Getting through “emotional rollercoasters” in relationships

It doesn’t matter what you call it “emotional _______”: “…tide”, “…highs and lows”, “…rollercoaster”, “…waves”, “…rubberbanding”, “…disruption”, “…overwhelm”….we all go up and down or in and out in some way (even people without bipolar disorder).

So what do you do when you are in a relationship with someone and they are experiencing an “emotional…”?

Here are some of my ideas…


Common reasons for “emotional ______”:

Physical / Biological:

  • Hormonal changes
  • Sleep changes
  • Dietary or digestion changes
  • Lack of exercise
  • Chemical imbalance
  • Illness
  • Injury
  • Trauma


  • Stress
  • Fear
  • Uncertainty
  • Not enough connection / intimacy
  • Too much connection / intimacy
  • Need for independence / to be alone
  • Need for connection
  • Identity challenges
  • Financial stress / loss of income
  • You upset them / hurt their feelings
  • Self-doubt
  • Pain / Past emotional wounds
  • Self-worth
  • Trauma

These are just some possibilities.  The reality is that if you ask any person who is experiencing “emotional…”, they probably won’t be able to express this as they are experiencing it.

Why asking them WHY? doesn’t always help:

  • They don’t know.
  • Asking people “why” causes them to have to defend themselves.
  • Asking people “why” causes people to have to search for a problem and find one…that may not even be the problem at all.
  • It makes them feel worse when they are already feeling bad, overwhelmed or confused.

Ways to respond to your partner’s “emotional ______”

When someone we love is pushing away, withdrawing or pulling away, it is uncomfortable, scary and sad. Of course it is a natural instinct to want to be close. When they pull away it feels like we’re losing them, that we’re losing our relationship. It really hurts. “Emotional…’s” can be painful and a loss.

Often a mistake we make is to do the opposite of what they want.  We often smother them, lovingly of course.

Things to do instead of smothering:

  • Give your partner the space to experience their “emotional…”.

If they are pulling away, let them, and do so lovingly. Let them know that it is okay and that you love them, instead of panicking and feeling like the sky is falling down.

I know that this is hard and it is not easy to do at all, but in every “emotional…” there is a gift.  They may not always find it, but the gift is their own to be found.  You cannot give them that gift.  It is something they get to find within themselves.

  • Develop your awareness of your partners pattern or cycle for “emotional…” (and your own).

Ask yourself, “Is this a pattern?  How did it happen before?  What was the outcome? What did I learn?”

If you are able to see a pattern of emotion and behavior, then it is possible that what your own emotions and instincts are fearing may not be actually happening and it is simply an “emotional…”.

  • Do not take an “emotional…” personally.

(See the reasons above…almost all of them have nothing to do with you.)

  • Take good care of yourself.

Now is the time to focus on YOU.

What makes YOU happy?

What do you enjoy doing by yourself or with others that you may have not done in awhile?

What is something you want to try?

Give yourself love…

Don’t wait for anyone to bring you flowers, grow your own.

  • Therapy.

Therapy is both a vehicle and the developer of your own and your relationship’s tools and resources to better build the relationship you desire to be in.