Let me know if this sounds familiar…
You’re having a conversation with your partner about something innocent and pleasant… maybe you’re making dinner plans or deciding which movie to see… when you feel an unpleasant sensation bubbling up inside you.
Maybe it was caused by something your partner said. Maybe it’s about how she said it.
Most of the time, you probably can’t put your finger on exactly why you’re feeling this way. But there it is just the same… you’re looking at your partner and suddenly you feel on edge. Annoyed. Even angry.
If you’re like most couples I’ve talked to and worked with, there’s simply no doubt about it – sometimes these sudden, negative feelings develop like a small storm. They seem to crop up out of nowhere, coming at you from unexpected directions, as you interact with your partner.
Bad news is, it doesn’t seem to matter at all how much we’re in love or how vigilant we are about respecting each other’s thoughts and feelings – every once in awhile we just seem to get “triggered” by something that our partner says or does.
It’s almost like we have some kind of pre-existing condition… a hardwired reaction to certain words or behaviors that are presented to us.
No matter how innocent a they are, they seem to provoke us.
They literally “trigger” us.
Here’s What’s Happening…
Think about the last time your partner caused these feelings in you, and you felt like you didn’t have a clue why. After all, this isn’t about getting nagged about leaving the toilet seat up or the top off the toothpaste.
Like we said – often, your trigger isn’t even about what she says at all… but how she says it. It can be about something as small as when she subtly raises an eyebrow in that certain way that seems to cut you to the bone.
Now, pack up that feeling and carry it with you into the past…
Compare it to times you can remember from your earlier life when someone who’s emotionally important to you spoke to you, looked at you, or corrected you in a similar way,
If you’re like most guys, it won’t take too long for you to come up with an example. Did the way a parent talked to you in a similar way make you feel attacked or inadequate? Did a sibling treat you with that same infuriating passive-aggressiveness?
Whatever it was, it happened… and now those same negative feelings are shackled to you… always there whether or not there’s an obvious reason for you to feel them in your present life and relationship with your partner.
Now here’s the good news…
Once you can put your finger on the past roots of your trigger, a new world of opportunity opens up to increase intimacy and connection within your present relationship.
Here’s an example from my own experience…
… and the mind-blowing epiphany that equipped my wife and I with a powerful new tool for handling frustrating, damaging “trigger moments” like these in our relationship.
This one happened early in our relationship when I was having a fun conversation with my then-fiancee. We were talking about our plans for the evening. It was all very relaxed, until, all of a sudden and seemingly out of nowhere, I saw sharp annoyance flash in my fiancee’s expression.
To be honest, I was instantly annoyed by her annoyance.
I didn’t feel like I deserved it. It triggered negative feelings in me. They, in turn, escalated her own negative emotions.
And That’s When It Hit Me…
As she talked to me in this annoyed way, it looked as if she weren’t really talking to me at all.
I could see something happen… an attitude coming from a totally different part of her. It was almost as if she were showing a flash of a different personality altogether, or maybe a different-aged version of herself, that was responding to what I had said.
In fact, it felt like she was reacting to someone else who was actually in the room, standing over my shoulder or behind me.
I was struck by this. So I made a conscious decision to pause, relax, defocus my reaction and not let my irritation sweep me up.
I told her that I felt weird about her reaction to me right now. That there really wasn’t any justification for how she was treating me.
Then I asked her, “When you just got annoyed right there, who were you actually talking to? Because I sure don’t think you were talking to me.”
My beautiful fiancee stopped cold. She really thought about it.
And then she told me that it felt like she was talking to her father.
It was an amazing moment.
So much about how my wife and I now handle “trigger” moments like this evolved from that moment.
So now, whenever one of us is feeling suddenly defensive or annoyed without an obvious cause, we pause and call it out.
And an astonishing shift inevitably happens.
We suddenly really hear the words that are coming out of our mouths, and it becomes glaringly obvious. We realize we’re lashing out at someone else who’s wounded us, and that our emotional reaction is out of line with anything that our partner deserves.
Even better: we now ask each other to respond again but without the trigger emotion… only with consciousness of what we are actually trying to communicate with good intentions.
I can’t tell you how much power this simple tool has had in our relationship.
We Now Deal With More Mindful, Connected Versions Of Each Other
Now, everything that happens following a trigger moment becomes de-escalating. It becomes calming. It becomes reassuring and reinforcing to one another.
So, the next time your partner gives you one of those tones, words or behaviors that trigger you, pay close attention to those negative feelings as they bubble up inside you.
What’s really bringing this into your relationship?
Use this tool correctly, and you’re inviting powerful new intimacy and insight into every interaction with your partner.
You’re laying down the weapons of conflict and making sense of what’s really happening in your relationship.
Above all, learn to use this simple tool, and you’ll watch your relationship become more responsible, mature, and… above all… happy.
For more relationship advice from David DeAngelo, check out his new program Love: The Final Chapter today!