Do you find some things your partner does or says trigger you? You feel instantaneously outraged or hurt?
When you are triggered how do you respond? fight, flight or freeze? You may instantly freeze and lose your voice, not knowing what to say? Or do you lash out at your partner with a hurtful attack? Or maybe you feel numb and withdraw into yourself, which can be punishing of your partner.
It often looks like the other person’s fault in the instant of being triggered. Although we don’t realise it at the time, there are some underlying feelings that are being triggered, for example:
- Out of Control. When partner speaks you immediately feel irritated; s/he won’t do things “properly” (your way!). E.g. with the children, tidiness, cleanliness or funds.(see Security in Relationships)
- Criticised. In a flash you feel put down, diminished; you remember that your partner seems to rarely praise you, and ignores your efforts.
- Misunderstood. Partner implies that your good intentions are really manipulative, thoughtless or selfish; you instantly react.
- Unsafe. Suddenly you feel your safety, or someone’s safety may be threatened by something in your partner’s behaviour or words.
- Rejected/abandoned. Partner touches on something and you immediately feel s/he does not love you, dislikes you, is withdrawing from you.
- Shamed/Guilty. Partner points to some fault of yours which you don’t feel good about.
- Sad. Grief, worthlessness or unhappiness suddenly flood into you at something your partner has said.
Many of these triggered feelings are painful, hard to admit to. So its much easier to blame your partner, either directly or silently with festering resentment.
Sometimes people actually want to trigger their partners and they know exactly how to do it! Other times it’s done completely unintentionally; it is not always easy to know what others feel hurt by, even with those close to us.
Look at the list above; ask ‘What underlying feeling is being triggered in me?
Choose a time when you can talk without blaming your partner. This is about you – another person may not be triggered in this situation. So talk about yourself only and your feelings, even if you think that its all your partner’s fault. Only use I Language. Give time for your partner to respond. Avoid reactivity. Listen with empathy. Agree a plan of how to deal with it together when it happens again. Decide what to do independently if your partner chooses not to engage.
With thanks to:
Getting the Love you Want by H Hendrix
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