If you deal with mood swings in your relationship, you might be feeling held hostage by how unpredictable your partner can be. The ups and downs in their mood, or mood swings, can manifest as happy, then sad, then angry or irritable. This creates instability, and instead of home being a refuge, it can become a place you want to avoid.
You want to be able to count on your partner, knowing that no matter how bad things get, they will stay respectful, won’t blow up, or suddenly become mean, cold, condescending or rejecting. You want to create a feeling of safety and trust.
Too many mood swings tend to destabilize a relationship. If something happens, you want to feel comfortable talking about it. If someone makes a mistake, you want to feel safe enough to discuss it.
You will feel annoyed or upset in any relationship. But when you become afraid of setting your partner off and try to avoid annoying them, then you might have to learn to deal with mood swings. This can sometimes feel like you’re walking on eggshells.
If mood swings happen too often, it can be hard to trust that even a good mood will last for very long. You start to feel like you are on unstable ground and their mood can change at any moment.
The worst of this is when you feel afraid of your partner because they can get angry so easily. This can lead to feeling unsafe and staying silent. You stop bringing things up that are necessary to talk about.
Reasons You Might Deal With Mood Swings
Believe it or not, there can be multiple causes for mood swings. This does not necessarily mean it’s your job to fix your partner.
But, if you are experiencing mood swings yourself, or even if you see it in others, an important step in figuring out how to deal with mood swings is to understand where they come from.
Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline personality disorder is a chronic condition that can be very difficult to manage. It is characterized by mood instability and mood swings. Emotions swing from happy to angry, loving to hateful. This creates a lot of difficulty with emotional regulation and in interpersonal relationships.
This personality disorder can be very difficult to change. So, limiting time together and avoiding topics that lead to friction or conflict is often the best way to cope. Unfortunately, this can lead to that walking on eggshells feeling.
Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Withdrawal
Drug and alcohol addiction will often lead to chronic problems with mood swings. This is because using creates one set of emotions and behaviors, but, inevitably, as the substance starts to wear off you go through withdrawal. Withdrawal results in different, often irritable moods, creating unpredictable emotional ups and downs.
If you are the partner of someone you think might be addicted to something, you might have to deal with mood swings as part of using and then withdrawing from their substance of choice. This can even include gambling, food and sex addiction, among others.
Stress can be a huge culprit in causing mood swings. There are many reasons for stress to crop up in your life. Natural disasters, chronic illness, unhappy work or family relationships, poverty, no work-life balance, grief and loss, money problems and being a victim of a crime are just some of many causes of stress.
Big life changes such as a new job, moving, a new medication, or kids leaving home, all cause stress. They need to be acknowledged, talked about and possibly worked through in therapy.
Physical Health Problems
It is so easy to loose your patience when you have a physical health problem. Being physically ill just takes up all the resources, leaving no energy to stay emotionally regulated. Chronic pain and other physical symptoms take a huge toll on our ability to cope with the emotions that come up when you are sick. This can easily cause mood swings.
Mental health Issues
Mental health issues such as depression and Bipolar Disorder can often create symptoms of mood swings. These types of disorders need to be treated, usually with a combination of therapy and medication.
Bipolar Disorder creates feelings of high energy, extreme happiness, excitement and elation. These feelings are intense and can swing to extreme irritation and often interfere with school, work, or home life.
If you suspect that you or your partner could be dealing with something like this, an evaluation by an experienced health care professional such as a therapist or psychiatrist is an important first step. If this describes your partner, be careful about taking this on, since it may not be possible to convince them to get help.
Other factors such as lack of sleep, being too hungry or having low blood sugar can impact mood, strain your patience, and lead to intimacy issues and communication breakdown.
How to Deal With Mood Swings
Have A Discussion
Pick a good time to have a discussion about it when they seem stable. Don’t take it personally if they don’t want to talk.
You can suggest getting help and going to therapy. But don’t take on the job of fixing them, especially when they refuse help. Don’t take their mood swings personally. So much of the time, you just have so little control over another person.
Your job is to share your own feelings and thoughts instead of bottling things up. You can wait until you feel calm and stable so you can share respectfully and can also listen. But if your partner can’t do the same, this is not your fault.
Take Care of Yourself
Spend time alone and calm yourself. Write about it, exercise, do things you enjoy. Then, you can share with your partner without blaming, getting angry or being impatient.
Take time away when you need it by setting boundaries. Say “I need to take a break now, so let’s talk about this tomorrow or another time.” “Since I have to leave for work or to see a friend, let’s table this for later.” “I’m uncomfortable with you raising your voice, so let’s stop talking until we cool down.”
Offer Empathy, Don’t Give Advice
It can really get exhausting to have to deal with your own bad mood in response to your partner. Try not to let yourself be drawn into their bad mood. Remain neutral by mentally taking a step back and observing how your partner is feeling and acting. Don’t react to them. Simply offer phrases like “This situation does seem really difficult” or “My heart goes out to you right now”, or “I can completely understand how you must be at the end of your rope”. These statements offer empathy without taking on their bad mood or trying to fix it for them. Often times, people want understanding, not help or advice.
Remind yourself, my partners bad mood isn’t my fault. It’s not my job to resolve this for them. A lot of the time, they will figure it out on their own, or they won’t. But, they don’t want our advice, only our understanding and empathy.
Emotional Abuse When You Deal With Mood Swings
Mood swings can negatively effect your life in many ways. If they repeatedly result in canceling plans or not having a good time when you go out, this can be a warning sign that you might be involved with someone who is too difficult. Walking on eggshells in a relationship is unacceptable and makes it hard to enjoy life.
If you partner makes no effort to take responsibility and address the problem, it can be harmful to stay in the relationship. Significant distress in a relationship may mean you are in an emotionally abusive situation.
Growing up in a chaotic or abusive environment can cause you to normalize volatile, frightening and abusive relationships. You figure out when to run away and when to keep quiet. You learn not to speak up for fear of negative consequences. This increases the likelihood that you will put up with chronically bad behavior.
In a healthy relationship, you don’t have to spend time predicting your partner’s moods. With no one to fear, you can speak openly and work through problems without complicated mind work or being excessively mindful of your actions.
Walking on Eggshells When You Deal With Mood Swings
If you are worried about the smallest word or action setting your partner off, you are probably walking on eggshells. You have to be overly careful about what you do or say in order to avoid conflict and mood swings.
Look for a partner who does not instill fear. Instead, they are able to handle anger without directing it your way, able to apologize when they’re wrong, and are kind to you. A relationship needs to provide a safe, warm refuge from the craziness of the world. A place where you can live in joy and not be afraid.
Mood swings and walking on eggshells do a number on your nervous system. It is so exhausting. Neurofeedback and EMDR Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing can help.
If you deal with mood swings and are trying to heal, please reach out to me. My email is mindy@MFTherapy.com or give me a call at 310-314-6933.