Being in a relationship with a person who sulks can take a toll on your own emotional well-being. A person who gets mad easily is disposed to respond with irritation, anger or rage to a wide range of situations and stimuli. While some personalities respond to anger triggers in the style of a struck match -- quick to flame but short in duration -- certain other personalities anger more in the fashion of damp wood used for campfire -- they smolder. If you are in a relationship with a person who smolders and stays mad for a long time, you may feel confused about how to handle the situation.
Get On with Business
In psychological terms, staying mad for a long time by pouting or sulking is called being passive-aggressive. In other words, instead of expressing anger through assertive communication, the pouter puts on a face and manipulates others by disengaging from communication. When you recognize that someone is in a sulk, acknowledge that it appears something is wrong and offer to discuss the problem. If the sulker doesn't accept your offer to talk, smile pleasantly and assert that you will remain available for a discussion. If the sulking continues, ask the person if you have done something upsetting. If the individual still refuses to talk, say that you are glad to know it isn't something you have done. Then go on with your activities and don't ask again, advises Marie G. McIntyre, Ph.D., in the article "Dealing with Pouters & Sulkers."
Grin and Bare It
When a family member or intimate partner gets mad and stays mad for a long time, sometimes the best way to handle the person is to be assertive yourself. As pleasantly as possible, let the person know how you feel. Use your "I" statements and expose your feelings. Express that dealing with conflict by shutting each other out does not create the kind of relationship you choose and that you will not be part of it. Handle your own emotions by listening to music, exercising or engaging in a hobby.
Talk About Talking
If you want to improve your relationship with a person who is prone to pout, pick a time when you are both relaxed and then open a discussion about communication. Make a "salesman sandwich" by starting off with a positive, stating the problem and then ending with a positive. An example is stating how important the relationship is to you and then talking about how pouting prevents you from achieving greater understanding and working through differences. Make it clear that you are receptive to discussion and that you can can handle differences of opinion, as long as communication remains open. Top the sandwich with affirmations about your respect for the other person.
Take Off the Kid Gloves
A common reaction to a person who stays mad and sulks, whether this is an adult or a child, is to console and cajole. Don't do it. Staying mad instead of talking about a problem harms the person who sulks -- through all that negative body chemistry anger generates -- and makes life less comfortable for others. Help the person grow up by refusing to give in to the anger. Clearly communicate your expectation to be treated with respect. Remain calm. Your example will help the other person learn better skills and establish healthy boundaries for your relationship.
- American Psychological Association: Controlling Anger Before It Controls You
- AngriesOut.com: What Does Love Got to Do With It?
- The Ohio State University Extension: Dealing with Anger in a Marriage
- Stress and Emotion: Anxiety, Anger and Curiosity; Charles D. Spielberger and Irwin G. Sarason
- William and Mary: Teaching Models
- Empowering Parents: Moody Kids: How to Respond to Pouting, Whining and Sulking
For Judy Kilpatrick, gardening is the best mental health therapy of all. Combining her interests in both of these fields, Kilpatrick is a professional flower grower and a practicing, licensed mental health therapist. A graduate of East Carolina University, Kilpatrick writes for national and regional publications.