I struggle with depression. In fact, I take medication for it. Thankfully, my medication works really well. I feel so much better than before. Nevertheless, I sometimes wake up and feel depressed to start off the day. The medication works extremely well but it isn't perfect.
When I wake up in the morning, feeling depressed, I try to tell Sara that I'm feeling this way. "Beautiful, I just wanted to let you know that I'm feeling a little depressed this morning."
The first thing this does is connect the two of us emotionally. I'm letting her in on my emotions and that is a huge thing for a marriage relationship. Second, I'm giving her a heads up on how I might be relating to her that morning. I want her to know that I love her, that I want to connect with her, but that I'm struggling with feeling depressed. When I feel depressed, it does affect our relationship, even though I don't have full control over how I feel. I want her to know that I care about how it is affecting us.
Not everyone struggles with depression, but many of us wrestle with anxiety, resentment, irritability, shame, and grief. The idea isn't to try to pull ourselves out of these struggles - the idea is to share how we feel with our spouse. This is how we reach out to them to let them know that we don't want to hurt them, even though our emotional struggles do hurt them. Emotional notification is more important than figuring out how to change our emotions.
This doesn't mean we are giving ourselves permission to treat our spouse poorly. Just because I wake up in the morning feeling irritable or stressed over work or some other difficult circumstance doesn't mean that I can use this as an excuse to take out our frustrations on them. In fact, when we tell our spouse about our negative feelings, we are intentionally naming our desire to treat them kindly. From within our desire to treat them kindly, we actually begin to treat them kindly. Notifying our spouse of our irritability, anxiety, or depression is the first act of kindness.
When we do take out our irritability, stress, or anxiety on our spouse, the first thing we can do is to take ownership for our actions, tell our spouse that we don't want to do that anymore, and emotionally connect with them through our ownership and desire to do good to them.
Emotional notification is all about ownership, desire, kindness, and responsibility. We will never be perfect, but our spouse will come to know our desire to do good to them, despite our harm to them when we aren't in a good place emotionally.