Dealing with a negative spouse can drain the life out of you, and not only does it spell disaster for your relationship, but it can also really impact your personal outlook and general mood.
In this guide on how to deal with a negative spouse, we’re going to talk frankly about what it takes to combat this issue, what differentiates a negative husband or wife with someone who is struggling with something situational, as well as what to do to reignite your marriage and your own spark inside.
Negativity can come in all shapes and forms, whether it’s low mood, a general negative disposition with something always being “wrong” or not good enough, or a stream of negative comments and “nothing nice to say.”
You probably didn’t get married to a negative spouse (that sounds no fun), but over time, your spouse may have become a negative person or adopted negative world views or habits that are starting to weigh everyone down.
And we say “weigh everyone down” because unfortunately, a persistent negative attitude doesn’t just effect the person who has it, but everyone around them.
In the next section, we’re going to talk about the different causes of a negative spouse so you can really start to identify and understand how to move forward, how to approach the issue with them, and ultimately, what you should or are able to do about a person that isn’t you (hint: not much, but you can change how you react and who and where you spend your time).
So if you’ve got a negative husband or negative wife or just a spouse who is negative all the time, let’s dive in!
1. Get to the Root of the Negativity
Before we let you go all trying to kung-fu the negativity out of your spouse, it’s really important that you think about and try to get to the root of their negativity.
The first and more serious cause of negativity in anyone could be a mental health issue, like depression.
Despite their best efforts (or they may not even realize what is happening), your spouse may be sucked into the tight hold of depression where their entire world feels cloudy and negative.
This also usually comes with other symptoms, like fatigue, general irritability, inability to look forward to the future, and other more serious manifestations.
While you aren’t a therapist, you do know your spouse (or should), and trying to be in tune with why they might be expressing such negativity can do wonders for how you approach it.
For instance, if your spouse is showing signs of depression, you’re going to want to work together compassionately and understand that the negativity is not coming from them, but from a mental health issue.
If, on the other hand, you’re pretty sure your spouse is negative because they’ve just turned into an overall miserable grump yelling at kids to get off their lawn or wanting to always see the worst in everything to be contrary, then you can approach the situation with a little bit more sternness and inclination to “put your foot down” against their behavior.
2. If Possible, Work Together to Fix the Reasons for the Negativity
Getting to the core of the negativity is not just important for overall understanding, but so that you can help them fix the problem!
If someone is suffering from depression, getting them to a therapist or agreeing to try virtual therapy through somewhere like Better Help is one of the best things you can do for them, even if it takes them awhile to come around to the idea.
Sometimes, the negativity can be situational.
Does your spouse hate his or her job and this is clouding their entire life with a negative energy?
It’s time to help them fix the situation by finding a new job, changing your own job, or somehow altering the situation so that their positive self can return.
And, of course, if there is no clear reason for the negativity that you can see, the first step in fixing it is to have a calm discussion with them and see what they think the root of it is (or if they even understand they’re being negative).
3. Express Your Feelings about How the Negativity is Weighing You Down
How harshly you express your feelings about their negativity does depend on what you think the cause is, but regardless of the way you phrase it or how gentle you are, you need to express your feelings about how their negativity is affecting you.
Negative people (or temporarily negative people) often don’t realize how their attitude has an impact on others.
They’re alone in their negative world, believing that you can just keep on being Sunny Sunshine even if they are pouring out all of their negative energy into the relationship.
You need to make it clear that it isn’t how it works, and that no matter how hard you are trying to remain the uplifting or positive one, it isn’t sustainable for them to continue indefinitely with their negative attitude.
Express how it makes it less fun to be with them, how you feel family events are tinged by their negative comments, or how you generally feel yourself not wanting to return home because you know their negative mood will be waiting.
It can be a hard pill to swallow, but it’s a necessary conversation to start tackling the problem and understanding if your spouse is willing to address their negativity or be willing to change.
4. Fill Your Day with Positive Friends, Family, and Hobbies
When it comes to the amount of time you spend around a negative spouse, the desired amount can get less and less the more negative they are.
It’s so important that even through their negativity, you surround yourself with positive friends and family, as well as any social groups to help lift your spirits.
We are the people we hang out with, and if you spend all day with a negative spouse, you run the real risk of adopting their habits and attitude yourself.
In this instance, you have to start being selfish and making sure you have plenty of plans on your own and surrounded by positive people.
Go out to lunch with your mom, plan a birthday party for your friend, or join a running or walking club or even a sport so that you still feel like you’re living a full and healthy life around positive people even if your spouse can’t be that person at the moment.
5. Practice Mindfulness and Self-Esteem Building to Retain Your Positivity
Even when you can’t be around other people, practicing mindfulness and meditation can help you center yourself and not absorb your spouse’s negative energy.
Think of it like putting sunscreen on or bug spray on.
You’re building up a layer of defense, except this time it’s mental and it has to do with not giving in to their negative thoughts or attitude (you might think that it won’t happen to you, but spend long enough around a negative person and it absolutely will).
Whether you do a morning meditation with an app like Headspace or you take some time down by the local creek to just sit with your thoughts and get some fresh air, taking that time for yourself to build your self-esteem and express gratitude for what you have is vital to not joining them in their pity party.
Things like journaling about how you’re feeling can also help you notice how their negativity is affecting you.
6. Address the Negativity in the Moment (Get Specific)
Sometimes, even though we know our spouse just seems negative all of the time, it’s hard to bring this up with specific examples and it can feel like you’re attacking them with no evidence.
It can often help to address the negativity in the moment when it happens.
So let’s say that you want to go out for dinner for a date night, and your spouse starts mentioning all of the reasons they don’t want to go out or don’t like any of the restaurants you’ve suggested.
In this case, right in the moment, make it a point.
You can even soften the blow with something like, “I know you’re not trying to be, but the way you’re reacting to this suggestion of us going on a date night is incredibly negative and not like you. Is there something wrong? If you don’t want to go now, we can plan something for another time, but it seems like you don’t have anything positive to say about anything.”
This makes the conversation about a particular behavior in that moment, which is easier to address than “you’re so negative all of the time.”
Again, if this is a persistent problem, continue bringing it up throughout the day or week so they can start to understand all of the reasons why you feel they are giving off a negative energy.
Note: this does not apply to healthy relationships or people, as expressing negativity is part of being human and having bad days!
Only use this if your spouse seems to have fallen into a trap of being negative more frequently than they are positive.
7. Give an Ultimatum
Whether it’s depression or they’ve just turned into a miserable, negative person over the years, living with a negative spouse is not the life anybody wants for themselves.
You can’t change a person, ultimately, only express how their behaviors make you feel, but you can choose whether you want to remain in that relationship.
This seems like a huge jump to make, and we’re not suggesting you don’t honor your vows and try everything possible to make it work, but you need to make it clear to him or her what their negativity is doing to their relationship and what you want to happen and why.
It’s up to the other person to decide if they want to be in the relationship enough to work on this part of their personality or attitude, but no one deserves to spend their whole lives listening to someone grumble and complain when there is a big, beautiful world out there to explore.
Be serious, be firm, and be loving, but express your limits and what you need to happen for the relationship to thrive.