Make us your home page

Move past moodiness and chaos of the past

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

You can break free of the chaos and moodiness of the past

Human flaws: My boyfriend is moody. He is also adorable, creative, smart, a good parent, loving, and many other things. He thinks I'm pretty insecure, and he's right. But my insecurity is limited, mostly, to romantic relationships. Because I grew up in a chaotic and — for lack of a better word — "moody" household, I doubt that the people I love most love me back.

Intellectually I know this isn't true, but I can still feel insecure sometimes. How do I allow someone their moods without feeling like I am being personally rejected? I'm old enough to know better.

Carolyn: Here's what you know: You struggle to trust people; your words for your childhood are "chaotic" and "moody"; your most significant adult relationship is with someone who is "moody."

Here's what you want to know: why you don't trust, and how you can calm your doubts that you're lovable.

What steps are you taking to reconcile these two lists? If your answer is just "I don't know," or if you can list a bunch of things you've tried that haven't made much progress, then please consider counseling.

If instead you have general ideas but lack clarity, consider this. When it comes to intimacy, what's familiar to you is chaos and moodiness. You've sought comfort in the familiar, and now you're in a relationship with someone moody. And you feel as if the adult-you should be able to take these childhood puzzle pieces and master the puzzle by now. And you're upset that you can't.

The thing is, you can't solve your past by re-enacting it in your present (though many do try). Understanding it to the point where you don't need to rethink it anymore — where you truly believe you were unevenly loved as a child not because you deserved that, but instead were just born into it — is the only reliable way to put it to rest.

Human again: He's the first man I've ever trusted this much — despite his moodiness (which isn't toxic, I should clarify). I guess you're saying that if I don't really believe he loves me then I don't truly trust him?

I understand the overall dynamic through therapy years ago. In some ways I appreciate his moodiness — he's sensitive and that's to my benefit. I just need to find a way to not internalize other people's emotions, if that makes sense?

Carolyn: It's not about trusting him, it's about trusting yourself — to be lovable, and to survive it and move on if someone falls out of love with you. It happens to everybody.

When you develop your emotional habits amid an erratic supply of warm attention, it's normal for your focus to become the steadiness of your supply: Is this going to disappear tomorrow? Will it ever come back? What can I do to keep it?

It would be helpful if you trusted your boyfriend to provide a steady supply of love, yes, but that's still counting on someone else. You need to be able to count on you, to be okay on your own, in the absence of another's affection — be it for 15 minutes or 15 years. Then you'd feel as if another's warmth was serving you, versus you serving it.

Move past moodiness and chaos of the past 11/17/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours