If you’re like most couples, when things are good, they’re great. However, when sh*t hits the fan…. well, we become undone and then become someone we’re not. It’s like we become out-of-control little green monsters that think it’s okay to be mean and defensive.
We say hurtful things to the one person we love the most, and we often walk out even though our partner is clearly upset and begging to talk.
Why do we do this? Why do we act this way? Even though our better judgement tells us we’re being ridiculous, stubborn, or just being a big jerk?
How we respond or react to a feeling we get when we are in a situation that doesn’t feel good to us, are our very own unique coping mechanisms that typically stem from our childhood. Watching our own parents cope in stressful situations, has a way of seeping into our memories and creating what soon becomes our adult coping skills. Though some of our coping skills may be useful at times, there are others that are not.
Some of the more common ones include:
- Physically walking away in the middle of a conversation with our partner.
- Becoming frustrated and showing outward emotions like crying, screaming, or yelling.
- The need to show physical frustration by hitting something (or someone).
- Disassociating with the situation thus shutting down emotionally.
- Disassociating from the situation by shutting down verbally (also known as stonewalling).
- Confusion, blame, and gaslighting are other examples of this.
The emotions we have usually go much deeper than just what is going on at that moment. These are triggers that originate from a past situation, event, or trauma. The key is to not allow being triggered to be an excuse for bad or negative behaviour.
It all starts with being willing to take on a new perspective of how you look at things and to remind yourself that your partner looks at things very different from you, and both are valid. No one is wrong. You are both two individuals with different values, beliefs, and past experiences.
Learning to not take things personally is the first step, and will help you handle those triggers with compassion and patience.
Here are just a few ideas to help you to develop some conflict-resolution skills and create a stronger relationship with your partner:
Once you re-connect and feel that closeness together will bring up those levels of oxytocin, and lower your serotonin which is your stress hormone, allowing you both to feel a lot closer, and listen without the triggers that are attached when you resume your conversation.
I would like to add that while your triggers may never completely go away, self-reflection is key. It is helpful to take notes when you feel those triggers come up. Personally, I love to journal my fears because it allows me to take out the emotion and deal with the actual issue, rather than the emotion of it. Over time you can start to identify where those triggers are coming from and work towards healing them through whatever modalities best suit you. Not only will this benefit you in the long run for your peace and state of mind, but also help to create more positive relationships with your partner, and others around you.
Finding that sweet spot when it comes to both you and your partner finding new coping skills to work together may not be easy, but in the end, it is so well worth it. Accepting and understanding that you both have triggers is the first step. Remember that when frustrations and anxiety run high will take a little bit of effort on both of your parts, but once you create that new habit to take a pause and a breath or two, it will become so much easier to create positive communication on both sides moving forward. Utilizing your newfound coping skills will allow for much smoother communication with far less conflict, and much easier resolution in all the situations you face together.