Despite all the work we do on our healing and growth, there are times when something can set off feelings in us that we thought we had dealt with. Triggers from the past have a way of showing up when we least expect them. Triggers are usually created when when we are children. When something happened that caused us to be upset, especially an incident/s that created a strong impact, it’s likely a trigger was formed. The more such incidents are repeated, the more the trigger was reinforced. So when circumstances similar to what created the trigger in the first place occur, they set us off certain behaviour in us.These triggers in relationships can cause havoc, but if dealt with properly can also be used to heal ourselves and each other.
Triggers in Relationships
Dr. Sue Johnson in her book “Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love” calls triggers “raw spots.” She defines them as hypersensitivity to something that caused our needs to be neglected, ignored, or dismissed. As a result, we are left “emotionally deprived or deserted.“
He comes home late a few times, you know that he’s told you in advance, but you still feel abandoned sitting alone at home. And the moment he comes home you let fly, “You don’t care about me. I’m not a priority for you.” You are really not mad at him for being late, but this has triggered something from your past – all the times you stayed up waiting for your father to come home from work. But he was always late and one day, he just left! Now your abandonment issues with your father show up in your relationship with your husband.
Triggers in relationships can include a certain tone of voice that makes you feel disrespected, the shrug of a shoulder that makes you feel s/he doesn’t care enough, criticism that makes you feel put down, etc.
How can you control these triggers in relationships?
- Find out what is the source of the trigger. This takes awareness and introspection. It requires you to go into your past. You ask yourself what your partner’s behaviour/ action sets off in you. What does it remind you of from your past.
- Keep the focus on yourself. You must realize that the problem is not your partner’s behaviour, but your response to that behaviour. Trying journaling, reaching out for help, talking it over with people who knew your past. If you are having problems in your relationship, triggers get activated sooner. I’d advise you to seek professional counseling from a licensed therapist. You could find a suitable one on ReGain.
- Explain the trigger to your partner. Help her/him to see what sets you off. Talk about your feelings. For example, “When you come home late, I feel abandoned, because it reminds me of how I felt with my father….”
Remember, triggers are there to help us heal from past hurts. If you and your partner can work on your relationship triggers together, you can become a stronger couple.
Are you aware of some triggers in your relationship? How are you working on them?