One of the most important lessons I learned about relationships was taught in a class on couples therapy in graduate school. My professor, Dr. Shelley Goldklank, said that the number one characteristic she sees in couples who come to see her for couples therapy is the tendency to react emotionally to each other when things go badly. In other words, one person says or does something, and rather than see it in perspective or blow it off, the other has an emotional response and responds emotionally right back.
I have seen this is my own work as a couples therapist. The tendency to overreact in emotional ways to your partner is the ultimate death knell for a relationship. The reality is that a long-term relationship can be difficult, and that each partner must allow the other to go through changes that have nothing to do with the other.
When your partner is in a bad mood – upset, depressed, or angry – give him or her some space. Don’t take it personally and don’t try to change their mood. If someone is upset, he or she is upset for a reason and you need to ride the wave until it passes. Sometimes giving your partner the space to be imperfect and to have the natural moods and ebbs-and-flows that go hand in hand with life can be the very thing needed to ease him or her out of a bad mood. Think ‘space is grace.’
Finally, remember that there may be times in the future when you’d like a little space. I’m sure, in those instances, you’d much prefer someone giving you that space rather than quizzing you on what’s wrong or emotionally reacting to the mood you’re in.