The guest article from Psych Central was written by Nathan Feiles, LMSW
When we take a moment to notice how we manage our day-to-day, moment-to-moment moods within our relationships, it’s interesting to see that the first communication of a bad mood is usually already too late to prevent conflict. How often does your partner snap at you (or vice versa), with that moment being the first realization that he or she is in a bad mood?
I do occasionally come into contact with couples where one announces to the other, “Don’t talk to me right now, I’m in a bad mood.” A little warning up front can go a long way towards preventing unnecessary conflict. The warning is important for several reasons:
First, it announces that right now isn’t a time for touchy or confrontational issues to be brought up. For some, it may mean that all topics are not welcome.
Secondly, a warning announces to a partner that something is going on and that it’s not personal (unless your partner has specified that it is). With the close proximity that occurs between two partners in a relationship, bad moods can easily be interpreted by the rejection-sensitive partner as a personal rejection. Though this would be an issue for that partner to work on, giving the partner a sense of reassurance is helpful and appropriate: “I’m in a bad mood right now. It’s not you, but leave me alone for a while.” The idea is to reduce chances of misunderstanding and conflict, as opposed to saying, “I’m in a bad mood, if you’re going to take it personally, that’s not my problem.” Even if your partner has a personalizing issue to work on, soothing your partner can be a good step towards preventing conflict.
A mood alert lets your partner know that you need them to play a certain role at the moment. For example, some people want to be left alone when in a bad mood; or, some want their partners to be there to listen and be supportive in a certain way (e.g. a hug, a glass of water, undivided attention, etc.). Whatever role you and your partner understand to want from the other during a bad mood, the mood alert announces the time for this.
When there’s no warning, it’s easier for a partner to personalize a bad mood, or to feel attacked, or surprised by a sudden aggression or hostility. This is an emotionally confusing environment that sets the stage for defensiveness, reactions, and arguments.
The Mood Alert
There are several ways to insert an effective mood alert into your relationship.
1) Announcement. Just as in the situations above. Inform your partner that you’re in an angry, or frustrated, or otherwise bad mood. If you have the capacity to elaborate, let your partner know what you need.