How to not ANGRY at mildly wrong spouse?
December 31, 2017 8:41 AM   Subscribe

I’m at the (hopefully) tail end of a complicated and grueling case of PPD/PPA. One of the symptoms was reactiveness and anger towards my spouse who I love very much in real life. Today, we had a small spat and I feel huge anger and sadness. He’s not here now but as soon as he walks in the front door I know the feelings will come back. Help me manage appropriately?

He genuinely screwed up a bit- snapped at me when I sought reassurance around a routine issue.

But I feel SO angry and sad to the point that I can’t function normally when he’s around me. I know rationally that this is the PPD but it totally swamps me all the same.

What are your tricks for managing really negative probably unfair emotions while emotionally compromised yourself? Usually, having perspective is a strength of mine so I’m feeling really out to sea.

I don’t want to fight but not talking also seems like a bad option. Added difficulty- we’re at my folks house with our toddler and 6 month old.

Feeling so sad.
posted by jeszac to Human Relations (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
PPD/PPA = postpartum depression/postpartum anxiety, yes?
posted by ocherdraco at 8:49 AM on December 31, 2017

Wanted to add that in the past attempts to just not talk about things or table til later have been really difficult and not successful for us. Spouse has already indicated he wants to talk this through during the kids’ naps. And to clarify PPD/A are post partum depression and anxiety. Sorry to have acronymed.
posted by jeszac at 8:50 AM on December 31, 2017

"I'm sorry."
posted by Carol Anne at 9:05 AM on December 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

Well, first, feelings are feelings. You already know the intensity is due to what I assume are biological postpartum hormonal issues and triggers.

I know the feelings are overwhelming but at the same time the key is managing how you express them.

In the past I have used the arts/journaling/music/exercise to channel intense negative feelings. Journaling in particular was helpful since seeing what I had to say in black and white helped me understand what I was feeling and why. Having young children may not give you a lot of time for this but if you can it might be helpful.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:05 AM on December 31, 2017 [6 favorites]

Sorry you're going through this. I think you are taking great steps by writing out the problem and seeking advice here. The suggestion to journal or draw to express your feelings is also an excellent one.

He genuinely screwed up a bit- snapped at me when I sought reassurance around a routine issue.

This is in no way intended to blame you for your feelings or make you feel bad, but I suggest that you also try to channel some compassion for your spouse here. He's probably under a bit of stress being away from home with a toddler. Even though it sounds like he understands your illness, always having to be the one to give reassurance, especially on routine issues, can be exhausting, especially if it comes after being the brunt of reactiveness and anger. It would probably be helpful if you could try to look at it less as "he screwed up" and more as "how do we support each other better."
posted by rpfields at 9:49 AM on December 31, 2017 [12 favorites]

At one point in my life I actually wrote myself a tiny note that said “I like (spouse). He is nice.” and put it in my pocket so I could touch it as a reminder of my true feelings.
posted by bq at 10:41 AM on December 31, 2017 [24 favorites]

I was going to say what rpfields did - that it might help you to think of this as something you're both in together. You're both struggling, and I can't imagine how hard it would be in both of your circumstances to not accidentally snap at each other sometimes, or fail to give each other all the needed support because you're barely keeping yourself afloat. If you know he's generally good and thoughtful and caring, then when he messes up take it less as a sign that he's doing wrong by you, and more as a sign that he's also carrying more weight than he can without strain. He should know that about you; you should know that about him.

Your husband might want, as part of the discussion, to talk about how he himself feels hurt or unsupported, and you might not be in a place to listen to that. Still, if that is part of the conversation, try not to give yourself permission to take your anger out on him when it happens. Remind yourself that it really is hard for both of you and that you really are together in having a hard time. (And difficulty, like pain, doesn't lend itself well to comparison; after some point every level of pain or difficulty becomes the most acute that a person can imagine.)

But it sounds like you recognize that your reaction is probably due to the depression and anxiety and maybe hormones, and that they probably make it harder to evaluate emotions as they come instead of just letting them all out. I think it's worth telling your husband you're afraid of fighting with him in this state (if that's the case).

You say you're with your family right now. Any chance you can let them take care of the kids for a day or two and you and your husband - together or separately - can take some time for yourselves? (If whole days aren't possible, then at least a few hours. If you've found body-focused things like massage or swimming helpful in the past, maybe let yourself have the time for that.)
posted by trig at 10:57 AM on December 31, 2017 [4 favorites]

Maybe you have already done this, but own it. Tell him. "I'm very upset. I know I'm over-reacting, I know it's (at least partly) from the PPD/A [or because I'm tired, or whatever other cause other than him]." If appropriate, apologize too. You can own and acknowledge the fact that it's an over-reaction while also acknowledging and addressing the fact that you are upset about something real.

I also like rpfields' point.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 10:57 AM on December 31, 2017 [10 favorites]

Wanted to add that in the past attempts to just not talk about things or table til later have been really difficult and not successful for us. Spouse has already indicated he wants to talk this through during the kids’ naps.

Can you elaborate as to why?

