25 Common relationship triggers: what they are and how to deal with them
Sinking stomach; sweaty palms; hot cheeks; the hair prickling on the back of your neck. The anger you feel after something is said or done and your heartbeat starts to accelerate as each second ticks by. These are some of the 25 common relationship triggers: what they are and how to deal with them
Sound familiar? Or maybe you can relate better to the scenario when someone makes a comment – a mean comment – disguised with a joking tone that others may laugh at, but to you – well – it totally throws off the rest of your day. In fact, anytime someone disapproves of you – jokingly or not – you feel the same way. You feel…off – a bit nauseous, anxious, guilty, embarrassed, sad or maybe the best description of how you feel is …ashamed. The moment rewinds and plays back over and over in your mind – all day long.
It doesn’t really matter what name you put on it – these feelings? These raw, often overwhelming emotions – they are what we call – emotional triggers.
What is an Emotional Trigger?
First of all – like it or not – we all have emotional triggers. This is not something you can opt out of having. There’s no use trying to sugar coat it or deny it. If you’re human – you’ve got ‘em.
But the good news is – once you can acknowledge that you do – and you take steps to identify what behaviours, people or situations create these emotional responses – you give yourself the chance to neutralize the trigger – meaning – you can give yourself a chance to feel differently (if you want to). You’ll have all the information you need to understand what you need to do or what you need to ask for to change your circumstances.
Our emotional triggers are spawned in our childhood. That’s why we know – everyone has them – but they can vary so widely from one person to another. It’s why we can assume some family traits (have a temper like Dad? or sarcastic comebacks like Mom? Silent treatment anyone?) can seem like they are inherited when in fact, they’re learned. When we were growing up, we had experiences that caused us to feel pain or suffering or embarrassment (insert any strong emotion) that we were too young to be able to acknowledge and/or deal with properly at the time. Temper tantrums ring a bell? Whining? Some of the childhood mechanisms for dealing with a range of emotions – disappointment, sadness, frustration – they all speak to emotional triggers we, by default, carry with us into adulthood.
As adults, we default to a habitual or addictive (sadly often destructive) way of trying to manage these overwhelming/strong feelings. I’m sure you can relate. This may help explain the feeling, when your parent expresses disappointment or criticism – even though you’re 30+ years old – how and why you can instantly feel like you’re 6 again. Hello – emotional trigger. How I haven’t missed you. Listen, without a doubt – identifying exactly what our triggers are isn’t necessarily easy, fun or quick to do. But – once you know your triggers, once you can consider the origins of them, getting to know and understand them not only helps us learn how to cope/react better – the big side bonus here is, we give ourselves a chance to heal. (Anyone carrying the hurt from being mocked in grade 3 with them still?! You’re not alone.)
Let’s get into the point of this blog – I want to talk about relationships – and I want to help you figure out your emotional triggers so you can better manage your emotions and expectations in your relationship. Want a better relationship? Then keep reading!
25 Common Relationship Triggers & How to Deal with Them
The greatest opportunity you have in a relationship is the ability to use all interactions as a vehicle for learning about yourself; especially when you’re feeling triggered. Each time your partner does something that triggers one of your hot/cold/sad/mad/happy buttons, the universe gives you the opportunity to work on it. You can learn to recognize this trigger and transform your reaction to it.
The following are 25 common triggers in relationships and how to deal with them.
Lack of Respect – Feeling Dismissed By Your Partner
Try to not take every action that your partner does too personally. Unfortunately, you are the closest person to them and sometimes we tend to take out our frustrations on these people. Have you been allowing this to happen, up until now? Have you been disrespecting or dismissing yourself? People are a direct reflection of our own relationship of ourselves at times. Have an open communication about how this situation makes you feel instead of trying to treat them the way they’ve been treating you.
Not Feeling Valued
It’s ok to ask your partner for what you need from them, but don’t do it with an expectation of them changing. If you enjoy being affirmed, let them know. We teach people how to treat us, so if you have been ok with the behaviour, up until now, they won’t think that anything is wrong. Let them know that you aren’t feeling valued and then come to an understanding of what would work for the both of you. Your partner isn’t a mind reader, so letting them know how to show up for you is the easiest way to feeling valued.
Carrying around resentment and continuously using it as amo in your relationship isn’t healthy. THIS IS YOUR EGO TALKING. Is it worth it? It is not up to your partner to fix this feeling for you. You are responsible for doing the work to get to where you are capable of being able to let it go. Let go and forgive (repeat this as many times as you need to until the feeling is gone).
Repeating the Same Mistakes – Stuck on RepeatIf something keeps coming up, start by being open enough to have the awareness you will need to be able to change. If we want different outcomes, we need to do things differently. Once again, it starts with you. Because if the same mistakes keep happening, you need to get honest about your part in the situation. Are you allowing the same things to manifest? Are you looking for the familiarity?
