How do you deal with a negative spouse?


#1

My husband suffers from depression. I have learned to handle/ignore his mood swings and he is active with medicaiton, prayer, Confession, exercise and daily bible readings...all which help him from slipping into depression as often as he once did.

BUT he still can be a glass is half full person. He sees the bad more so and more often then the good. I tend to be very happy and view the best of situations and people.
Being around his negativity is starting ot get to me though. Ugh.

I use to try and sympathize with him. But, now I am SO worn out with it that I am a little snappy and 'counter' him in a snappy way far to often.
For instance, if he says: "I have to go in early again tomorrow for the stupid project they have me working on that will probably get canceled anyway"
I now say: "Well, at least you have a job to go into!" OR "Well, if it gets canceld at least you won't have to do the project since it is so 'stupid' ".

I need to stop, I know. But HOW do you deal with a negative person?!?!?
Taben


#2

[quote="taben, post:1, topic:216124"]
My husband suffers from depression. I have learned to handle/ignore his mood swings and he is active with medicaiton, prayer, Confession, exercise and daily bible readings...all which help him from slipping into depression as often as he once did.

BUT he still can be a glass is half full person. He sees the bad more so and more often then the good. I tend to be very happy and view the best of situations and people.
Being around his negativity is starting ot get to me though. Ugh.

I use to try and sympathize with him. But, now I am SO worn out with it that I am a little snappy and 'counter' him in a snappy way far to often.
For instance, if he says: "I have to go in early again tomorrow for the stupid project they have me working on that will probably get canceled anyway"
I now say: "Well, at least you have a job to go into!" OR "Well, if it gets canceld at least you won't have to do the project since it is so 'stupid' ".

I need to stop, I know. But HOW do you deal with a negative person?!?!?
Taben

[/quote]

How would you deal with a person who uses a wheelchair?

You certainly wouldn't say, "Hey, stop using that wheelchair and just walk like the rest of us."

You just ignore it. It's the way things are. Your husband is depressed and it affects the way he perceives life. While you and I see life's colors, he sees life in grays and blues and even blacks. These are the "eyes" that his soul has, and you can't change it, just like you can't make a person in a wheelchair stand up and walk.

As the anti-depressant meds continue to work, he'll gradually become more able to see the colors, too.

But in the meantime, try this. My husband was diagnosed with clinical depression about 20 years ago. He's on an antidepressant, which is immensely helpful. But he also did several months of cognitive therapy (talk) which trained him to change his thinking patterns. He used to be a negative person--the example you gave of your husband's thought process about his job is exactly the way my husband used to think. But the cognitive therapy gave him concrete tools and methods. I remember that he did a lot of workbooks and worksheets--all "hard copy" stuff, not just "ideas." He actually re-learned how to think and erased all the faulty learning that he had picked up over the years.

I would strongly suggest that you try to talk your husband into doing some cognitive therapy because it is very helpful. It sounds like he is a little afraid of "slipping back into depression> Cognitive therapy will help him to be pro-active and control his negative thinking. He will really enjoy the feeling of being in charge and having an action plan instead of just hoping the meds and prayer help. He'll see and feel the results of his new thinking patterns and enjoy himself more, and others (including you) will enjoy him, too!

I hope this advice is helpful.


#3

How about "I admire your dedication to work on something that may get canceled. I appreciate you"

Write down a bunch of things like this with a positive slant. Use words liike perseverence, dedication, justice, fortitude, sacrifice, dedication, fair, & integrity. Complements using these words will get to a mans heart but do not really touch the heart of a wife. Mothers give sympathy so drop that completely.

(Your other choice is snarky comments or nagging. But negativity rarely works whichever way it goes, no matter how justified.)

Have statements prepared in advance. When he says something, answer with one of your statements then smile and walk away. You may not feel like doing this but spin it this way and see what happens in the course of a month. At a minimum, you will not get drawn into his negativity.

What have you got to lose?


#4

My wife and I watched a movie together recently titled Fireproof. It may be at your library. It is all about your situation, ... and mine.

It helped us a little. I hope it will help you too.


#5

I was once in a similar situation, and my husband is still a natural pessimist. It's tough.

I don't know how open he is to more therapy, but I second the idea of congnitive therapy. A couple of books in that vein that we found helpful were The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns (recommended by our therapist)-- very practical suggestions and worksheets-- and Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin Seligman. The latter I heard recommended by the Popcaks on their radio show and it's really been a great book. Neither of these will work if your husband's not interested, but it sounds like he's actively involved in his treatment so he may be receptive.

