid (which increase irritation) and certain behaviors to embrace (which decrease irritation).
In counseling, we teach clients to state their feelings with, “I feel…when…because…” This can be followed by, “What I need is…” The purpose of this exercise is to be honest with your feelings and take responsibility for them, identify the trigger, and give a specific reason for why the trigger causes you to feel that way. When expressing what you need, make sure that your request is reasonable. An example of this would be, “I feel angry when I walk into a messy house, because I work hard at my job and I want to feel relaxed when I come home. What I need is for at least the living room to be straightened up.”
When your spouse is expressing their feelings, allow them to speak without interrupting them. It doesn’t matter if you agree with them. Their feelings are their own. Respect your spouse by listening without judgment. You can respond with, “I will try harder to understand things from your perspective.”
Live up to your word. Wouldn’t you find it irritating if you asked someone to complete a simple task, and they agreed, but never followed through? Is there something that you have agreed to do, but you have been putting off? Tiny forsaken promises can become big irritations. Make sure that you are true to your word. Make it a priority to follow through on what you have told your spouse you will do.
Be considerate of your spouse. If your spouse needs to go to sleep by a certain time, be accommodating by keeping it quiet after that time. If you know they are getting in the shower, don’t start a load of laundry; instead bring them a warm towel. Think about the way you would want them to treat you and then do it. Remember that golden rule we learned as children? Matthew 7:12 says, ““So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
A little bit of thoughtfulness goes a long way!
Dealing with an irritated spouse
- Understand that there are many factors to irritation and try to be empathetic
- You are only responsible for your own behavior
- Give your spouse some space.
- Give your spouse the freedom to express their feelings without judgment
- Follow through on promises
- Be considerate
When you are the irritated spouse:
- Ask yourself what triggers your irritation
- Find a safe outlet for your negative energy (go for a walk, exercising, journaling, listen to music)
- Quarantine your own bad mood.
- Try an “I feel” statement
- Keep your words kind or stay quiet
Proverbs 15:1 (ESV) “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
I hope you found something in this post helpful to you. If so, please leave a comment below.