You're angry. Bone deep angry. It might not be "rational" or justified, but even if your feelings are caused by hormones and brain chemicals, those hormones and brain chemicals are real and powerful. They are not imaginary or nonexistent. Treating them as imaginary or nonexistent is unlikely to make things any better and rushing through your emotions is going to make it more likely that you'll have a blow-up later.

If you're too angry to talk right now, the mature, responsible, and reasonable thing is to put the conversation off for a few days until you're not in a rage spiral because it's very likely that it will be an unproductive conversation right now.

More practically, I'd do something healing and distracting rather than reading responses on metafilter and waiting for your spouse to come home. If you can leave the children with someone else and go for a walk or go see a movie and don't stew. There is a world out there beyond this fight, and reminding yourself of it would be a good thing.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:05 AM on December 31, 2017 [7 favorites]

Find a nice gym that's doing free trial memberships and get yourself a physical outlet.
posted by teremala at 12:02 PM on December 31, 2017

Just for right now, before he comes back in the door and you talk, can you go for a walk? Don't be angry or walk fast, but do try to focus on what you see, the weather, the feeling of deliberate movement. Try to stay out at least 45 minutes to an hour.

Best of luck. Don't devalue your feelings, but remember that husbands get a bit shook up with a new(ish) baby also.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:37 PM on December 31, 2017 [5 favorites]

I find it helpful to describe the emotions at arms' length and to start off on a very non-blaming I-want-to-tell-you-something-about-me note. For example, it might start out something like "this isn't something that's your fault, but I'm having a lot of feelings about your dirty spoon," and then alternating between why it's not the other person's fault and what I'm feeling. "You do SO many dishes and are a champion of kitchen cleaning, and I really appreciate that. But for some reason, when I saw your dirty spoon on the counter that I had just cleaned off, I felt SO ANGRY. And I mean, of
we all want to be able to put down a dirty dish and wash it when it's more convenient, and I was somewhat blocking the sink even, so you were perfectly justified. But, I think I was so stressed about the house being perfect for company. And I was really feeling like I didn't have the energy to do what I thought was the bare minimum to get the house ready for them. So when I saw it, I had this emotional reaction like it was the straw that broke the camel's back." That's what I aspire to, anyway.
posted by salvia at 2:34 PM on December 31, 2017 [8 favorites]

The other thing that helps me change my emotions sometimes is to try to picture myself from the outside, then picture how I want to be acting or even who I want to "be," then try to step into that, which eventually changes my feelings. Kind of "fake it till you make it." I don't claim this would work on something like, eradicating PPD (God no), but during moments when I know my emotions are getting the best of me but I can't change them myself, I can sometimes use this technique to find a new approach.

Say I'm overwhelmed by frustration at how hard it is to get our group out the door to go skiing. I'd try to create an exaggerated picture that magnifies my negative emotions, like I probably look like *drill sergeant voice* "why are you stopping to blow your nose?? Put the tissue down! No, no time for socks! We're leaving!!" And maybe I'd laugh at that, or maybe I'd think "yeahh that's really not the way I want to be treating people." Then I'd think of an exaggerated version of the attitude I want, like: but I want to look more like *friendly camp counselor voice* "Okay everybody! *claps hands* Time to go! Let's rolllll it out! Here are your socks, Tommy. Here we go! The mountain awaits!"

While it wouldn't work to tell myself "be less frustrated," it works to try to model myself after a different approach, in this case, to become (a subdued version of) the camp counselor. I couldn't have said to myself, "hey, try propelling the group forward with positive energy and efficient helpfulness," but I can kind of figure that out via reverse engineering. And sometimes, too, I'll realize "oh, that person would sit out on her deck with a cup of coffee to give herself some early-morning alone time" or "oh, that camp counselor would blow off steam by listening to [music]" and trying those things helps. And it's also easy to catch myself when I'm backsliding into the surly drill sergeant because a picture of him comes back into my head.

Anyway, I'm not sure this makes sense, or would be helpful in this specific situation, but maybe by thinking "how do I want to be treating him?" and then imagine trying to step into that character for a second, you might be able to get a sense of what the underlying feelings there would be. I don't mean to suggest that you should override your own feelings in harmful, disrespectful ways. In fact, maybe this exercise would be a way of seeing "no I can't act that way because..." But what I hear in your post is that you're wanting to change your feelings but are finding it hard.

I'm sure everything is hard with PPD/PPA, two little ones, and being at your in-laws! I hope things start to ease up for you soon.
posted by salvia at 3:08 PM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't know about you, but for me sometimes the awareness that my reaction is not totally caused by what happened - that actually I'm getting tugged around by unrelated emotions or hormones - can help me "stop digging" for justification, try to consider the bigger picture, and break the loop.

The loop: "I feel bad. What did my partner do that might have upset me? Urgh, that is annoying. Why can't he NOT do that? I'm really feeling terrible about this! How could he have done something that would make me feel so awful?"

Coming out of it: "I feel awful *way* out of any proportion to what just happened. Oh! Right! Hormones! What is a more realistic perspective?" And then I can remember he gave me that lovely shoulder rub, and picked up the groceries, and comforted the baby in the middle of the night... and then I'm feeling a little warmer and a little less like the last bad moment is the definition of our relationship.
posted by Lady Li at 10:03 AM on January 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

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