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Long story short, I have depression/anxiety. Some days I’m in a low mood and am extra sensitive.

My wife, like all of us, gets in her own moods, usually slightly aggravated, or snippy, or a little mean.

When these two personality moments collide, I get hurt easily and she then gets defensive as if she’s done nothing wrong when I tell her she was being mean.

If I step back from the moment I realize I’m extra sensitive, and she’s not all that mean. But over time her aggravated, snippy tone gets a bit much and I don’t feel the connectedness I would like.

My ideal for that situation is she would be able not to be mean, but if she is, she would be able to say “oh no! I didn’t mean to, I’m sorry!” Instead of “no I didn’t! No I’m not! ‘Sigh’ eye-roll”

Example from today:

I woke up depressed, but I attempted to shake it off. Texted her and ask if she wanted to spend the day with me (we’re currently staying in different locations cuz of her job). She texted back kinda annoyed “sure.” Now I know it’s a text but on a good day it would have been “ok!!! 😬😬” so it’s obvious with her. So I’m already cautious.

We talk on the phone. I try to be positive, and upbeat to sway the convo. I have bad cell service at my house so it’s cutting out. She gets annoyed that she can’t hear me.

She also isn’t the best storyteller so she tends to leave important details out. She’s telling me about how her sister will help her with work for the week, and if she should pay her the “full amount” for the job. Well it’s a 2-week job, so I asked, “why would you pay her the full amount? Isn’t it 2 weeks?” And she responded with an aggravated tone and a sigh and said “no... the fuuullll amount for one weeeekkk....not 2 weeks....why would I pay her for 2.....”

And me in my sensitive state couldn’t brush that off as easily and it affects me so I told her she was being kinda mean, which made it worse cuz she got defensive and said “no I’m not... how am I being mean??” Of course she said that in an unhappy aggravated tone.

Thoughts how we can communicate through these moments better?

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I recognize myself in your wife.

While my partner does not suffer from full-on depression/anxiety, he is in general a more pessimistic person. On most days, I am more of an optimist, so I can deal with his bad spells and be supportive. However, when I'm having a bad day myself, I need my energy to face my own issues. So when the two happen to collide, I can be quite snippy.

What has helped for us is me recognizing this and removing myself from the situation to calm down first. So for example if I'm in a mood because of something that happened at work and he comes home complaining about his manager, I will tell him I don't have the energy right now and we will spend some time separately instead of ruining the entire evening by snapping at each other.

So, in a calm moment, ask her if she has time to talk about this and figure out a way for her to indicate this when it happens and how you will deal with it. Maybe she needs some time without contact, maybe she needs an hour where she can complain and you just listen.

Now your situation is aggravated by two things:

First, not living together and the accompanying issue of not always being able to communicate face-to-face. Communicating over text, phone, ... has its pitfalls even between two people with the best of intentions, so especially when you are in a bad mood, make an extra effort to take what she says at face value.

Second, your depression and the possibility that your wife might feel more like a therapist than a partner because of this. A meeting with a couples therapist or joining a support group for people with a partner with depression might help her.

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    +1 for the therapist suggestion. I can also see my husband and I in this interaction. If we hadn't sought counseling I don't know if we would still be married. Irritations like this do not die down on their own, they multiply as one irritation leads to another. A professional can help you develop habits and coping strategies that don't push each others' buttons. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Sep 17 at 15:51
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I'm going to add my own two cents because I too recognize myself in your wife. We've hit a rough patch the last couple of years. Long story short, he lost his job and his savings in a short amount of time, couldn't find a job, fell in a depression; I tried to shoulder everything and had the pressure of being the sole provider. Plus we had just moved in together. This was a lot of stress for both of us at the same time, it took a toll on us.

Small quirks each of us had got bigger because of that. He has a tendency to go quiet and just keep things to himself, I tend to "lash out". When I tend to be snippy and/or lose patience (like your wife did in the example you provided), it's often because the other person is making me feel dumb. I take things very personally, feel insulted and get defensive. That's on me, I have low self-esteem, it's one of the "side-effects", and I'm working on it.

Now, what helped me/us?

First, talk about this with your wife when you're both calm and relaxed. It feels like you only told her in the moment that she's being mean, when you are down and she's aggravated. Pick a calm moment to gently have this talk. Concentrate on what you perceive, your feelings, and don't speculate on what is going on with her. Just explain what happened, like you did here, and how hurtful this behavior is. The goal here is for you two to calmly talk about this, find solutions together or at least gain an understanding of each other.

It won't probably solve everything, she won't change her behavior over night. We've had conversations about this with my partner, and the main thing it has helped with is having more conversations about this after an incident. Now, if I'm getting frustrated, he's able to tell me he doesn't like how I'm speaking to him, and I more easily accept that, take a breather, and continue the conversation normally. But it has been a process. Ideally, I'd like to not get so mad or hurt (for him and for me), but in the mean time we've found a system to handle this.

Secondly, do you get help for your depression? I'm asking, because I know from experience how hard it is to care for someone who suffers from depression. And to be their sole source of support. It is draining. After one year he finally accepted to go to therapy (after a couple sessions with a couples therapist, he realized therapy isn't such a horrible thing), which has really helped him. But for a year he didn't get that help, and this mixed with all the issues we were facing (and many of which I felt like I faced alone, he was pretty much checked out of our lives for a while) meant I also fell into a depression (I'm better now, I got help). I imagine living apart from your spouse must be hard too, and take its toll on both of you.

So when you're having that conversation with her, ask how she's doing. From your question, you'd like for her to handle things the way you're comfortable with, but that might be too much right now. You have depression, but it doesn't mean she isn't stressed, has a lot on her plate, and needs some help. Check in with her. Ask yourself if you too could handle things better. Are you getting help with for your depression? If so, could you ask those resources for how to handle your feelings in these moments? What I'm saying here is, don't expect your wife to do all the work here. Ideally, she shouldn't snip at you, and hopefully she'll acknowledge that. But I know how great it is to hear from the other something like: "I know things have been difficult lately, for both of us; I want you to know I'm working to also be better myself; I want to be here for you and make sure you also get help and support if you need it."

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