Girlfriend Moody? It's in Her Genes (But You Can Fix It)
Friday, 18 January 2013
“I'd like some tips and tricks, and knowledge about longer term relationships - for example, how to bring a girl out of that 'brick wall' sulk! I seem to attract fiery and moody, and I would like to know how other people deal with this. Never too old to learn?”
While this didn't make it into the ebook in question, I've been
trying to get through each of these and tackle the ones that weren't
addressed there on the website here.
If you've been in a relationship that lasted any substantial length of time, you've no doubt encountered what our commenter here is talking about - that sulky, pouting, dreary moody girlfriend situation.
For men in relationships, there are few things more dispiriting than a girlfriend, moody and sulky, skulking around the apartment, acting like somebody stole her bag of cookies, and you have absolutely no idea why. It can make you want to pull your hair out and exclaim, "Out with it already, woman!"
If she'd just TELL YOU what the problem was, by George, then you could address it at least!
Well, if it's any consolation, science is here to tell us we're not crazy, and women really DO do this and feel this a lot more than men.
And I'm here to tell you what to do about it so she knocks this off and starts acting a little more chipper again.
From the a paper published by a number of researchers from the Swedish Karolinska Institutet in the journal NeuroImage comes "Sex differences in the serotonin 1A receptor and serotonin transporter binding in the human brain measured by PET," discussing neural receptors and transporters in the brain for compounds that are correlated with moodiness:
“Women and men differ in serotonin associated psychiatric conditions, such as depression, anxiety and suicide. Despite this, very few studies focus on sex differences in the serotonin system. Of the biomarkers in the serotonin system, serotonin1A (5-HT1A) receptor is implicated in depression, and anxiety and serotonin transporter (5-HTT) is a target for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, psychotropic drugs used in the treatment of these disorders. The objective of the present study was to study sex related differences in the 5-HT1A receptor and 5-HTT binding potentials (BPNDs) in healthy humans, in vivo. Positron emission tomography and selective radioligands [11C]WAY100635 and [11C]MADAM were used to evaluate binding potentials for 5-HT1A receptors (14 women and 14 men) and 5-HTT (8 women and 10 men). The binding potentials were estimated both on the level of anatomical regions and voxel wise, derived by the simplified reference tissue model and wavelet/Logan plot parametric image techniques respectively.
Compared to men, women had significantly higher 5-HT1A receptor and lower 5-HTT binding potentials in a wide array of cortical and subcortical brain regions. In women, there was a positive correlation between 5-HT1A receptor and 5-HTT binding potentials for the region of hippocampus. Sex differences in 5-HT1A receptor and 5-HTT BPND may reflect biological distinctions in the serotonin system contributing to sex differences in the prevalence of psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety. The result of the present study may help in understanding sex differences in drug treatment responses to drugs affecting the serotonin system.”
I've bolded the important parts.
What this research is saying is that two aspects of brain makeup were studied in male and female brains:
A receptor that's tied to depression, and
A transporter used to combat anxiety and regulate serotonin
The researchers found that, compared to men, women had:
More of the receptors linked to depression (which would imply a higher tendency toward becoming depressed), and
Less ability to bind the transporters combatting anxiety and regulating serotonin
What this essentially stands as is some evidence that women are biologically more prone to depression and anxiety, and more resistant to the compounds used to break them out of these mental states.
In other words, women are naturally more likely to be moody, and naturally more likely to have difficulty breaking out of these moody conditions.
What It's Like to Mood Swing
There are men reading this site who are all over the map, emotionally. One guy reading this article may be thinking to himself, "Sure - I know exactly what this is like... I'm moody all the time!" while another man is probably reading this and thinking, "I REALLY don't get how you can have moods wildly swinging around and plunging you into depression and then swinging back out again... women, geez!"
So, here's a brief picture of what it's like for your moody girlfriend when she gets hit with a mood swing.
Imagine it's a normal day - the sun is out, the birds are chirping, and you're going about your normal daily routine. You feel just fine - maybe even a little upbeat.
Then, a thought pops into your mind - you remember that time your boyfriend came home really late one night and smelled a little like perfume and you were never 100% certain if he was telling you the truth or not that he was at a work meeting and one of the coworkers spritzed her perfume on right next to him at one point and some splashed over on him.
