Category Archives: Relationships

My Spouse Is Too Moody: What Do I Do? (Part 2)

In the last post we learned that solving relationship problems is very dependent upon (a) framing the issue in a supportive manner, (b) admitting that we may be part of the problem, and (c) if necessary, being willing to seek couples counseling from a mental health professional.

There are other guidelines that can help as well. Let’s examine a common hazard that can complicate the process of resolving a relationship issue.

Seeking The Silver Bullet

When confronted with a problem, we humans like to find a single simple and direct solution. This includes that magic weight-loss pill (the one that requires no exercise and allows us to munch all the donuts we want), the drug that “keeps our diabetes under control,” a perfume or cologne that will attract the perfect mate, or a quick visit to a couples counselor, who in one session will tell us how to fix our relationship (the one that has been deteriorating over a period of years). No muss, no fuss, no interrupting our busy social lives, no hard choices or self-discipline required.

In reality, life is almost never that simple or easy. Although it makes sense to search for the magic bullet that will solve our problem (the Big Gorilla variable], it ‘s not realistic to expect to find it. Solving problems generally requires some hard work and tradeoffs.

Life Is Complex:
Don’t Expect Simple Answers
Do Expect To Work Hard, Be Patient, And Accept Tradeoffs

Tradeoffs are part of the important engineering principle of optimization. In a future post we’ll see how that principle can be applied to solving relationship issues.

Next Post:

Cause or Coincidence?

-Ed Walker


My Spouse Is Too Moody: What Do I Do?

Now that we’ve learned the importance of objectivity — that we should avoid emotional blockages, and be willing to challenge our assumptions — let’s try applying some Engineering Thinking to solve a common problem: a moody spouse.

In solving problems a lot can be accomplished by simply being sure that the same words mean the same thing to both parties. For example, just what is a “moody spouse,” anyway? If you think it means “easily irritated” while your spouse thinks it means “sad,” the ensuing confusion may ignite an emotional argument that makes things worse, not better.

So how do we define “moody”? In fact, is moody even a good choice of words? If you say, “Honey, I want to talk to you about your moodiness,” could that provoke a defensive reaction? Probably, because “moody” is a vague term with negative and judgmental connotations. Since we wish to avoid emotional blockages, perhaps we should use a more diplomatic approach, such as, “Honey, you seem to be tired and stressed a lot lately; is there anything I can do to help?” Voila, we’ve switched the dynamics from what would have likely been a defensive confrontation to one of concerned support.

In the engineering workplace, the managers that I consider to be excellent use the same approach. Instead of scowling, “Ed, you’re behind schedule — again!” they will say, “Ed, I see that you’re not keeping up with the schedule; what can I do to help?”

The Phrase “What Can I Do To Help?” Works Magic

Okay, so now you’re ready to frame the issue constructively. But before you approach your spouse, you should challenge your assumptions. You’re assuming that your spouse has a moodiness issue, but could it be that you’re just too darn ornery? Or perhaps you have some mood issues, too, that are no big deal to you, but might be highly annoying to others? Therefore, when you say, “What can I do to help?” you should be ready for your spouse’s response. In particular, you should be prepared to accept the possibility that you may be viewed as a contributor to the problem. You should be ready to engage in some self-examination, and be willing to modify your own imperfect behavior.

Problems Between Partners Travel On A Two-Way Street

Finally, before your broach the subject, do your research. You should have a good idea of what causes mood swings, and some suggested solutions. A person who tends to be moody may be experiencing adverse reactions to medication, or perhaps they have poor diet and exercise habits. They might have a genetic predisposition to be moody, or perhaps they have psychological issues such as lack of maturity, or destructive behaviors that stem from a bad childhood or a prior abusive adult relationship. In the latter cases the two of you may need professional assistance from a qualified mental health professional. Are you willing to take that step? You should be.

During an engineering development project, sometimes a design team will be confronted with a serious problem that they just can’t seem to solve. In those cases the smarter project manager picks up the phone and calls a consultant. This is absolutely not a negative reflection on the team’s abilities, it’s simply a rational and productive solution to a problem — a qualified consultant offers specialized expertise, a fresh perspective, and doesn’t take sides.

Obtaining The Advice Of A Psychologist To Tune Up Your Relationship
Is No Different Than Seeking The Advice Of A Pro To Tune Up Your Golf Game

(I would like to express my appreciation to my wife, CounselorBarb, who has provided invaluable advice on how to properly present psychological issues within the Engineering Thinking framework.)

Next Post:

My Spouse Is Too Moody: What Do I Do? (Part 2)

-Ed Walker


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