What is it about your spouse that makes you react in ways that no one else causes you to react? Is your spouse deliberately pushing your buttons, or do you have some emotional reaction triggers you aren’t conscious of?
You may not be sure why you react the way you do when your spouse says or does something—but there is a biological reason.
In this blog, we’ll look at where these reactions are born, and lets look at 3 steps for managing them a little better to improve communication between you and your spouse.
Where Emotional Triggers are Born
When people complain about their spouses, they usually say things such as:
“He/she makes me so frustrated when he/she [fill in the blank].”
“I think he/she goes out of his/her way to irritate me.”
On some level, it can be unnerving to have an overly emotional reaction to something our spouse says or does. You wonder if this person is deliberately trying to get you going or upset you: could they really enjoy seeing you angry and upset?
Also, you feel frustrated because your spouse is often the one person with whom you seem to regularly lose control. It’s disconcerting, because it feels as if they have a level of power over you that is uncomfortable because you feel yourself going out of rational mode and into react mode—something that may not occur with anyone else.
Why can’t you control your emotions with your spouse and have that blissful marriage everyone talks about?
The reason is, emotional reactions occur prior to conscious thought. It’s that fight or flight sergeant—the amygdala—that catches subtle stimuli and attaches significance to it well before our upper reasoning capabilities are even aware of them.
Let’s say in your childhood, when you did something wrong, your parent would get a certain look on their face, maybe a slight downturn to the mouth. On an emotional level, you have attached a certain negative significance to that facial expression: it means you’re in trouble.
So let’s say today, you and your spouse are discussing something and he or she has a slight downturn to the mouth in response to something you’ve said. What happens is this emotional memory gets triggered, and you lash out because you feel threatened: your spouse is indicating you’re “wrong” about this issue—though nothing has been said.
Here are three steps to better manage your emotional reactions:
Step 1: Don’t Believe Everything You Feel
It’s possible to believe an emotional reaction is a fact—even when it’s no more than a trigger response. When you feel something strongly in relation to something your spouse says or does, question it: what facts support your belief?
Step 2: Take Stock of Your Physical Response
When we feel threatened, our heart rate can increase. If you and your spouse are having a discussion and you feel yourself getting upset, take a moment and feel your heartbeat: is it quickened? If so, you may be reacting emotionally which is subverting your ability to work rationally with your spouse.
Step 3: Take a Time Out
If you and your spouse are having a conversation and you feel yourself getting heated up, it’s okay to take a break. Tell your spouse, “I would like to continue this in a half hour.” Then, take a break. Get your breathing and heart rate back under control, question what you perceive to be the ‘truth’ of what your spouse is saying or doing, and go back with a calmer thinking process.
Eventually, with enough practice, you will learn how to quickly assess your emotional state and manage it as it happens. It takes practice because, again, emotional reactions are happening on a level that is immediate—well before your conscious mind has had a chance to give a rational going-over to whatever the stimulus is.
I’d be interested to hear about your struggles with emotional reaction …
The Link Below Just Might Be The Link To Saving Your Marriage.
Saving Your Marriage
Do you fly off the handle with your spouse?
Are there specific things your partner says or does that you feel trigger your reaction?
Do you believe that at times, your emotions are at odds with your rational, conscious brain?
Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,