Inside His Head: How can I help my angry husband?

insidehishead, 500

Dear Inside His Head,

My husband is constantly in a bad mood and I can’t figure out what’s wrong. I have tried to give him more attention and to cheer him up, but it just seems to irritate him even more. Any advice for how to help him? Should I try to dig and find out what could be bothering him or just give him space?

greg1.thumbnailGRAY: We husbands can be cranky at times. No denying that. And trying to cheer us up can turn our anger on you. Don’t take it personally, we’re just mad. And please, whatever you do don’t point out that we’re being cranky. Telling someone they’re grumpy never made any frown turn upside down.

Let him know you recognize he’s not angry at you but you want to understand what’s really fouling his mood. We’re not always keen on admitting we have problems – especially ones we’re having trouble figuring out – so the typical answer is “nothing’s wrong.” And if he doesn’t want to talk then badgering him about it can really make him blow his top.

At a point when he’s somewhat calm, ask what you can do to make him feel better.

Just trying to cheer him up dances around the issue. Let him know you’re in his corner and willing to help him help himself.

Maybe he wants some time alone. Maybe he needs a fishing trip with an old friend. Maybe he needs a punching bag to work it out of his system. Throw out some options. He might even start opening up a bit, but don’t hold your breath.

Remember that anger begets anger. If you find yourself getting angry then the two of you will be headed for an argument, not a solution. Don’t let it get under your skin, difficult as that may be. And if he should start talking don’t laugh. Seriously, sometimes the stuff that can trigger us is small potatoes. Keep a straight face and treat it as seriously as he does.

john.thumbnailMAVERICK: I’m assuming this constant bad mood is atypical and that he’s generally a fella who isn’t always in a foul humor.

Before you start pestering him, stop and think and see if there’s some sort of trigger that sets him off or if there’s some issue at work, or at home that could be bothering him. Often we can be oblivious to our spouse’s stress so simply think about it for a bit and try to pinpoint what it is.

Speaking from my own experience, if I’m in an extended bad mood it’s likely a work or financial concern that making me a jerk to be around.

If that’s what you suspect after you do some thinking, see if you can get him to open up to you. Don’t spring it on him right before bed or when he’s distracted like watching TV.

If you bide your time you’ll find a good chance to ask him what’s bothering him and ask a simple open ended question like “You seem a little stressed, how’s work?” or “I notice when we talk about money it makes you angry, is there something I need to know?” This gives him an opening to talk about what could be bugging him. Don’t go right at him with questions like “Are we broke?” or “Have you screwed up at work?”

If your  husband was once an active guy suggest he get some exercise or spend some time outdoors, and then cut him the slack to actually hit the gym or go fishing without guilt. That can do wonders for a guy’s attitude.

If the bad mood continues and he starts to isolate himself from things he used to really enjoy, I’d consider talking to him about seeing his doctor. Make and appointment for him if need be and tell him he needs to talk to his doc about how he’s feeling physically and mentally. He could be suffering from depression.

Be open and be willing to listen and don’t be quick to judge. It’s what you’d expect if roles were reversed. Just remember while he does need to talk about it with you, he’ll do it in his own time and trying to rush the process will be counterproductive.

Do you have a question for the guys? Email it to us at mamas{at}nwaMotherlode{dot}com. We, of course, will not publish your name.