Your feelings are not your partner’s responsibility and vice versa. Don’t get me wrong, it is super important to let your partner know how you are feeling but the key here is to find ways to communicate your feelings without attacking each other. Honour your feelings first and don’t try to transfer ownership or responsibility for them (blame) onto someone else.
Expectations are tough – we expect people to treat us the way we would treat them. The best way to tackle this vicious cycle is to lower the expectations set and heighten the acceptance from your partner. Basically meet them where they are at! This doesn’t mean that you allow them to have no accountability but it sets you both free from never being good enough. It puts you and your wants/demands in check and allows you to see where you can improve communication.
Boundaries need to be setup in every healthy relationship for it to be successful. A boundary, simply put, is letting the other individual know what matters to you (both inside and outside of the relationship). You must start by being self-aware, clearly communicating and both of you having the capacity and intention to follow through and carry those wants out. Again – this one starts with you – you need to make sure that you are willing to follow through just as much as you expect your partner to. If the boundary continues to be overlooked, ask yourself if it unrealistic. If it’s realistic, then you need to do everything in your power to continue to honour your own boundaries on your end.
Feeling Like You’ve Lost Yourself
We teach people how to treat us, so if your partner expects that they’re more important than you, have a look to see if you’ve taught them that. And when you can honestly answer that – regardless of who taught who what – now’s the time to speak up and communicate your needs. Maybe aim for a compromise on how often chicken wings happen in a week as a start.
Ok, so we’re all human – there are billions of other people on this planet. However, if this is or becomes a habit, it’s time to reconsider what your partner wants. But if you catch your partner only looking once in awhile, know that it’s actually healthy. If you were the only person they looked at and focused on, that would be borderline obsession. If you see your partner’s eyes wandering, express that you saw them looking and ask them what they liked about this person and then let it go! I will say that last part again – let it go!
This is a tough one. Tough because the issue with quality time is that it is perceived differently between the feminine and the masculine. Men sometimes get scared at the idea of quality time because they translate it to mean hours of doing nothing else but gazing (lovingly) into each other’s eyes. As beautiful as that sounds, most women don’t want quantity, they actually want quality. To feel important enough to spend time together without distractions, no phones, no TV, no computers – a few moments to know that our partner is interested in what is going on in our lives. Learning how to define quality time within your relationship requires an honest conversation and some compromise.
Sometimes we do this thinking we’re protecting/sparing our partner from excess emotional baggage – but the freeze out actually does more damage. Letting your partner know you’re under duress – and letting them know that it’s our choice/preference to carry on alone with it – think of it as saying ‘I appreciate your support but don’t want any help right now’. It can go along way to soothing concerns. And vice-versa, let your partner know you are there for them when they are ready.
Not Feeling Safe
The masculine energy in every relationship has one role: to make the feminine feel safe. I’m not talking about feeling safe while walking down the street with them, but more emotionally, mentally and spiritually. The minute the feminine does not feel safe to be able to express herself in the way she is meant to, she will act out in ways she’s never experienced before. It is important to tell your partner how you need to be supported and to know that s/he is the person you can turn to. It’s so, so important to be able to find the words, to spell it out clearly for each other. And – listening has never been more critical than when we’re sharing what truly makes us feel vulnerable.
Fear About Exes
You start feeling as though you need to compete with the ghost of the ex’s past. Accept that your partner has a dating past and remind yourself that your partner is with you and not your ex for a reason. They chose you.
Having Been Cheated On (in the past)
Problems of your past relationship will be fresh in your mind, especially when you start getting to the parts in this new relationship where you feel vulnerable. Let’s be clear, your previous partner cheating on you was NOT because of anything you did or didn’t do. It’s natural to have those thoughts but do not bring those insecurities forward and manifest them in your new relationship. Be upfront about how your last relationship ended but do not punish your new partner and hold them accountable for your past one. You will be paranoid, but don’t go trying to find things to justify not allowing yourself to trust them. Ask your new partner to be patient with you – and speak up about where your mind goes at times. Trust that you’ve chosen a partner that is not going to go out of their way to hurt you.
Similar Behaviors (as an old partner)
You start questioning if fate will repeat itself. Try not to jump to any crazy conclusions and just express your concern. Take a look at your actions and see if you are looking for things to be similar (we often enjoy a little sabotage in our lives). Be honest as to where this is coming from but do not start treating the situation like the last.You have the power to change and decide your fate. Believe it.
Trust is a big thing in a relationship; it means that you have confidence in them, you think they are reliable and you feel safe with them emotionally and physically. But trust can also be broken when the other party is dishonest or does not keep or follow through with promises. If this bond is broken, you must communicate this openly to your partner and express how it’s made you feel. If you feel it is something that you cannot comprehend or get over, do not spend months/years trying to punish them for their behaviours, walk away and set both of you free.
