How to Deal With a Negative Spouse (15 Ways + Expert Insights)

Having a negative spouse can be really draining. It’s hard to stay positive when someone you love sees the glass half empty. But don’t worry; there are ways to handle this without losing your own happiness.

I’ll go over some simple and practical tips that can help you manage and maybe even improve your situation. Stick with me, and let’s discover ways to bring positivity back into your life!

Talk Openly About How You Feel

When dealing with a negative spouse, it’s crucial to express how their behavior affects you. Use “I feel” statements instead of “You always” to avoid sounding like you’re accusing them. For example, saying, I feel worried when you seem down,” is gentler than, “You’re always negative.”

Pick a calm time to have this chat, not when emotions are running high. This way, both of you can listen and really understand each other.

"The best method to deal with a negative spouse is to compassionately confront the spouse. It is often the case that the spouse does not realize how negative they have become. It can be uncomfortable having this discussion and no one enjoys their faults being pointed out. Yet it is the compassionate thing to do to gently confront the spouse to allow them an opportunity to make some changes."

— Jason Drake, LCSW | Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Katy Teen & Family Counseling

Try to Understand Their Side

Understanding doesn’t mean agreeing, but it does mean putting yourself in their shoes. Sometimes, negativity is a shield against unresolved issues or stress. Think about a time when you felt really overwhelmed — your spouse might be going through something similar.

Ask questions like, Can you help me understand what’s bothering you?” to show you genuinely care.

Stay patient and listen during this time. Hold off on interrupting or inserting your own feelings. For instance, if your spouse explains feeling overwhelmed at work, you might respond with, “It sounds like you’re carrying a lot on your shoulders.” Show empathy without necessarily agreeing with everything they say.

Set Boundaries on Negative Comments

Setting boundaries is key for your sanity and the health of your relationship. If your spouse’s negative comments are getting too much, it’s okay to set limits. Let them know, It’s tough for me to stay positive when I hear constant negativity.”

Clearly define what is acceptable and what isn’t in your conversations. Boundaries are not about shutting down communication; they’re about making sure both of you feel safe. Also, be consistent with these boundaries. If a line is crossed, kindly remind your spouse of the agreement. It might be tough at first, but stick with it.

Be Forgiving

Forgiving isn’t about letting everything slide; it’s about not letting it control your emotions and reactions. When your spouse snaps out of stress, it’s easy to snap right back. Instead, take a deep breath and remember, everyone has their off days, and sometimes a run of bad days.

Suppose your partner is unusually short-tempered after a tough day at work. You might say, Hey, it sounds like today was rough. Want to talk about it? This shows you’re there for them, even if their initial negativity could have pushed you away.

It’s also important to forgive yourself in this process. Sometimes you might react negatively too. Acknowledge it, apologize, and learn from the situation. Forgiveness is a two-way street.

Don’t Make It About You

When your spouse is struggling with negativity, it’s easy to take their behavior personally, or wonder if you’re the cause. But remember, their bad mood isn’t necessarily about you. Maybe they’re upset about a project gone wrong at work or a friend’s thoughtless comment — it’s their battle, not yours.

Instead of thinking, “Why are they doing this to me?” focus on recognizing that they might need support.

  • Listen more than you speak: This helps in understanding the real roots of their frustrations.
  • Offer support, not solutions: Sometimes, all they want is to feel heard, not to be fixed.

By stepping back and not taking their negativity personally, you help prevent conflicts and misunderstandings in your relationship.

"Most likely, your spouse’s negativity is not about you. If you try to convince them to look at everything through a more positive lens, they are going to feel like you are trying to change them or feel criticized. This is not going to help either of you feel better about the relationship. If you make it about you, you are more likely to have their negativity aimed at you."

Cheri Timko, M.S. | Relationship Coach, Synergy Coaching

Don’t Expect Them to React the Way You Do

Everyone has a unique way of handling stress and conflict. If you’re the type who seeks immediate solutions and your spouse tends to withdraw, respect their process, even if it’s hard to understand at times.

