How to Not Be Dependent on Your
One of the things that attracted me to my husband was that he was soft and gentle. I felt safe with him—something I had never felt in my childhood home.
Although I didn’t marry an alcoholic, it was a total shock to me when my husband displayed his anger in a different way. Instead of raging anger, he was moody and passive aggressive.
At first, it was confusing. I personalized his emotional passivity and tried to figure it out and then fix what I did wrong or do what would please him.
I did this because I felt responsible for his mood. Have you ever felt this way?
Whenever there is a problem in a relationship, healthy individuals identify ownership so they can move forward. We can learn how to consider these three key concepts to help manage moods and situations in marriage (or in any relationship) and to determine if we own anything in the struggle or not.
The three C’s of healthy relationships are: Cause, control, and cure.
Applying these three C’s enables us to easily differentiate what is and isn’t ours to carry. This helps us lovingly live with boundaries around our hearts and within relationships.
First, we consider if we caused it. When my husband is in a mood, more often than not, I am not the reason for it. I didn’t cause it. People get moody because of their own emotions and struggles. My husband had difficulty dealing with his emotions. When his emotions overwhelmed him, he focused on me instead of what was going on inside of him.
That doesn’t mean I never did things that bothered him. Of course, I did. But I wasn’t responsible for his mood or the way he chose to deal with his emotions.
In healthy relationships, individuals do not take on the emotion or assume fault of the other partner, but instead understand and give space for the other to process what they need. Healthy individuals recognize when the other partner is attempting to manipulate or project their own difficulty onto themselves and respectfully detach from such unhealthy patterns.
We then accept that we cannot control it. I tried to control my husband’s moods for years. I tried to do and not do things I thought would help make him feel happier. I walked on eggshells and tried to do nice things for him. None of that got him out of his mood.
In fact, the more nice things I did the more critical he got. It was as if he couldn’t accept that I did anything right when he was in that negative place.
As wives, we can only control ourselves. Repeating this truth and asking God to help you remember this can be life-changing.
Finally, we can’t cure it. When we feel responsible for someone else’s mood, we will often try to talk them out of their mood. I defended myself and told him why he shouldn’t be critical and resentful. I tried to convince him that he wasn’t handling his emotions in a healthy way, and wanted to teach him how to respond differently.
That didn’t work either. It only meant that we fought about it and I ended up feeling bad about what I said, and he ended up having new things to be resentful about.
I know I am not the only wife who struggles with this. It is one of the most common complaints I hear.
When our husbands are in a mood or dealing with an issue, we will make the situation worse when we don’t consider these three C’s. Recognizing it isn’t about you, you didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it is freeing for yourself and helpful to your marriage and family. The best thing to do is to take care of yourself by doing what you would be doing if he wasn’t in a mood.
This is called detaching in love. It means you lovingly detach from his negative mood and choose to treat him nicely, courteously and kindly instead of harshly like he is treating you. You take care of yourself by doing what you need to do.
When he’s out of the mood, you can talk about it if you want. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. It depends on what was said during the mood. Sometimes it doesn’t need more attention; other times, it does.
If your husband’s mood is constantly angry and his words are abusive, then instead of detaching, you need to set boundaries to protect yourself. Call a counselor for help today.
Wife Step: What do you usually do when your husband is in a mood? What would detaching in love look like for you?
Karla Downing, the founder of ChangeMyRelationship.com, offers Christian marriage help and Christian relationship help as a speaker, author, counselor, and Bible study teacher. Karla grew up in a dysfunctional family and then found herself struggling with Christian codependency in her own difficult marriage. Through her personal struggles, she discovered biblical and practical principles, which she now teaches to others. She also trains counselors, pastors, women’s ministry leaders, church leaders, small-group leaders, non-profit ministry leaders, and individuals to minister to Christians in difficult relationships. Karla’s passion is to see individuals, marriages, and families set free from the chains of dysfunction, misunderstanding, and emotional pain through a correct understanding of what the Bible teaches about relationships.
Karla Downing is the author of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association 2004 Silver Medallion Award winner, 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages. Her second book, When Love Hurts: 10 Principles to Transform Difficult Relationships, applies the same principles to all family members. Her third book, The Truth in the Mirror: A Guide to Healthy Self-Image, offers a unique and life-changing approach to looking at self-image.
She holds a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy from Hope International University. Karla also holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Communicative Disorders from California State University, Fullerton. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a licensed Speech Language Pathologist. Karla was also the director of Friends in Recovery, a Christ-based, Twelve-Step recovery program.
Karla lives in Southern California. She has been married for over thirty years and has three adult daughters.