Living in the Past
When you live in the past, you are not able to truly be present for what’s in front of you in the here and now! And if you’re always focusing on the differences between your past and current state (good or bad) it has the power to leave you feeling unfulfilled regardless of your present circumstances. If you are living in the past and you are comparing how much better it was then this relationship, you’re setting your partner up for failure – no matter what they do – anything they do just won’t be good enough. When you catch yourself doing this, bring yourself back to the present and remind yourself of all the good qualities your partner has and mentally consider gratitude for the person they are.
Whether it be a lack of physical togetherness, experiencing long periods of silence or if it feels like you’ve been having one-sided conversations, feeling emotionally abandoned is a massive trigger. If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to take immediate action once you have admitted there is an issue. The most effective way to do this is to give yourself what it is that you’re seeking from your partner.
Not Feeling Supported
A specific situation may have triggered these feelings – or it’s possibly the fact that you have grown apart with time. Over time, this can leave you feeling drained, tired and unhappy, like you’re trying to get around with an empty tank. It’s important to realize that your partner cannot be the person that always supports you. Are you supporting yourself? Are you reaching out for support? Do they know you need their support?
Taking on Most of the Responsibility
Has this been the case from the beginning? Were you more than willing to do anything to win your partner over and now you are expecting them to take on more responsibility? If so, you need to take ownership for your part and ask your partner for more help instead of nagging about it all the time. If it’s just that your partner is lazy, maybe it’s time you find ways to stop enabling them and help them build better habits.
Over time, rejection can be extremely damaging to the relationship as a whole. In order to protect yourself from further hurt, you are likely to become emotionally withdrawn, distant, and disengaged. It’s important to be clear on what you need because your partner cannot show up for you unless they know specifically what you want. (Think of love languages here – if you’re not speaking his/her language no matter how much/well you think you’re showing the depths of your feelings – they’re not going to get it.)
Being Discounted or Ignored
If you have a partner who dismisses your feelings (about anything), talk about how this affects you and makes you feel. Make sure that you have calmed down and are not speaking from a negative emotional space so that you can be clear about your feelings.
Being Blamed or Shamed
We all go through good times and bad but it’s important to not get into a blame pattern. If there are recurring issues or just issues in general that need to be addressed, ask your partner to point them out gently. Try your best not to take it personally as this is a reflection of them and not you.
If you’re feeling like you can’t bring your best self forward in fear that they are going to judge you, you need to express this in a loving way. Ask them if they even know that they’re doing it. It could also be your perception, especially if you’re seeking validation from your partner and not getting the responses that you want.
Someone Not Appearing to Be Happy to See You
Don’t take things so personally at first glance every time. You don’t know what’s going on in the other person’s mind a lot of times and you need to be respectful of what they’re going through as well. Try not to let your mind go to the negative right away. If this behaviour continues to persist, then you can decide to have an open conversation. Just keep in mind that other people are not you and they won’t always have the same reaction to situations as you do. Check your expectations.
Struggling to Tame Your Triggers?
If you find yourself being repeatedly triggered by any of the examples above, here are 3 things to keep in mind.
Practice Healthy Boundaries
- Not only for yourself, but for your relationship. It’s important to voice what’s important to you because the other person doesn’t always know how to show up/what you need unless you tell them. And although you’re madly in love and want to spend every waking moment with them, you need to continue to live your life even if that means doing things apart. You need to be a healthy individual outside of the relationship to be able to be a healthy partner in it. You both need to be “I’s” before you can become a solid “we”.
Share With a Friend or Mentor
- Remember that your partner doesn’t serve every role for you. You can’t get everything you need from one person. Sometimes working through certain things personally and with someone else outside of the relationship can help you gain the clarity that you need. Because let’s face it, if you’re so stuck and focused on what’s going wrong, it’s really hard to be able to get a different result. Reach out, and talk about it. (That’s what friends are for…)
Don’t Stuff Your Feelings
- Honour where you’re at. (This doesn’t mean that you need to spew your feelings everywhere or to everyone. Tip – no one enjoys emotional vomit.) If you’re feeling a certain way – ALLOW YOURSELF TO FEEL IT! Don’t stuff feelings down or mask them. Cry if you need to cry, laugh if you need to laugh, go hit a killer workout to burn off the angry steam. When you allow yourself this opportunity to feel whatever it is you are feeling – you often give yourself the freedom you were looking for in the first place. Let go – feel. It’s the step you need to take to move beyond what you’re feeling right now. It may be scary, because it’s so different from what you’ve done in the past, but go on, feel those feelings, I give you permission. Because if you hold those feelings in, you’re just going to end up blowing up one day and regretting the missed chance of letting go (as you assess the carnage). (Bonus tip – no one likes having to clean up the shit after it hits the fan.)