How to Support Your Partner When She’s in a Mood
I was getting dinner started when I heard my partner come in.
It had been such an emotionally exhausting day and I was completely drained. Work had been picking up for weeks now and was keeping me really busy but on top of that, I got news about a dear friend’s health taking a turn for the worse.
Trying to stay on top of deadlines and deliverables and now figure out how to move things around to make a trip to support her and her family, I was barely keeping it together. Even though I thought I was doing my best to keep my attention on dinner it was hard to hold back tears.
My partner came in, and from what I assume had to have seen me upset but all he did was give me a kiss and go do this thing. I could see him scanning that something wasn’t ok but I felt unnoticed. At the very least I was hoping he’d ask what was wrong. It felt like he was deflecting me in my sadness, overwhelm, and stress.
What felt like being dropped by him in this vulnerable moment can actually be explained by science. See men’s and women’s brains are wired differently. We both process emotions and pick up on facial expressions in completely different ways than the other.
If you’re a woman reading and have felt misunderstood in emotional moments, or if you’re a man reading and have felt confused and overwhelmed about how to handle your partner in the midst of her emotions, then this article is for you.
Please note these are just generalizations and if they don’t fit to you and your relationship, use this article as inspiration for points for discussion on how to best support each other. Also note that one’s attachment style (anxious verse dismissive) can also influence how they prefer to process their emotions and the kind of support they want.
Here are 3 steps to follow to best support your partner’s specific needs, important do’s and don’ts, and the why’s behind your partner’s behavior.
(1) Observe + notice
As women, when we’re in a ‘mood’ or something is going on for us we have the desire to be seen and noticed. Usually, we want to be paid attention to and to be given space to talk through what’s going on. On a biological level, this raises our oxytocin levels which helps to bring down our negative emotions.
Men are less likely to notice that we are upset, and if they notice they don’t think to call attention to it and inquire about it. This is because men have fewer circuits in their brain to pick up on non-verbal cues and thus, they don’t pick up on moods as easily as women.
They also do not share the desire to process their emotions and feelings. Quite the opposite actually. Talking through feelings raises men’s oxytocin and estrogen levels when what they really need when stressed is more testosterone. One of the ways testosterone is replenished is through alone time, so their natural inclination will be to not call attention to someone’s mood. They think they are being considerate, because this is what they would like.
Men, it’s important to lean in when you sense your partner is in a mood. Don’t pretend like you don’t notice. Be courageous and ask about what’s going on.
Women, it’s important to understand that your partner isn’t wired to pick up on and notice when something is going on for you. Expressing that something is going on will help teach them what to expect and how to help support you.
As mentioned above, when in a mood, men prefer alone time. If something is bothering them they’ll seek out space to move through what’s bothering them.
Women on the other hand are pros at recognizing distress cues in others and picking up even the subtlest of signs, almost always wanting to know what’s going on and name the problem.
Men, the best thing you can do for your partner is to acknowledge and name that you feel something is off with her. That simple act alone will already start the release of oxytocin in her and make her feel seen in your presence. Little tip – Ask: “Are you okay?” Don’t say: “Are you in a mood?”
(3) Be curious + listen
Once you’ve noticed that she’s upset, and you’ve spoken to that, that something is going on for her, now it’s time to get curious and listen.
Simply asking if she wants to talk about what’s going on or share about what happened will open the space for her to express what’s on her mind and get her talking. This is the best way to help support her to lower her cortisol levels and reduce her negative emotions.
If you’ve got a time constraint make sure to let her know by saying “I’ve only got about 5 minutes, do you want to share what’s going on?” That way she can decide if she wants to get into it with you or wait until later when you have more time. If she doesn’t want to share you can always embrace her with a hug and that will also help lower her oxytocin levels. If you have time later in the day, let her know. Anticipating her needs getting met later on and knowing that you care, will also help to produce oxytocin.
Be careful not to create the space for her to share for a couple of minutes and then tell her you need to go, she will feel dropped and left hanging.
Curiosity is key
How your partner needs to be supported isn’t necessarily how you do, so meet yourself and each other with patience and kindness as you navigate and work to meet each other’s needs best.
Men, remember to use your attention, observe and really notice if your partner isn’t acting like their normal self. Be courageous enough to acknowledge and name what you see, they’ll appreciate you all the more for it. And lastly, offer to be a sounding board a safe space for them to really open and share what’s got them unsettled.
Women, give your partner space in a loving and kind way and let him come share with you when he’s ready if he wants to talk about it.
If the woman has some dismissive avoidant patterns, she might prefer space and not talking when emotions are alive inside of her. And if the man has anxious attached tendencies, he may prefer talking over having his own space.
Whichever partner you are reading this article, it’s so important to understand that the support that one needs is likely to not be the same as the other.
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