If he won't go to cognitive therapy, counseling just for you may be helpful. It is really, really hard to be the spouse of a depressed person and you need some support as well. Depression Fallout is a secular book that was very helpful to me when my DH was in the midst of his depressive episode. I don't know that it gave me much in the way of practical tips, but hearing the stories of others that so closely reflected my own was freeing-- and allowed me to give myself permission to live my life without having my emotions so closely linked to his.

I'll pray for you.


#6

I have a relative like that too. If you can get him to go to cognitive therapy as some others have suggested, that would probably be the best thing for you both, because it will "retrain" him to think and speak with less negativity.

He is following a pattern of thinking and speaking in a negative way - patterns or habits are really hard to change, but it can be done. For example, my relative likes to complain about the "rest of the world" and unfortunately the daily news gives her plenty to discuss. She just can not say anything nice about anything!

I finally sat down with her and told her that she was entitled to her own opinion, but that the constant complaining and negative language was making me depressed (it was!). I got her to agree to keep her negative feelings to herself. When she said something negative again (about 30 seconds later), I didn't respond to what she said. I simply reminded her of her promise. I still have to do it all the time, but the negative talk has reduced a lot. In fact, now every time she says something negative, I don't even react to it. My brain is also trained to ignore the comment itself and to respond with "remember - you promised..."

The crucial thing here is to act with compassion with your husband. Don't tell him to feel differently than he does. Just tell him that him sharing these feelings using negative language is making you feel bad. Give him a concrete example of what something he said that was negative, then give him an example of how he could have said it differently and neutrally. Then, get him to promise not to do it anymore, for your sake. Tell him you need his help. He may not really understand how much he is doing it. Then be vigilant. Remind, remind, remind. Eventually, over time, he will retrain himself to at least speak in a way that won't get him another reminder :)


#7

It depends so much on the person, but in the end, you love them, just as they are. If there is any way for the two of you to develop a sense of humor about his negativity, though, I would try that. This has to be a very gentle and affectionate humor, though. It has to be part of real support, and not just making light of his perception of his problems. It isn't laughing at him; it is an attempt to bring perspective back into play.

For instance, if someone at our house were to say, " "I have to go in early again tomorrow for the stupid project they have me working on that will probably get canceled anyway", then another of us would probably say, "That's the spirit. They can just keep their @#%%ed jack!" This is a code reminder for the following joke:

There was once a man whose car had a flat, way out in the country. He had a spare tire, but his jack broke. At first, he was dejected, because he was miles from anywhere. Then he remembered that he had passed a farmhouse not a mile earlier. He began to walk to the farmhouse, to borrow a jack. As he made the walk, though, he began to worry about what he would do if the farmer would not help him. The more he thought about it, the more certain he became that the farmer would surely not help him. By the time the farmer answered the knock at his front door, the man had himself in a tizzy, and exploded at the bewildered man: "Fine then! Be that way! See if I care! You can just keep your @#%%ed jack!"

We have all sorts of punch-line codes like that. Another one is to repeat this silly rule that we so often find ourselves following: "In any crisis, the first and most important order of business is to properly assess blame." It is stupid to do it, but we all do, and the best way out of it is to laugh at ourselves. As St. Thomas Moore put it: "The Devil, the proud spirit, cannot endure to be mocked."

Of course, after that, if they don't want to laugh you invite them to talk about why they expect such an awful outcome, and look at whether the worst case scenario is really the worst case. In any event, though, it is a gradual play-by-ear sort of process. You learn not what makes them feel better--it is really not comforting for someone to be in a hurry to "fix" you--but what will make them feel loved, for better or worse. If you can express some affection for the fact that they do this to themselves, that can actually help. Mostly, though, you express that they are loved, even when they are being maddening. That is the most important thing. Feeling accepted and loved is a great antidote to depression.

I have had a lot of "negative" friends, and they actually enjoy very much that I have a fond sense of humor about their negativity. You can choose to look at these guys like Eeyore. Their negativity can be so predictable and inappropriate that it can be maddening...but it can also be kind of funny, if it is allowed to be. Eeyores are always going to be kind of like that, but it can become part of what makes them lovable. If you think he might like it, you could even get him and Eeyore coffee mug that says "We love you just the way you are."

This is the other thing that has helped me when, for other reasons, I have wanted to tear my hair out with my husband. I pray: "Lord, you love him, because I can't do it. I just do not have the energy." I have always gotten some help, if only in the form of a softened heart....because when he's hard to love, I'm also stuck in loving, so we both need the mercy of God. If you welcome it, the mercy of God feels pretty wonderful.

Another friend of ours had a good stock agreement for someone who was complaining about a bad situation: "Well, h*&l, d&%n, and spit. That does stink." It just says, "Yep. Bad situation. Those happen. Don't you hate that?" It says that it is OK to not be positive all the time, and that is kind of nice, too.


#8

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.