You start thinking about it... was he cheating? You don't really know. You think about it some more... well, he's always been really honest. But then again, that issue of Cosmopolitan you just read said that that's one of the signs you should keep an eye out for - your guy smelling like another woman.
Oh man... should you break up with him? Or not? What should you do?
Suddenly, you start feeling really down... really helpless. You could confront him about it again, but he'll probably just get annoyed. What if he's telling the truth? Then you'll just be bugging him and look really insecure. But what if he's hiding something? You're never going to know if you don't confront him over it.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, you've just become moody, cranky, and depressed. When people come up to talk to you, you don't really want to talk to them. And when he calls later... ugh. Do you REALLY want to talk to him? Well...
And then he gets all whiney about it. "What's wrong?" he asks. Ugh. Clueless. He should KNOW what it is... how could he come back smelling like perfume like that 6 months ago? Horrible man.
Then, later, when you meet up with him, he drags it out of you what you're being sulky about, addresses it, and suddenly you feel great again. How silly you were to waste the whole day worrying about this! I mean geez, you already went through all this 6 months ago... you trusted him then, you should trust him now.
And, just like that, everything's right as rain all over again.
Is This Some Kind of Temporary Insanity?
Actually, it's a product of rumination.
Rumination is something we looked at in the article on how to overcome depression. It's the obsessive thinking about, turning over and over in one's mind of, and fixating on something or somethings that you can't do anything about and can't think your way to a satisfactory solution with.
Basically, it's a bear trap for your mind.
You get your foot stuck in rumination, and now you're going nowhere fast. You're trapped in this endless, fatalistic cycle of doom in which you just think and think and think about something and can never achieve any kind of resolution.
It's enough to drive you mad.
If you've never spent time being depressed, or moody, or fatalistic, you're both blessed (not to have experienced these undermining, self-defeating emotions) and somewhat disadvantaged in this arena (because you'll have an infinitely more difficult time understanding and dealing with these emotions in others - particularly, the women in your life).
One of the major benefits of spending time being depressed yourself is the ability to properly empathize with others going through similar mental states, and the ability of getting a good read on how to wrest them out of those states.
But let's assume relating to this kind of mental prison of defeat doesn't come all that naturally to you... or, even if it does, figuring out how to combat moodiness has you totally licked.
How do you crack this nut?
The first thing you want to understand is that there are three distinct flavors of moody girlfriend that show up with different causes and characteristics. These are:
Extra Melodrama: these are the girls who are acting moody and pouty because they want to get a reaction out of you. They aren't really feeling all that bad... they are, rather, exaggerating their symptoms of moodiness in order to get you to take notice and come rushing and white knighting your way to the rescue.
Genuine Distress: women in this state are genuinely upset about something, and they aren't exaggerating it (or, if they are, it's just a little bit). They may be looking for help from you, but they may just as likely simply be feeling down and not really care about trying to seem "up" or cheerful for your (or anyone's) benefit.
End of Her Rope: this is the girl who's so over it with you that she's miffed at you all the time and there isn't anything you ever seem to be able to do about it. She's essentially talking herself out of her relationship with you, and not so long from now you're more likely to be getting over your ex than you are to be trying to figure out why she's spending so much time being so sulky.
As you might surmise, each of these women needs something different, and that's where a lot of guys end up confused.
They figure out one of these, only to find it doesn't apply across them all.
So, let's take a look at how you recognize a girlfriend moody with each of these types of moods, and give you a strategy for handling each one.
Moody Girlfriend #1: Extra Melodrama
You can recognize a girl who's bandying about extra melodrama by the following dramatic flares:
There are frequent loud noises, bangs, crashes, outbursts, sighs, or other dramatic displays designed to capture your attention. Women who are actually just moody and not seeking attention don't cause a lot of commotion... they just sit quietly by and sulk.
There are loud accusations and lots of finger-pointing. Again, this is designed to draw a reaction out of you, and to bring matters to a head.
If the above two fail to get your attention, they are usually followed by declarations of what she will do (like break up, or hang out with some other guy, or start calling her girlfriend for a girl's night out). This is also designed to spur you into action and kick start the normal man's, "What's wrong, honey?!" panic mode.
The first thing you should recognize about extra melodrama moodiness is that it's exaggerated and a conscious ploy to a certain extent, designed to produce a reaction out of you, and that ALL women do it, and that ALL women know they do it.
