We always keep hearing, stay away from negative people. But, what if your spouse is a pessimist. How to deal with a negative spouse?
The Cambridge dictionary explains negativity as ‘an attitude that is not hopeful or enthusiastic’ (1). Negative people always imagine the worst out of a situation. They are constantly fearful of the future and do not enjoy their lives to the fullest. They are apprehensive about circumstances and suspicious about people. Such people feel that life is unfair to them.
If you have a negative spouse, marriage may feel difficult for you. Being with such people can drain you out of positivity. But it can be changed if you support and guide your partner. Effective communication and professional counseling can help change their attitude. This article shares some tips on how you can help your spouse to overcome negativity and enjoy life.
Reasons Why Your Spouse Could Be Negative
It is easy to identify and label a person as negative, but not everyone makes an effort to understand why or how a person develops a negative attitude. Here are some reasons why your spouse could be negative.
1. Suffered or suffering abuse
A person who has been exposed to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse is highly susceptible to develop a negative attitude. Such a person is even at the risk of developing depression and anxiety (2). Understanding their life story can put you in a better position to deal with their negative attitude.
2. Bitter experiences in the past
Experiences of rejection and disappointments in the past can make a person cynical. They feel expectations could make them vulnerable. So, they do not hope for anything good, to not get disappointed when things go the other way.
3. Negative childhood environment
Children who grew up with parents displaying a negative attitude towards life tend to adopt the same attitude. It is more like a way of living or habit, so they do not see any wrong in it and do not change it.
4. Unfortunate events in life
Unfortunate events such as the loss of a loved one, sudden loss of job, separation from a partner, and similar events can have a tremendous impact on a person’s mind. It can even change a person’s outlook on life and develop a negative attitude.
5. Failure in meeting unrealistic expectations
When people sometimes set unrealistic goals, they often try to change themselves to achieve them. However, if things do not shape up as per their expectations, they get frustrated and develop resentment for life and hardships.
6. Hardships or trauma experienced in life
Some people experience tremendous hardships in life from a young age. Constant hardships in life can make a person bitter. They cannot handle failure and eventually view life as a burden and seldom enjoy anything in life. This can also be true of current hardships. If your spouse has a particularly stressful career, he/she may be prone to feeling negative about their life. Show them support by giving them a listening ear and an open heart.
7. Low self-esteem
People with low self-esteem often crib and complain about their life to people only to validate their feelings from others. They also seek comfort in negative comments on other people—that acts as a brief consolation about their shortcomings.
8. Need for attention
Some people thrive on the positivity of empathy. They play the victim card in front of emphatic people and enjoy the sympathy that comes their way. They enjoy sucking out the positive energy of such people and leave them feeling drained.
9. Poor attitude towards life
Every person witnesses good and bad days in life. But some people tend to latch onto only the bad days thinking that good days are only momentary and life is more about the bad days. They tend to curse their luck and are convinced that life is all about suffering and nothing else.
10. Enjoyment in frequent venting
Some people enjoy venting out their frustrations as much as they can. They can narrate an unfortunate incident several times to different people. Sometimes they repeat the same incident multiple times to the same person. They just won’t let go of sad instances in their life and feel at ease when dwelling on their unhappy past. Thus, they develop a negative attitude towards life.
How To Deal With A Negative Spouse And Help Them Overcome Negativity
If your spouse is a negative person, do not dismiss them for their attitude but try to help them.
1. Stay positive
Whenever your partner seems upset or low, try to cheer them up but don’t tell them to be positive. The more you tell someone to be positive, the more the person will turn negative. Instead, hold on firmly to your positivity to enable smooth and quick conflict resolution. Keep reminding yourself to be positive and do not allow any negativity to affect you. It will not be easy, but you can do it with patience.
2. Set clear boundaries
Talking and opening up the heart might help them unload some burden from their mind. Your positive energy might help them feel better, but that does not mean you should let go of your positive vibe. Create a boundary and do not compromise on it. When you feel overwhelmed by your spouse’s negative energy, keep a distance. Take a break from them for a few hours till you feel positive again.
3. Do not absorb their state of mind
It often happens that when you listen to someone’s bad experience, you may connect with them and absorb negative energy. Instead of connecting, hear them out. Do not mimic their feelings. Be compassionate but not at the price of your positive energy.
4. Don’t feel guilty
Listening to a spouse’s negative complaints and dissatisfaction with life might make you feel guilty if you do not help them. Do not lose sight of the fact that you are not responsible for their unhappiness. Take care of them but don’t adopt their negative energy as it would complicate further.
5. Don’t react
Some negative people thrive on drama and complain to get attention. But if you stop reacting, they would stop whining. For instance, whenever you feel they are trying to pick an argument, do not argue back, instead agree to everything they say. Your ‘no reaction’ will surprise them, and they will give up complaining to you.
6. Don’t accept undeserved blame
There will be times when your spouse might blame you for their unhappiness. Just because they blamed you doesn’t mean that it is the truth. If you have erred, then make amends. But when you know you are not at fault, do not accept blame unnecessarily. Respect yourself. Ignore what they say and let them realize their mistake.
7. Offer help
Often, negative people find it difficult to seek help from others. They grumble as they feel frustrated. So, next time your spouse seems to complain without any reason, talk to them and offer help.
8. Acknowledge their achievements
Negative people often lack self-esteem. To help them, you can start by acknowledging their achievements. Do not heap tons of fake praises for a minor accomplishment. If they figure out your lies, your acknowledgment will lose its importance. But when they do some good work, shower them with love and applaud their efforts. This way, they will gain more confidence in themselves.
