One day during the height of the pandemic, I had a very busy day that got even busier when our dishwasher broke down. I had to find a repair person who could rebuild it, as new parts were not to be found. Also our car was in the shop, and I had a full day of clients and interviews to contend with.
My lovely wife was pretty upset about the car (her chariot). And as I thought this energy might be a little misplaced, I said, “I have to manage my clients, the house, the appliance repair, and now I have to manage your emotions about the car.”
Then she looked at me with those beautiful brown eyes, furrowed her brow a tiny bit, and said, “Look, I’ve been managing your emotions for the past half-dozen years. I think you can handle it.”
When someone says something that spot on, all you can do is accept and acknowledge it. I said, “Thank you, my love.” Then I went on with the tasks of the day, laughing at myself the whole time.
Yes, depression makes it easier to get overwhelmed, and that’s when anxiety can kick in too.
Before you know it, you’re in hand-to-hand combat with your emotions. And if the one you love gets in the line of fire, you can unintentionally say or do something to hurt their feelings, simply because your brain chemistry is off.
I try to practice what I preach to my clients. First, do not project your emotional discomfort onto others (your spouse or anyone else). They don’t deserve it, and it is your issue, so you have to contend with it. You can acknowledge you’re upset and apologize for not being in a good place, and then do something about it.
That means doing something to get yourself out of your head and find some inner comfort. It’s called self-soothing, which can be anything from meditation to plugging in your electric guitar, cranking up the volume, and playing “Stairway to Heaven.” Whatever works for you is fine, as long as it isn’t destructive and doesn’t bug your partner.
Sometimes I will garden or exercise, because the physical activity is also helpful for both depression and anxiety. Mostly my wife is with me, and my attention then gets diverted to what we are planting or seeing, or to how cute the dog is being.
Getting yourself to go for a walk or be physically active when you are upset can be difficult, but it can be such a great healer for mood regulation. Walking almost calls to you once you know how well it works.
I am fortunate that my partner doesn’t take my moods personally, and she is always willing to communicate with me. It does take practice to learn how not to project your emotional discomfort onto your partner, and good therapy helps.
The most important thing to remember is that getting upset with another person is not going to make you feel any better. Connecting with them probably will, so rather than act out whatever is going on in your mind, focus on your love for your partner and act on that.
If you let love guide you, you won’t do or say anything to the person who is always there for you no matter what.
Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., LMFT, is an award-winning therapist and writer. He is a columnist, blogger and the author of seven books, including “Visualization For Success — 75 Psychological Empowerment Exercises To Get You What You Want In Life.” Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org