"Nothing is wrong" is wrong.
How often are you guilty of giving this dishonest answer in this moment?
Assuming that you would speak your mind if something big was bothering you, let’s talk about those smaller situations where you just don’t feel like getting into it.
This one word response stops cold any opportunity for connection. It’s passive aggressive, it’s dismissive, and leaves your partner feeling rejected. One of two things usually follows: they will ask again, but this time with more anxiety and skepticism because now they are worried it is something to do with them, or they will shut down and retreat.
Neither outcome is going to build a stronger connection or teach them how to handle the situation differently next time.
So, instead of avoiding the question with something less than honest, here are a few alternatives:
➡️ “I’m not able to talk about it right now, but ask me about it later.”
➡️ “I’m upset about something that happened to me, but I don’t really want to talk about it right now. I just need a few minutes to move on from it.”
➡️ “I’d love to talk to you about it, but if I do, I just want you to listen. Don’t try to solve it for me, okay?”
➡️ “Thanks for asking. It’s a stupid thing really. Nothing that I want to give any more energy to. Help me get it off my mind by distracting me.”
➡️ “I don’t really want to talk about it right now, but it’s nothing that you did wrong. I just need a little quiet space to think through a few things.”
Any of these options are going to communicate to your partner how you are feeling without putting you in a position that you don’t want to be in. It also acknowledges that your partner sensed something was wrong (that’s a good thing) and respected their efforts without adding to their anxiety by causing them to doubt their instincts. It will also encourage them to engage again next time instead of staying quiet because they anticipate a dismissive reaction.
Our partners are not mind-readers, and it is our responsibility to help to educate them on our moods and how to handle us during them. You don’t have to solve every problem together, but you do have to own your part of communication.
One more tip: TONE is actually more important in these conversations than what you say. If you don’t feel you can control how you respond then deferring to another time is most likely the best course of action.