The second thing you should recognize about it is that, annoying and contrived as it may be, it is built around some kind of point of contention or some bad emotion that she needs resolved, although it's typically not anything too bad, and a little emotional comforting will usually do the trick.
So, your thoughts on extra melodrama girlfriend moodiness normally ought to be:
"Blech... this is so annoying and contrived. It's childish," and
"All right, let's figure out what's driving this and get it resolved."
Your reaction should not be the panicky normal man's, "Oh no, what
IS it?," said as if the world was about to implode. This kind of
reaction just drives women even crazier.
Rather, you're best served adopting the irritated-but-stern tone of a father whose reading of the daily newspaper has been interrupted by dramatic attention-getting displays of children in faux-crisis.
You: Are you going to tell me what this is about, or are you just going to run around sighing and acting like you're going to go jump off a bridge?
Asking her something like this is usually all it takes to get her to open up.
If she resists, you persist. Like so:
You: Are you going to tell me what this is about, or are you just going to run around sighing and acting like you're going to go jump off a bridge?
Her: No, it's fine. It's nothing. [she wants you to chase after her and say, "What?"]
You: Just tell me why you're banging pots and shutting doors loudly already.
Her: I'm fine.
You: Look, either tell me what all the dramatic displays are about, or knock it off. I can't read your mind; 5 minutes ago you were happy. Are you going to cut this out, or are you going to tell me what this is?
Usually at this point she'll simply tell you what she's unhappy about. Half the time it's going to be something (often somewhat silly) to do with you; the rest of the time, it'll be something else in her life that she simply needs to vent about, but didn't feel comfortable bothering you with (she needed an invitation to do so, and for you to chase her down and squeeze it out of her).
Why do women do this? Why not just bring up the problem and be done with it?
It's done because they want to feel like you care about them enough that you will recognize when they're in distress and can comfort them and make them feel better. Which is why this so often works; most of the time, the very effort by you to make them tell you what's on their mind and showing enough concern at least to listen is all women need to feel better again.
Reassured that someone does care, they can resume normal activities, without all the dramatic displays.
However, it's always better to be firm here (like in the examples above), rather than the panicky, clueless male, "What's wrong, honey??," as this is not comforting so much as it is disappointing (e.g., "Oh GOD, he doesn't get and he isn't in control").
Instead, when you tell her to knock it off or tell her what's on her mind and point out to her the things she is doing (e.g., banging pots, shutting doors loudly, she was happy 5 minutes ago, as in the example above), she feels like you are paying attention to her, and thus get her and care.
Moody Girlfriend #2: Genuine Distress
When you have a girlfriend whose moodiness is genuine distress, you cannot take the same "stern father-figure" tone you want to take with a girlfriend who’s causing extra melodrama. Her moodiness is not exaggerated... it's real. Here are the signs:
She's very quiet. Rather than going storming around banging about and causing a lot of noise and bluster, she's off somewhere you don't know where, sitting by herself, sulking. Correspondence-wise, she isn't the same as usual either; her text messages or phone conversations will be less lively, or may stop coming altogether.
She softly and sadly says, "Nothing," or, "I'm fine," when you ask her what's wrong. She isn't making a big show of things like a girlfriend with extra melodrama does, and she isn't dripping with vitriol and disgust like a girlfriend at the end of her rope is. She's just sad, soft, and retreating.
Genuine distress is caused by something in her life that has genuinely distressed her. The two of you may have had an argument where you said something genuinely hurtful. Or someone at work or one of her friends may have been especially mean, and caused her to doubt whether she's doing what she supposed to be doing with her life. Or, a family member may be ill.
Don't always assume that genuine distress is about you. Much of the time, it isn't.
How do you deal with this kind of moodiness?
- Go to where she is,
- Sit down next to her,
- Put your arm around her,
- ... and just be with her there.
Sit that way for a few minutes. If she wants to talk, you can talk to her, but if she doesn't, no need to force it. You're simply reassuring her with your strength and presence that things are not as bad as they seemed.
If it's in reaction to something mean or hurtful you did, then this is one of those few times (as noted in "Should You Apologize to Women?") when you should apologize. e.g.:
You: I'm sorry I yelled at you. I've been super stressed with the new project I'm on, and not getting a lot of sleep. It wasn't you I was mad at... you just were unlucky enough to trigger all those emotions in me to come bursting forth. Sorry about that.
