What to do when your marriage is in a ‘bad mood’

As a couples’ mediator, I see many serious issues in my office: betrayal, money battles, divided loyalties, loss of attraction to one’s spouse, conflicting expectations and priorities—the list goes on. These whoppers can make it a challenge to get a marriage back on-track. Yet marriages don’t just derail because of major issues. Sometimes the “little things” can snowball into big problems that can block the path to wedded bliss.

During a recent session, a woman who couldn’t pinpoint a real problem in her relationship asked, “Can a marriage just be in a bad mood?” The answer: You bet.

Marriages are made of people and people are dynamic creatures. They have mood swings, they get bored, they have ups and downs, they go through phases. It isn’t always an event, such as infidelity, or circumstances, such as an oil-patch marriage, that can cause a couple to fall into a foul mood. The ho-hum predictability, familiarity and routine of married life can do it, too.

So what are the signs that a marriage is in a bad mood? They vary from couple to couple, but generally spouses may feel easily irritated by each other, enjoy fewer positive interactions, retreat into personal hobbies or separate activities and care less about their appearance. Their sex life may cool and they may feel taken for granted. They may start to complain about their spouse to family or friends. Depending on how severe these signs are—and on whether they are passing or persistent—this bad mood may or may not lead to serious problems in the relationship.

Happily, there are measures that a couple can take to avoid and break out of a bad

married mood. Practicing the “Five P’s” can help:

1. Prevention. Have a proactive attitude and limit negativity, miscommunication, conflict and ambivalence in your relationship. Stay involved and interested in each other’s lives and always show each other respect, appreciation and devotion. Put your marriage at the top of your priority list and keep it there.

2. Passion. Nourish a good sex life and meaningful intimacy. During those times you don’t feel passion for your spouse, you can still feel passion for your marriage and your commitment to each other. Sexual passion wanes. Don’t panic. It will come back.

3. Prudence. Don’t make any stupid mistakes when your marriage is in a slump. Don’t overspend, drown your sorrows in a bottle of Jack or be unfaithful. For better or for worse, remember? The preacher made you say that for a reason. The mood may pass, but a serious mistake in judgement will hang around a lot longer.

4. Patience. Know that changes won’t happen overnight. Well, they might if it’s a really fun night, but more likely it will take some time.

5. Plan. If your marriage slump persists or if serious problems begin to surface, make a concrete plan to improve the situation. If you’ve engaged in excessive retail therapy, for example, you can get back on-budget. If you’ve thought about separation or straying, or if you’ve sunk too far into marital conflict or apathy, you can repair your marriage by seeking professional help. You don’t want a temporary bad mood to become a way of married life or land you in divorce court.

And if these tips don’t work, you can always buy your wife a 24-carat diamond mood ring. A little well-timed jewellery can cheer up almost any woman. Plus, you’ll be able to watch the changing colors on her ring finger and act accordingly.

Debra Macleod, B.A., LL.B., is a couples mediator and relationship author-expert for television, radio, magazines and newspapers in the US and Canada. Her couples’ mediation practice, based in Red Deer, AB, helps couples “stay together and stay happy.” Visit her at www.MarriageSOS.com.