Say your spouse is dealing with a challenging situation, and you notice they’re more quiet than usual. Instead of pressing them to open up, give them space, but let them know you’re there when they’re ready to talk.

Give space but stay present. Also, avoid comparisons or saying things like, “I wouldn’t react that way,” as this will only create distance.

"It is normal for couples to have different interpretations, opinions, and experiences of the same events. If your partner does not react the same way, show some curiosity about how they reach their conclusions. It might open up your eyes to a different way of looking at the world."

Cheri Timko, M.S. | Relationship Coach, Synergy Coaching

Focus on Positive Interactions

It’s like looking for silver linings on cloudy days; focusing on positive interactions can really change the vibe at home. It could be as simple as laughing together at a silly joke, appreciating a meal they cooked, or enjoying a quiet evening stroll. These moments add up, helping to lighten the load of negativity.

Try this out: Next time you both share a light moment, say something like, “I really enjoy these times with you.” Positive reinforcement can make those moments more frequent. Remember, it’s the little joys that often bring the largest smiles.

Remember What You Love About Them

When negativity looms large, it’s easy to forget why you fell in love. Take a moment now and then to recall those qualities. Maybe it’s their quirky sense of humor, the way they make coffee just right, or their knack for storytelling.

Here’s an idea: Write down five things you love about your spouse and look at that list whenever things feel overwhelming. Reflect on those qualities when interacting with them. Reminding yourself of their positive traits can help you navigate through the tougher times with more grace and less stress.

Resist the Urge to “Fix” Your Spouse’s Problems

It’s natural to want to help your spouse when they’re down. But sometimes, the best help is just being there. So rather than offering solutions right away, say, “I’m here for you, no matter what you need.” This assures them of your support without putting pressure on either of you to solve the issue immediately.

And remember, it’s okay to step back sometimes:

  • Let them process. Give them time to sort through their feelings. They might come up with solutions you hadn’t thought of.
  • Just listen. Often, people feel better once they’ve voiced their concerns without someone jumping in to fix things right away.
"If your spouse is having a difficult period and has become negative, remind yourself that this is temporary. He/she will eventually snap out of it and likely doesn’t need you to “fix” anything. Sometimes we just need to feel our emotions, have permission to deal with them as we need to even if it is messy and uncomfortable for those around us. Although you could suggest seeking professional help or other ways that may be beneficial, ultimately it’s up to your spouse to take action and help himself feel better."

Maria Akopyan | Family Law Attorney | Certified Life and Divorce Coach, Dignified Divorce Coaching

Understand the Root Causes of Their Negativity

Sometimes, getting to the bottom of why your spouse is feeling negative can work wonders. Everyone has different triggers, whether it’s stress at work, past traumas, lack of sleep, or even health concerns. Take some time to discuss this with your spouse and see if you can pinpoint these root causes.

Try asking gentle questions like:
“Is there something specific that’s been bothering you lately?”
“Do you think there’s a deeper reason for how you’re feeling?”

This shows that you genuinely care and can help you both figure out what to do next.

"Perhaps your spouse has gone through a traumatic and overwhelming event and this has shaped his/her life. This could be molestation, abusive parents, dealing with grief at an early age, bullying, and numerous other examples. If we place ourselves from his/her lens, we can begin to understand how they view the world."

Dr. Tricia Wolanin, Psy.D. | Clinical Psychologist | Author | Yoga Instructor

Consider Going to Therapy Together

Let’s face it, sometimes things get a bit too much to handle on your own. If you and your spouse are struggling with negativity, why not consider therapy? It’s a safe place where you can talk about your issues and learn new ways to cope.

Think of therapy as a positive step, not a last resort. A therapist can help you both understand each other better and give you tools to manage negativity. Plus, deciding to go together shows you’re both committed to making things better, which is already a big win.

Tend to Your Own Well-being

Don’t forget about yourself! You can’t be there for your spouse if you’re running on empty. Make sure you’re also taking care of your own mental and physical health. Do things that rejuvenate you—be it reading, jogging, taking a peaceful walk, or just sipping coffee in silence.

