Did you know that divorce rates have declined more than 18% since 2008?
The driving force behind this impressive drop is that more people are taking their time getting to know themselves and their partners better.
When people first begin relationships, problems are more easily forgiven and overlooked. However, over time these can become more significant, or bigger differences between can show up.
Relationship issues are very common, but people are learning how to cope in healthy, productive ways. One of the most powerful ways you can improve your mental health and relationship is to identify your emotional triggers and work on overcoming them.
There’s a basic psychology behind why we react the way we do towards our partners. This article will walk you through everything you need to know so you can become a happier and healthier couple.
How Does Our Past Impact Our Relationships?
Every relationship you’ve ever had, whether it was platonic or romantic, influences the way you treat others and react to certain situations in the future. Over time, the more negative experiences you have, the more ways you learn to cope.
Everyone’s top goal should be to accept and love themselves so they can heal from the past, but many of us don’t have the right tools to do that. Although some coping mechanisms may help in the short term, they can actually be detrimental to your wellbeing over time. Some coping methods can even sabotage your romantic relationships.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, every person carries baggage and gets triggered from their past. In a nurturing relationship, both partners can work to unpack that baggage together instead of letting it create distance between them. Emotional triggers are some of the heaviest things people carry in their baggage.
What Are Emotional Triggers?
Emotional triggers are hot buttons that elicit powerful negative emotions. Emotional triggers are topics that make you feel uncomfortable, which can cause a cascade of feelings and responses. The reason why they’re so troubling is that they often make you react impulsively instead of calmly discussing what’s bothering you with your partner. These triggers can develop from insecurities or times when others hurt you in the past.
Emotional triggers can cause people to react in many different ways. Some responses could include yelling, being mean, becoming closed off, crying, or blaming. No matter how you react to your triggers, the takeaway is that you’re trying to cope with unresolved pain.
If your partner isn’t aware of your emotional triggers, they could feel like your behavior changes without warning. Not only can your response to an emotional trigger be alarming to them, but they might think you just want to pick a fight for no reason. Or, they may feel like you’re attacking them because you’re having doubts in the relationship. This is why untreated emotional triggers can cause happy relationships to fail.
What Are the Most Common Emotional Triggers?
Although each person’s experiences are unique, there are some themes we all have in common. Once you can put a name to your emotional triggers, they become less daunting. Here are some of the most common emotional triggers in romantic relationships:
- Your partner’s exes: There are several different ways your partner’s exes can cause problems. Your partner could still talk to them, you may not know much information about them, or you could have insecurities about yourself if you compare yourself to them. This can be particularly difficult when your partner is co-parenting with an ex.
- Your exes: Were you ever cheated on, lied to, manipulated, or ignored? If you were mistreated in past relationships, you may project that on your future partners and believe that will mistreat you as well. You may still feel this way when there’s no evidence to support it, or even when there’s evidence to the contrary. These trust issues can cause you to punish them before they even do anything wrong.
- The past and future: Things that you and your partner did and said in the past can haunt your future if you have any fears about your relationship. If your partner ever reflects on the past or makes plans for the future, this could cause you to feel insecure or upset. You may fear that you’re not on the same page about the future. That could be true, or it could be that you simply haven’t talked it through yet.
- Affection: Relationships are supposed to make us feel loved, but sometimes our needs aren’t met. Sex, affection, boundaries, quality time, words of affirmation, and other acts of love can all trigger a negative emotional response. A lack of these actions can also have the same effect.
- Family and friends: It’s healthy to have strong relationships with other people besides your partner. However, there can be some clashing or discomfort when you try to bring everyone together. Holidays, parties, and other social events can become an emotional trigger if you or your partner have issues with family or friends. You or your partner may also feel threatened or jealous at times by your relationships with others.
How Can I Identify My Emotional Triggers?
In order to overcome your emotional triggers, you need to catch yourself the moment you’re having a reaction and train yourself to respond in a healthier manner. The best way to do this is to pay close attention to your mood throughout the day and make note of any times where you feel negatively.
Look for patterns where your reaction seems overblown compared to the situation. If you’re asking yourself why you’re so upset, that’s a clue that this might be an ongoing emotional trigger.
Your partner may also be a good source of information about your triggers. They may have insight about certain topics that make you most upset.
Writing about your feelings can also help. Starting a journal has tons of mental health benefits. If you notice you’ve been in a bad mood all day, you can review what happened and try to pinpoint the triggers that caused you to feel unhappy. Once you’re more aware of your triggers, you can take the necessary actions to avoid them.
What Can I Do to Overcome My Emotional Triggers?
Once you’ve identified what triggers you, you can start working on developing healthier habits whenever you feel negative emotions surfacing. The following steps can help you overcome your emotional triggers:
- Recognize when you’re getting triggered and shift your attention back onto yourself. Focus on breathing, calming your heart rate, and maintaining your composure. If you need to excuse yourself to avoid a confrontation, tell your partner that you need some time to gather your thoughts.
- Acknowledge that your feelings are valid and try to examine them. Who or what has caused you to have this strong reaction? Is your reaction unwarranted or is your partner demonstrating the same behaviors that have made you feel unsafe or unloved in the past?
- Remind yourself of your own and your partner’s best qualities. Most emotional triggers occur when something minor happens and there is no real threat. Trying to stay positive can help you recognize that there’s no need for you to feel insecure.
- Communicate with your partner. Tell them what triggers you and why. Once they’re aware of your feelings, they can do their best to help you feel safe and avoid getting hurt. They can also understand better what’s happening for you emotionally when this trigger comes up again.
- Go to couples’ counseling if you need help communicating your emotional triggers and finding healthy solutions to improve your relationship. A counselor has all of the tools you need to unpack your baggage and work through issues in a safe, nonjudgmental environment and heal.
Where Can I Find Couples’ Counseling Near Me?
Once you identify your emotional triggers, you can start taking the steps you need to heal and grow in your relationship.
If you and your partner have been struggling with issues and feel stuck in your relationship, we are a group of skilled therapists with over 20 years of experience specializing in couples/marriage counseling. Since Covid started we have been seeing clients in New York, New York City, Scarsdale, East Hampton, Buffalo and Albany. Schedule a complimentary consultation by clicking HERE.