How to stay up when your partner is down

My husband is always down when I’m trying to be up, stay open, get energized. It’s not that he’s depressed. And I’m not a Pollyanna. But I feel like his lack of energy affects my attempts to live more fully. What can I do?  

This question made me think of my mom. She taught me early on that there’s a difference between “having a problem” and “having an issue.”

Her theory? Problems are what people who don’t have a bunch of free time have; they are things to be solved. Issues, on the other hand, are for privileged folks who default to luxuriating in their concerns (you know the type: she’s been trying to decide what color to paint the hall for three years).

According to my mom, I best not make issues for myself.

Well, I didn’t listen to her, but I do want you to listen to me: Don’t create issues in your marriage. The scenario you describe is familiar to all couples, and it’s a problem—not an issue—if you take action to nail it now instead of letting it fester. I encourage you (strongly!) to make an appointment with a Gottman-certified couples therapist or any therapist in your community who comes with great recommendations. Couples therapy rocks, and when you go in with the “nothing can keep us apart mindset,” you’re really giving your relationship an opportunity to soar.

Help in the meantime

While you’re waiting on your appointment, I’d like to weigh in on your desire to live more fully and become a better you. Here’s the straight truth: It is not your husband’s fault that you can’t achieve your mission. It’s you who’s the greater obstacle. You’re getting hijacked from being all that by trying to manage his mood and change how he rolls. Trying to light your husband’s fire—which you can’t do—robs you of energy that you could be using to light your own.

How to flip the script

Emotions fuel the way we think and the way we think fuel our emotions. So your husband’s sadness is likely fuel for him to see things in a more cynical, skeptical or pessimistic light. Someone who sees differently than you can be an asset to you. In fact, it could be exactly what you need when you’re flying high and planning the new cupcake store you want to put on the moon. You need someone crusty or cynical saying, “Who’s going to pay for it?” And you need to say, “Honey, that’s why I’m telling you. I need you to help me figure that part out.” In other words, put your husband’s funk to constructive use!

Now, I’m not just grabbing this idea of listening to depressed people out of thin air. Depressed people keep it real. They see the inconveniences and the obstacles; psychologists call this phenomenon “depressive realism.” Your attempts to sell cupcakes on the moon and his hyperfocus on how you’re going to keep a steady oxygen supply up there are really a great combination for finding the middle path that leads you to your dream.

But he’s not depressed, really!

If your husband isn’t depressed, great! That just mean’s he’s well chilled. This is valuable, too, because his chilled mood can still enhance your preparation for the work you have to do to make your dreams come true. In fact, I believe experiencing your mission from your husband’s eyes is an intellectual property goldmine. His perspective puts some science into your agenda (since you’re getting the chance to disprove your hypothesis and all). And then once that agenda has withstood the scrutiny of “science,” you’ll be really set to live more fully.

And by the way, there is benefit to your partner in all of this. When putting his funk to constructive use, your husband might actually find himself set free from the drama and disappointment in his head and meet you in a more “enlightened” place.

One final point I can’t emphasize enough: Whether you embrace his mood or not, pissed or bliss still exists. When you resist what is, you create an issue, not a problem because you’re not communing with reality. When you accept what is, then you’re on the getting-things-done path. You’ll start taking your mission seriously and get a whole lot more out of your life.

Make an appointment with me to explore more ways to turn every situation and circumstance into an enterprise and live more fully.

Be peace, be love,

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