Here’s how to keep your well-being on track:

  • Set personal boundaries: Know when you need a timeout, and take it without feeling guilty.
  • Engage in activities you love: Don’t let your hobbies fade away. They’re vital for your mental health.
"Having a form of daily discipline or spiritual practice can also help mitigate the impact of negativity from them on us. This could be a mindfulness practice, gratitude, energetic work to form a metaphorical/protective bubble, prayer, mantra, intention, and numerous other modalities."

Dr. Tricia Wolanin, Psy.D. | Clinical Psychologist | Author | Yoga Instructor

Do Fun Things Together

Sometimes, the best way to combat negativity is to simply have fun together. Doing enjoyable activities together can help shift the focus from what’s bothering your spouse to what brings joy to both of you.

Why not plan a ‘date night’ once a week? Or maybe try out a new hobby, or even just have a good laugh over a silly game.

Here are some fun ideas to try:

  • Have a movie marathon with your favorite films.
  • Go for a scenic hike or nature walk.
  • Cook a new recipe together.
  • Visit a local museum or art gallery.
"Implement traditions in your marriage that promote positivity. At the end of each day tell each other what was the best part of your day. Then state 3 things you’re grateful for. This helps him look for the good each day, instead of the bad. It also helps both of you get to know each other better."

— Dr. Trish Henrie-Barrus | Psychologist | Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Therapist | Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Utah | Clinical Director, Ampelis Recovery

Talk to Friends for Support

While it’s essential to support your spouse, remember that you don’t have to do it all alone. Reach out to your friends for some much-needed support and advice. Sometimes, just talking things out with someone who understands can make a big difference.

Share your feelings ( without spilling all the beans about your marriage) and let them offer their perspective. They might have valuable insights or simply provide a listening ear, which can help you feel less isolated.

Don’t Judge Your Partner

Jumping to conclusions or labeling your spouse because they’ve been negative can add fuel to the fire. So instead of judging them, try to adopt a mindset of empathy and understanding. Try to see things from their perspective. Maybe they’re under a lot of pressure they haven’t spoken about, or they’re dealing with issues you’re not fully aware of.

Avoid phrases like “You always…” or “You never…” because they tend to feel accusatory. Instead, opt for something more understanding like, I see you’re going through a tough time, how can I help? This shift in approach can make your partner feel more supported and less defensive.

Sometimes, just knowing that they are not being judged can make your spouse feel lighter and more open to change.

Excerpts From the Experts

Call him on his negativity. Don’t minimize the situation or think that by “sweeping it under the rug” it will go away. Feelings buried alive never die. You have to deal with your feelings and how his are affecting you. Many times people don’t even know how negative they are being.

Get him to talk but set limits. People need the outlet of being able to talk but they need boundaries. “Let’s talk and unwind for 20 minutes and then we’ll go on a walk.” The first step in good communication is listening to understand. Listen and reflect back. He might just need to hear you reflect back what he is saying to realize how negative he’s being…”

— Dr. Trish Henrie-Barrus | Psychologist | Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Therapist | Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Utah | Clinical Director, Ampelis Recovery

“Negative thinking is both a door opener to depression and a symptom of depression. A way to verify that your spouse has depression is to ask if they’d be willing to take one of many depression self-tests online. If they check enough boxes, the next step would be to have your partner see a good therapist or therapy group to begin the healing process. The process will take time and patience.

If your spouse refuses to go to therapy, make sure to take care of yourself by attending therapy sessions yourself. When you live with a negative person, it can affect you and anyone else in your household and lead you to depression.

Another way to help you during these times is to acquire tools to help teach you and your spouse to shift into a more positive gear. Some examples of tools are: mediating, self-help books, reading daily affirmations, or breaking a sweat by dancing or working out…

Even though you may make suggestions and practice your new communication skills with them, it isn’t your job to rescue your spouse.”

Dr. Brenda Wade | Advisor, Online For Love

“Remember that your spouse’s emotional state is not personal to you. When living under the same roof and dealing with one another, it’s easy to let the moodiness, negativity, and irritation feel that it’s a direction to you or something you did. If your spouse snaps at you for some reason, instead of reacting or getting immediately defensive, take a moment to consider what is at the core of the negativity.

