Lesson 8 of 11 Lesson 8 of 11

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Last activity on July 17, 2024

Know Thyself: Recognizing Your “Hot Button” Emotional Triggers in Relationships

Did you know that divorce rates have declined over 18% since 2008?

The driving force behind this impressive drop is more people are taking their time getting to know themselves and their partners better. Relationship issues are very common, but we’re learning to cope in healthy, productive ways.

One of the most powerful ways to improve your mental health and relationships is to identify your emotional triggers and work on overcoming them.

If you want to learn more about the psychology behind emotional triggers, keep reading. This article will walk you through everything you need to know so you can become happier and healthier.

How Does Our Past Impact Our Relationships?

Every relationship you’ve ever had, whether platonic or romantic, influences how 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. Although some coping mechanisms may help in the short term, they can harm your well-being. Some mechanisms can even sabotage your romantic relationships.

Whether you know it or not, every person carries baggage and gets triggered by 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 can develop from insecurities or times when others hurt you in the past. They’re so troubling because they often make you react instead of calmly discussing what’s bothering you with your partner.

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 want to pick a fight for no reason. 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 name your emotional triggers, they become less daunting. Here are some of the most common emotional triggers in romantic relationships:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 they will also mistreat you. These trust issues can cause you to punish them before they do anything wrong.
  3. The past and future: If you have any fears about your relationship, things that you and your partner did and said in the past can haunt your future. If your partner ever reflects on the past or makes plans for the future, this could cause you to feel insecure or upset.
  4. 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.
  5. Family and friends: Having strong relationships with people other than your partner is healthy. 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.

How Can I Identify My Emotional Triggers?

To overcome your emotional triggers, you need to catch yourself the moment you’re having a reaction and train yourself to respond more healthily. The best way to do this is to pay close attention to your mood throughout the day and make note of any times when you feel negative.

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:

  1. 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 you need time to gather your thoughts.
  2. 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?
  3. Remind yourself of your and your partner’s best qualities. Most emotional triggers occur when something minor happens, and there is no real threat. Staying positive can help you recognize that you do not need to feel insecure.
  4. Communicate with your partner. Tell them what triggers you and why. Once they know your feelings, they can do their best to help you feel safe and avoid getting hurt.
  5. Go to couples counseling if you need help communicating your emotional triggers and finding healthy solutions to improve your relationship. A counselor has all the tools you need to unpack your baggage, work through issues in a safe, nonjudgmental environment, and heal.

Once you identify your emotional triggers, you can start taking the steps to heal and grow in your relationship.


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