Conflict is normal for couples to experience. The way we handle disagreements has a great influence on the direction of the relationship. Conflicts handled well build more trust and intimacy, whereas poorly handled conflicts add to resentment and mistrust which are poisonous to a relationship.
In my Resolving Relationship Conflicts Guide, I briefly explain how emotional triggers or being emotionally ‘hijacked’ works and how to calm your nervous system so that you can move to a place of understanding. This is an important area of relating especially for parents considering that 92% of couples say they have more conflict after they have children.
If you haven’t already, go ahead and download my guide on Resolving Relationship Conflicts.
In addition to this guide, identifying triggers and understanding your story with them helps conflict to be resolved more easily. So you can spend more time loving and less time arguing.
1. Identify the Trigger
When triggered, the primal nervous system hijacks our experience and causes us to feel reactive. It is sensitive to our perception of how we are being treated in our close relationships. The primal nervous system doesn’t have a strong grip on reality and we can find ourselves being highly reactive to small things in relationships. This is one of the sure signs we are being triggered.
To be clear, there are serious forms of violence and emotional abuse that can happen in relationships. If you have a sense of being in a situation like this please seek help.
I’ve created a list of experiences below. I encourage you to consider the last flare up with your partner, then look through this list to see if there any familiar triggers.
made to look bad
taken advantage of
You may find more than one. For simplicity let’s stick with one for now. Choose one that is most familiar or holds a lot of charge.
The way triggers work is we project painful emotions we experienced in the past onto present-day interactions. Because they are so painful we react in self-defence to anything that reminds us of a past experience to avoid those feelings.
Now, what I want you to do is to scan back through your life to a time when you were young and you were experiencing a similar trigger. Explore that time perhaps in a journal, how it happened and what you felt. Keep in mind the descriptions of these ‘triggers’ listed above are not really feelings, so it is a good idea to get beyond the mind and explore the feelings you were having. Say for being criticized, you may have felt embarrassed, scared, guilty, angry, numb or a combination of feelings.
One of the powerful questions to explore is what were you needing at the time?
When you have more understanding of your story in relation to your triggers you can share this with your partner, or a close friend who may have experienced you in this way.
3. Be prepared
Having a better understanding of your triggers enables you to make things better for the next time a situation hijacks you.
It will help you more quickly identify that you are being hijacked. Having explored your needs around the trigger will give you a better understanding of what to ask for rather than reacting and being defensive.
Be willing to be vulnerable to admit and expose your understandings of why you are feeling so much. With practice and with the strategies given in the “Resolving Relationship Conflicts Guide” you will be on a path of more meaningful and rich relationship.
I understand that exploring and understanding ourselves in this way is not always easy, and explaining your story to your partner can be daunting. Keep in mind this will contribute to a greater understanding of the way you relate and a great benefit to all relationships.
If you feel you need more support, I am available for mentoring and coaching and will help you gain clarity on moving forward to better relationships.