Is Your Partner Grumpy?
The other day, a friend of mine told me that his wife was just plain grumpy! She snapped at him frequently over small things. And at times, she could even be nasty. He didn’t know what to do. Whenever he reacted to her irritability, she got even more annoyed! When he mentioned his concern about her behavior, she barked—“If you just weren’t so annoying, I wouldn’t be so annoyed!”
And so goes that kind of conversation— usually nowhere.
What is this about? Why is it that the some people seem to be chronically irritable? Most grouchy adults blame others for their irritability---if others wouldn’t do things that were off track they wouldn’t be so grumpy.
Or would they?
There are many reasons for this kind of disposition. It can be a warning signal that an adult is overwhelmed. Long hours at work, financial stress, home responsibilities, family obligations, and just the unrelenting pace of life can send us over the edge. Without realizing it, we start to bark over the slightest thing. That can happen to anyone—even someone who is normally carefree.
Some people are just plain moody. Happy one moment, sad another, tired, expansive, and then bang—grumps. They are not even sure how they got there. They seem to be more prone to bad moods than their more consistent counterparts.
I have noticed that individuals who tend towards perfectionism can grow grumpy. It really bothers them when others don’t live up to their high, and sometimes unrealistic, standards. They expect that others should strive as high as they do.
Worry can foster ill-temper. Some Saturday mornings I start to think about all of the things on my to-do list for the day. My wife can throw in a few more honey-do’s too. I start to feel anxious—how will I get everything done! That anxiety can tip me over into getting cross—especially when my spouse throws out another task that needs to be accomplished. It’s not the length of my to-do list that is the concern (that may be another problem), but my anxiety about it.
So, let’s consider some antidotes to grouchiness.
Talk to your favorite grump when they are in a good mood. Letting your grouchy partner know how annoying they are when they are cross is a bad idea. They are just liable to get amped up. Wait until a quiet moment and bring up how their behavior impacts you. “When you raise your voice at me over a small matter, I feel hurt and I withdraw,” for example. Be specific.
Give moody adults a wide berth. I know a few moody individuals (actually I live with one). When summer turns to winter, take a walk. Don’t try to chill them out. They need time and space to get out of their own bad humor. Their mood will change, just like the weather in Washington—pretty quickly.
No one is perfect, especially perfectionists! It can be very difficult for some people to distinguish between a high expectation, a realistic expectation, and an unrealistic goal. To perfectionists, there are no unobtainable ambitions. This can cause a great deal of suffering—both for them and for others.
Live the moment. It is only possible to do one thing at a time! When you are doing something—just do that thing. Be fully present and experience what you are doing. This will help you live in this moment. Worrying about the future that is not yet born distracts you from now. And, it fosters anxiety—a recipe for distress.
Self-care and balance is a necessity, not an option. It is vitally important to incorporate rest (that means proper sleep), relaxation (as in remember to smell the roses), spirituality (that means different things to different people), exercise (walk, swim, bike, play tennis, dance), community (spend time with friends), and have hobbies (read, volunteer, sing, coach, woodworking, sew, fish, hunt, camp or hike). These activities are essential for wellbeing and a positive, warm disposition.
Know any grouches? How do you cope with them?