Amy Lewis Bear MS

From Charm to Harm

Moodiness Is a Key Sign of Controlling Behavior

Know when your partner’s moods are hiding bigger issues

Posted Apr 06, 2015

It’s exasperating when your intimate partner alternates between warmth and coldness. You never know what mood will appear. The trouble is usually blamed on you and you struggle to understand what you did.

Your response may be to cater to your moody partner. It’s a natural reaction when you want to get back into your mate’s good graces. But taking the blame and trying to please temperamental partners will only encourage their moodiness and make you feel dejected and vulnerable.

Moodiness stems from an unwillingness to confront and work through deeper issues. Brooding and blaming others is a way to avoid digging deeper into the inner source of anger and resentment. Moody people avoid facing and resolving their personal conflicts when others accept the blame and cater to them. They get stuck in narcissistic tendencies, immaturity, and controlling behavior toward others.    

Remember that it’s never your fault when others hurt you because they don’t have the courage to accept responsibility for their own psychological issues.

Here are some true stories illustrating tactics moody and controlling people use in their intimate partnerships:

Lucy & Hugh

Lucy seemed easygoing during dinner with her husband, Hugh, and their two children the previous night. In the morning, he wonders why she is irritable. When he asks her if she is annoyed with him, she responds sarcastically, “Of course I am! Why don’t you think real hard and figure it out?”

Hugh is perplexed and can’t even begin to unravel why Lucy is angry with him, but he is careful to attend to her so that she will forgive him for whatever he did to upset her.

Later the same day, Lucy is civil to Hugh as she helps him find what he needs to make repairs around the house.

In the evening, they have plans to meet friends for a concert in a nearby park. During the concert, Lucy treats Hugh as if he is an irritant. As they walk home, Lucy doesn’t wait for Hugh and stays several paces ahead of him. Her behavior makes him feel sad and awkward. He is torn between whether he should talk with her, or give her space.

When they arrive home, Lucy tells Hugh she’s going to meet her girlfriend at a bar and she’ll return in an hour. She comes home at two o’clock in the morning. The next day, she rebuffs Hugh when he tries to have a meaningful conversation with her about their relationship. Later that afternoon, she smiles at him and acts as if she did nothing wrong.

Shifting Sands: Lucy’s mood shifts send out contradictory messages to Hugh. He is confused about why she is annoyed with him, but Lucy won’t talk to him about her feelings. She’s harboring deep anguish and bitterness toward her father for abandoning her as a child. In an unhealthy effort to resolve her emotional pain, she’s punishing Hugh and manipulating him to give her the attention she never got from her father.  

Daniel & Dexter

While Daniel and Dexter are on an ocean cruise to celebrate their fifth anniversary together, Daniel goes overboard with his criticism. He complains that the food is second rate, the excursions are too expensive, the ship’s wait staff is too friendly, and the entertainment is dismal.

Dexter attempts to appease Daniel by seeing the humor in his remarks. “At least they’re consistent,” he jokes. But Daniel wallows in his dark mood and won’t be consoled. When Dexter gently places his hand on Daniel’s shoulder and encourages him to enjoy himself instead of finding fault, Daniel glares at him. “Stop being such a chump,” Daniel gripes. “We paid a lot of money for this cruise and we’re getting screwed.”

Daniel trudges off and disappears for hours. Dexter is greatly disappointed in Daniel for nitpicking the cruise and spoiling what Dexter hoped would be a special time for them.

Brooding: Daniel is unable to face and resolve the emotional pain caused by his lack of self-acceptance as a gay man. He turns his self-loathing into hostility toward Dexter. He uses lengthy periods of irritability and negative talk to dampen Dexter’s spirits. Daniel’s brooding behavior worsens when Dexter tries to cheer him up.

Ken & Ling

Ken expects Ling to do all the housework and take care of their two small children, even though she holds a full-time job. After a stressful day at work, Ling tells Ken she is exhausted and needs his assistance with dinner and the laundry. Ken waves her away, pours a glass of wine for himself, and goes into the music room to practice his guitar.

Later that evening, after Ling has cooked, washed the dishes, completed two loads of laundry, and put the children to bed, she asks Ken to help her devise a plan to run the house and take care of the children that works for both of them. He argues that his job is more demanding than her job, so the household and kids are her responsibility alone. Ling objects to his opinion, but instead of having a conversation to resolve the issue, Ken is aloof for the next several days.

Ling believes she has two choices. She can either deplete herself to keep her job and take care of all the housework and parenting, or press Ken to help her and suffer from his stony silence.

Stonewalling: Ken is stonewalling Lucy. He uses prolonged episodes of silence and withdrawal to express hostility indirectly and pressure her into being more agreeable. As a teenager, he punished his mother by treating her the same way when his emotionally neglectful father was away on frequent business trips.

Moody and manipulative partners will likely continue their controlling behavior unless their partners issue an ultimatum and follow through on the consequences. It’s not healthy for either partner to keep relating to each other in dysfunctional and hurtful ways.  Having a social support system and seeking the help of a psychotherapist can help.

In my next post, I’ll continue providing terms and true stories to define and illustrate emotional abuse tactics and effects. My next topic will be about tolerating abusive behavior in an attempt to be accepted by others.

Keep the comments and questions coming. Let’s work together to expose and stop emotional abuse.