Oftentimes, we tend to be negative and the most critical when we are stressed, dealing with anxiety or depression, and feeling an insurmountable amount of pressure for various reasons. It’s easy to take out our stressors on those around us even unintentionally.

This moment of pause and reflection can help to disentangle your spouse’s emotions from reflecting on you or anything you did.”

Maria Akopyan | Family Law Attorney | Certified Life and Divorce Coach, Dignified Divorce Coaching

“Maybe fostering your own positivity still isn’t enough. Perhaps talking to your spouse in a loving and direct way is your hard next step. Try first to think, what are they feeling? Do they realize their negative tone? Maybe therapy, professional help, or even medicine would best help them out of their funk? Rest assured, you are going to love them through this, but acknowledging the difficult season they are in may be all you have to do.

Unfortunately, many people I meet have tried all of these things, and their best next step is ultimately divorce or separation.

  • Do you find yourself trying to keep your head above water while your spouse brings you down?
  • Have you tried to cope with all of the tips and tricks available, but nothing seems to change or get better?
  • Do you feel like you are a shell of who you used to be and you are struggling to see the positives of staying in this negative marriage?

Maybe this isn’t what you signed up for. Maybe they need help but aren’t willing to seek it. This is a really hard place to be, but you aren’t being true to yourself. Maybe divorce or separation will bring the positive things back into perspective for you, or even for both of you.”

Lindsey A. Easterling | Certified Collaborative Law Attorney | Founder, Easterling Law, PLLC

“Remember what you love about them. It is easy to get caught up in the negativity and forget what really attracted you to your spouse in the first place.

Make a list of the things you love about your spouse and keep it available when the negativity starts to make you feel It might be helpful to keep a journal of the positive things that your spouse says or does to remind yourself that it’s not all negative.”

Regina Stiffler MS, LPC | Licensed Professional Counselor, Earthsong Counseling, PLLC

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some signs that my spouse is struggling with negativity?

Signs of negativity can vary, but some common indicators might include frequent complaining, a pessimistic outlook, irritability, withdrawal from social activities, and a lack of enthusiasm or motivation. If you notice these signs over an extended period, it’s a good idea to open up a supportive conversation with your spouse.

Can a negative spouse change their ways permanently?

Change is possible, but it requires consistent effort and often professional help. Permanent change also depends on the willingness of your spouse to acknowledge their negativity and work towards modifying their behavior. Encourage small, positive steps and celebrate these as they occur. This reinforcement can aid in making more permanent shifts toward positivity.

Is it okay to take a break or step away for a while?

Absolutely. Taking time for yourself is necessary to maintain your own mental health. Engaging in activities you enjoy or spending time with friends and family can provide a positive respite and help you to recharge. Let your spouse know that these breaks are not about avoiding them, but about taking care of your own well-being.

How do I support my children in a household with a negative spouse?

Protecting your children from negative impacts is crucial. Encourage open communication about their feelings and reassure them that they can always talk to you. Also, try to maintain as much normalcy and positivity in home activities as possible. If the situation seems to affect their well-being significantly, family counseling might be warranted to help them cope more effectively.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with a negative spouse isn’t easy, but it’s definitely something you can handle with the right approach. Remember to keep the lines of communication open and always practice patience. Taking care of your own well-being is just as important, so don’t forget to set those boundaries and carve out some “me time.”

By focusing on positivity and seeking professional help if needed, you can create a happier environment for both of you. Small changes can lead to big improvements, so don’t lose hope. You’ve got this!

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Leah is a creative soul with a passion for telling stories that matter. As an editor and writer at UpJourney, she channels her natural curiosity and imagination into thought-provoking articles and inspiring content. She is also a registered nurse dedicated to helping others and making a positive impact.

In her free time, she indulges her artistic side as a hobbyist photographer, capturing the world's beauty one shot at a time. You can also find her in a poor-lit room playing her favorite video games or in a corner somewhere, reading and immersing herself in the rich worlds of fantasy and dark academia.

At home, Leah is surrounded by love and laughter, living peacefully with her partner and their three adorable shih tzus.