One minute he’s all smiles, and the very next minute you feel like a tornado just blew through the room. How should you deal with a moody boyfriend or spouse?
Is it MY job to “smooth over” his moody behavior?
“Dear Claire, my boyfriend always asks me to do something…but after I do whatever he wants, he asks me to stop doing it and do the opposite thing. He is very moody and has a lot of anxiety. How should I deal with him? Please help.” — Naomi
People often get moody when they’re under a lot of stress. Stress is a normal part of life, but some seasons of life are much harder than others. And often the younger you are, the less experience you have in dealing with heavy life stresses.
And sometimes there are serious health issues that need to be dealt with by a licensed therapist or physician.
But assuming it’s “normal” moodiness and not a situation that requires professional help, here is the first and most important thing to consider as you deal with a moody boyfriend or spouse…
Relationships are reciprocal; you shouldn’t ALWAYS be the one trying to help
Some of the women in my family were raised to always take care of the men, as if they were giant overgrown toddlers. If a man was hungry/sad/careless, the women would rush to feed/listen/clean up after them. And when the men were angry, the women tiptoed around, and did their best to “make the men happy.”
In some cases, this can create a real bully. If there is never anyone to question or object to their whims, moods, and tantrums, a man can began to feel like he has carte blanche to behave however he wants, whenever he wants.
It would be easy to blame the men for being so self-centered, but in fact, it takes two to create this sort of imbalance.
A healthy relationship is reciprocal, rather than one-sided.
Sometimes he’s frustrated and anxious and you are there to help him deal with it, and sometimes YOU get to be the one experiencing the stress overload, with him there to help you.
- How emotionally balanced does your whole relationship feel?
- What are each of you contributing to the imbalance?
Here are four specific steps that will help as you deal with your moody boyfriend or spouse…
1. Don’t reward constant moodiness
Rather than scurrying around to try and keep your moody boyfriend happy, you can take a different tack. Try ignoring his moods, and waiting to interact with him when he’s on an even keel.
If he isn’t getting a reaction out of you with his drama, but DOES gain your willing attention when he works to control his emotions, he may have more incentive to keep his moodiness in check.
2. Model good emotional processing
If you’re able to keep your head when a moody boyfriend is behaving dramatically, you can calmly describe what you see him doing, and invite him to share what’s going on for him.
“You seem really upset. Do you want to tell me what’s bothering you?”
If he’s willing to share, don’t get emotional yourself, but simply tell him what you’re hearing. For example,
“Wow, your boss was really hard on you again today. I can see how you’re starting to worry that you might lose your job.”
“It sounds like you really wish you didn’t have to deal with a mother who is chronically ill, and constantly in and out of treatment centers. It’s a lot for you to carry…”
EVEN if he’s making accusations about YOU, do your best to not get drawn into the whirlwind. If you’re feeling stable, you can mirror back what he’s saying.
3. Don’t rush to “fix” it
His crisis is not your crisis.
His emotional emergency is not your problem to fix right this minute.
You can certainly invite him to share what he’s thinking about doing, but just because there’s a problem doesn’t mean he wants or needs you to intervene, or that it would even be helpful to try when he’s in the middle of a mood swing.
If it IS a situation that involves you, you can agree to have a calm conversation about it at a future time you both agree to.
4. Take top-notch care of yourself
Dealing with a moody boyfriend or spouse can be draining, so be sure to take good care of yourself.
Treat yourself to plenty of quiet time, as well as time with close friends and people who have your best interest at heart.
Get help if you need it, and be smart about how long you let things go. If this is his constant state, and you never see any kind of improvement, this may not be the kind of relationship you want to be in…
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