Moody Relationships: Staying Connected When Postpartum Emotions Pull Us Apart


Moody Relationships: Staying Connected When Postpartum Emotions Pull Us Apart

A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece for entitled, “Mood Swings & Relationship Swings During Pregnancy.” My post focuses on helping couples manage the relationship impact of pregnancy mood swings.

These days, my wife and I are all too aware that hormonal mood swings also show-up postpartum. After all, her body has had to adjust rapidly from the hormonal fluctuations of gestation to the demands of lactation. (BTW, our son is 1-month old today!)

Beyond J’s hormones, other factors impact both of our emotions, and affect the mood in our home: e.g., sleep interruptions, exhaustion, our 3 yo daughter’s ups and downs as she tries to integrate a baby brother into her world.

In other words, mood swings rock the boat of our postpartum lives on a regular basis. How can we steer through them with as little relationship and family wreckage as possible? Ask me in a few months! 

In the meantime, I want to expand on the suggestions I made in my article for

(1) Normalize: Whether pregnancy-related, or due to postpartum hormones and sleeplessness, or tied to other daily stressors, emotional shifts are part of the parenting journey. Unless mood swings are truly extreme (which might require medical attention and, in some instances, might also be a subjective determination–see below*), one of the best ways to ease the impact of moodiness on our relationships is to acknowledge and accept that it’s a normal part of life-as-parents, especially when there’s an infant in the house.

(2) Cultivate Patience: Just as it’s important to bring patience to the fore during pregnancy, it remains valuable in the months (and years) after we become parents. Becoming parents and adjusting to our kids’ growing pains at each new phase of development, ensures we’re in a constant state of flux. That flux can create emotional challenges with our spouses, which is where patience comes in, especially postpartum.

(3) Name ‘Em and Tame ‘Em: While we aren’t always aware of our own moodiness, there are times when we feel “Bitchy Bertha” or  ”Frustrated Fred” coming on. Giving our moods silly names and then calling them out to our spouses (and our kids, once they’re old enough to understand) lessens their impact, and empowers us to shift away from them more rapidly.

(4) You Name ‘Em, I’ll Tame ‘Em: It can also be productive to encourage our mates (and older kids) to call them out when they sense our less-than-helpful moods coming on, as long as we keep our sense of humor close at hand and our defensiveness at bay.

(5) Take the Temperature: Given that gauging our own and our spouse’s moodiness can be subjective—what’s good for the goose might not be for the gander (or the other goose in my case)—devoting time for each of us to take the “emotional temperature” in our relationship and household is worthwhile.

Ground rule 1: It’s only worthwhile if neither of us is in “a mood.”
Ground rule 2: We need to agree to accept our spouse’s different temperature reading—especially if it’s much higher or lower—as his/her valid reality. If we both think moodiness is running hot and agree that lowering the emotional temperature is a good idea, consider asking each other these questions (if only one of you is concerned about what’s happening, then the one who’s not can ask the same questions):

What’s important to you about changing our emotional climate?

How do you think we can start to shift the climate while still respecting each other’s emotional realities?

Mood swings on the part of one or both spouses can definitely affect our relationships, especially during the haze of postpartum life. That’s why it’s worth finding ways to ease their impact on our connection with each other, and to shift away from them more quickly.

* For the purposes of this article, mood swings refer to “normal” emotional shifts that don’t require medical attention. If your emotional state, or shifts in your moods, feel extreme to you or to those who spend a great deal of time with you, please consult a medical/health professional.

Rhona Berens, PhD, PCC Parent Advocate & Mom

Rhona Berens, PhD, PCC Parent Advocate & Mom

Rhona is offering a complimentary strategy session for Wholistic Beginnings members. Relationship Coaching is a confidential, fun and efficient way to reconnect as a couple, resolve challenges, and learn effective tools that you and your spouse will use for years in your personal and professional lives.

Email for more information.