If it's not in reaction to something you've just done though, you
can skip saying anything.
After a few minutes of comforting, rub her arms and get back up. Make her a nice offer: "I'm going to go put a pizza on. Do you want a mozzarella or a tonno?"
If she says she doesn't want anything, pick whichever one she usually likes best: "I'll put on a tonno," and then go do it. When it's ready, let her know. If she says she doesn't want it, just say, "Okay, well, it's out here and it's delicious. If you want it, you'd better come join me soon, because I'm going to eat all of it and you know I will."
That will usually be enough to get her to come out and join you, and at that point she'll be feeling much, much better.
Moody Girlfriend #3: End of Her Rope
If you are fortunate, you may never have to run into this one.
However, if you're like the average Western male these days and you don't much know what you really want out of relationships as an end-goal (we discussed this in-depth in "How to Start a Relationship with a New Girlfriend" the other day), you will encounter this... and it ain't pretty.
Here's what differentiates a girlfriend moody to the point she's at the end of her rope from the other sorts of moody girlfriends:
She isn't just upset... she's disgusted, all the time. She's angry and disgusted with you, and you're frequently fielding scowls and grimaces rather than smiles and happy faces.
She avoids you, and is spending less and less time with you. In other words, she's withdrawing from the relationship.
She's terse with you, and treats you more like a prison warden than a romantic partner. You feel like she views you as bad person who's restricting and constraining her and preventing her from being happy.
This is a bad place to be, and it immediately precedes a breakup event.
My typical recommendation is, once you reach this point with a girlfriend, it's time to break up with her, because the relationship has spoiled and got rotten.
So that you can understand and interpret what this is and what's going on with it though, I'll explain it: she's reached a point where she feels that she cannot get what she wants and needs with you and this relationship, but you also won't easily let her go and set her free.
She's fighting with herself over whether to remain in a relationship she's grown unhappy with, or whether to leave and start anew somewhere else. Of course, it's a tough decision to make because she's so invested by this point.
What are your options to fix this? Well, they're pretty much this:
You can give her what she wants and needs, or
You can let her go.
Those are your two fixes, and your only two fixes.
When I was younger and less experienced in the ways of women and relationship, I thought that it was possible to simply stretch things out, or provide solutions for these kinds of issues like joint self-expansion. And, while joint self-expansion is great for maintaining a solid relationship, it's a poor panacea for unmet needs.
You can bandage a relationship by "tricking" a woman into thinking there's some progress in it, but at some point she's going to realize that that's what it was - a trick to make her feel like it was going somewhere.
And it isn't.
Not to anywhere she wants it to get to, anyway.
My view these days is that a man who tries hanging onto a woman who's unsatisfied in their relationship without giving her what she needs is selfish, no two ways about it.
Do you really care about her?
Then decide if you can give her what she needs (and you should know by the time she reaches this point what she needs... she will have brought it up many times before while in extra melodrama moody or genuine distress moody). If so, give it to her. If not, let her go.
Word of warning: it's my personal experience that once a relationship reaches this point, it's permanently damaged. Even if you give her what she wants and needs, it's a bit of a case of too little, too late. It's like waiting to drive between the lines on the highway until after you hit another car. Sure, now you probably won't hit anything else, but you've got a big ugly dent in the side of your Honda and it's always going to pull a little to the left side. If you're going to give her what she needs, do it before she reaches this point; and if she ever reaches this point, end things so you can both start over fresh with partners you don't have this baggage with.
Being Mr. Sunshine
You don't have to be a happy-go-lucky, boundless-enthusiasm guy to make women feel better when they're feeling down. No need to put on your rainbow colored wig and Bozo nose. Some firmness, care, and genuine concern (without coming across weak, clueless, or sappy, mind you) is usually all it takes.
If you feel annoyed that your woman is acting moody, keep in mind that she's biologically prone to this, and she isn't enjoying it anymore than you are... it's just a part of being a woman.
However, with this article, you have the tools to fix it: quickly, easily, and without much fanfare or expenditure of effort (at least, for the non-nuclear two scenarios, that is).
White knights, eat your hearts out.
Before you click away from here, I'd also recommend you check out the following articles on some very related subjects... if you haven't read them already, of course:
So, stay calm, be firm, and let her know you're listening.
And usually, that's all it really takes.
Until next time,
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