Nicole and John were coming home from a party when they got caught up in traffic. John was annoyed and nothing Nicole said could assuage his mood. We processed this incident in couples counseling, and John said he was irritated by Nicole’s comments, e.g., “It’s only traffic.” or “You don’t need to get so upset.” John felt the comments minimized his feelings, which further provoked his upset feelings.
Nicole asked what she could say differently, and John said you could say, “I feel uncomfortable because you seem upset.” This would alert John that his mood was impacting Nicole, and he would consciously figure out how to better manage his feelings.
They were planning to spend time with Nicole’s family next weekend, and she was concerned about the impact of his mood on her family members, especially since the family previously commented on his mood. Nicole was now giving John good feedback on the impact of his moods, which compelled John to minimize his effect on others.