9. Ignore hurtful comments
It may so happen that your spouse may speak negative words, which may hurt you. Instead of picking a fight with them, try to understand the reason behind their behavior. Exercise self-reflection to understand your side of the story as well. If possible, ignore their comments and move on. Practice forgiveness and do not be angry with them for too long.
10. Talk to them
Open communication is an effective problem-solving technique. When you get a chance, talk to your spouse and tell them how their pessimistic attitude takes a toll on your health. Try to make them see the situation from your perspective. Do not be rude and put across your point as mildly as possible.
Janna Denton-Howes, a marriage coach, recounts an incident where she reacted negatively to good news and how her husband responded to her reaction without starting an argument. She says, “This morning, my husband came into our bedroom with really good news. Actually, we now have stock options with his work or shares… and it is really, really awesome, ideal news. And before I even celebrated that or got excited about it, I went down a really negative path. I went down into our budgeting, and how we haven’t been on our budget, and how we haven’t met with our money coach recently. And he just… took it for a little bit, but then he was like, ‘It’s so interesting how I came in here with good news, and that’s all you have to say about it (i).’”
11. Do not force your help on them
Your intentions might be right, but your spouse may not be able to understand you. They may not accept your help or may despise you for trying to change them. If they reject your help, do not feel disheartened. Try to take it in your stride and try not to pick a fight with them over it. Remind them that this is teamwork and that they are not alone in their fight against negativity.
12. Be patient
If your spouse accepts your help, it does not mean they will change overnight. Even if they are willing to change their attitude, it will take time to become optimistic. So, be patient and let them take their time.
13. Encourage them
When your spouse indulges in activities they enjoy, it lightens their mood and helps release stress. Encourage them to cultivate a hobby or develop a new interest to keep them occupied in their free time and refresh their minds.
14. Seek professional advice
After trying everything, if you don’t find your spouse changing, seek professional advice. A therapist can help you and your spouse deal with the negativity. Therapy sessions can even help you find ways to tackle your spouse’s negative attitude and change their outlook towards life.
Effects Of Negativity In A Relationship
Negativity in a relationship can have serious consequences. When you get stuck in the loop of negative bias, you focus more on the bad than the good in the relationship. When you feel unappreciated, you become fixated on your partner’s faults. Trivial incidents erode the emotional and physical intimacy between partners. Negativity, fueled by past wounds, unmet needs, and unrealistic expectations, can make you overlook the positive aspects of your partner. You start remembering negative experiences more vividly, impacting your perception of the relationship and possibly leading to its breakdown. So, it is important to quell negativity before it sabotages your relationship.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How does a negative partner affect you?
A negative partner sees everything under the microscope and makes even trivial matters a big issue. They constantly judge you and brutally bash your self-esteem whenever they get a chance. Since a negative partner seldom notices your efforts, they can make you feel deeply unappreciated and undervalued. Constant arguments and fights can cause you to feel insecure and self-doubt. Living with such negativity for long can push an individual into solitude and depression.
2. What are the characteristics of a negative relationship?
In a negative relationship, a partner tries to control you and wants you to do everything as they please. If denied that power, they disrespect you or use force or violence (sexual, physical, or verbal) and intimidation to get the scores settled. Sometimes, they may act unreasonably jealous and turn hostile on trivial matters. They may make the relationship so strained that living with them can make you feel stressed and alone.
3. What are some helpful tips I can use for diffusing an argument with my negative spouse?
Ask open-ended questions using ‘I’ statements to avoid sounding accusatory and disrespectful. Listen attentively to what your spouse says and reflect on it by assuming yourself in their situation. Calm yourself down before calming your partner. It will de-escalate the situation and make way for a constructive discussion.
4. What steps can I take to make my spouse become more optimistic?
Lead by example and stay optimistic as much as possible. Spend quality time with your partner and create rituals and routines to experience shared pleasures. Regularly express gratitude and appreciation. Acknowledge and celebrate your spouse’s achievements and provide emotional support in challenging times. Practice mindfulness together and help them indulge in positive self-talk.
Being around negative people can be exhausting. They are conditioned to focus on the worst scenarios and create worry and fear. This kind of an attitude can be detrimental to your mental growth. If you have a spouse with a negative attitude, it can be even more draining because you have to share your life with them. The reason for their negativity may be childhood abuse, bitter past experiences, or low self-esteem. You may be able to understand how to deal with a negative spouse only if you know the reason behind their negativity. So, stay positive, don’t react negatively, offer help, and talk to them about their feelings. However, if your efforts do not improve your relationship, seek professional help.
Infographic: Why Is Your Partner Always Negative?
Your relationship may suffer if your partner is consistently negative or has a pessimistic view of a situation. However, knowing the underlying cause of your partner’s behavior can help you address the issue and find an ideal solution. Read the infographic below to learn about potential reasons for your partner’s negative nature.
- Previous sufferings, past bitter experiences, and childhood traumas may be some reasons for your spouse to be negative.
- To deal with their negativity, stay positive, stop being affected by their state of mind, and avoid reacting unnecessarily.
- To help such a partner, be patient, encourage them, and seek professional help if needed.
Feeling overwhelmed by your partner’s negativity? Learn how to cope and create positive change in your relationship with our helpful tips.
Personal Experience: Source
1. Negativity; Cambridge Dictionary
2. Raimo K R Salokangas, et al.; Adverse childhood experiences leads to perceived negative attitude of others and the effect of adverse childhood experiences on depression in adulthood is mediated via negative attitude of others; National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information.