Does your partner trigger memories and emotions from your past that you can’t seem to shake? You’re not alone. Trauma has a way of creeping into every aspect of our lives, especially our relationships. But, it doesn’t have to define your present or your future.
Imagine a relationship where you feel supported, understood, and free to be yourself. A relationship where your triggers don’t dictate your every move and where you can communicate openly and honestly with your partner. It’s possible, and we’re here to help you get there.
In this article, we’ll provide practical solutions and strategies to help you better understand your triggers, manage them in the moment, and strengthen your relationship. So, take a deep breath and let’s embark on a journey toward a happier, healthier, and more connected relationship.
Understanding Your Trauma Triggers
Triggers refer to any specific incidents, behaviours, or events that bring back traumatic memories or emotions. Trauma triggers can be incredibly intense and personal experiences, with sources ranging from seemingly harmless sensations or sounds to specific smells or even a tone of voice. The first step in this process is to gain awareness and understanding of what triggers you.
Reflect on your triggers
Begin by reflecting on past situations where you felt triggered in your relationship. Write down what happened, what your partner said or did, and how you felt. This exercise can help you identify patterns in your trigger response and become more self-aware.
You may want to keep a journal to store your observations.
After you have reflected on what triggers you, it is time to start looking for patterns. Identifying patterns in your trigger response will help you gain a deeper understanding of what specifically triggers you and why.
Ask yourself the following questions either during or after:
- What were you physically feeling?
- What were you thinking?
- What did you want to do?
For example, you may notice that certain topics of discussion cause you to shut down or withdraw, while raised voices may cause a fawning or people-pleasing response.
By recognizing these patterns, you can start to understand why you react the way you do in these situations.
This self-awareness can help you to feel more in control and equipped to handle triggers when they occur in the future. Additionally, recognizing patterns can also help you and your partner identify ways to avoid or manage triggers in your relationship.
Improving Communication with Your Partner
Effective communication will be key to managing trigger responses in your relationship. You and your partner will need to collaborate and support each other in order to effectively address these challenges. Here are some communication tips to consider:
Use open and honest communication
Open and honest communication is essential in any relationship, especially when it comes to managing triggers. It’s important to let your partner know about your triggers and how they affect you. This allows for greater understanding and empathy from your partner, and can also lead to finding ways to manage triggers together.
Use “I” Statements
It can be easy to blame others when we are feeling triggered, but it is important to remember that your partner is not the enemy. By using “I” statements, you maintain the ability to work as a team against the enemy. For example, “I feel triggered when you touch me unexpectedly” is more effective than “You shouldn’t touch me like that.” Remember, trauma is the enemy.
Approach the conversation with your partner with empathy
Starting a conversation about triggers can be difficult, but it’s important to approach it with kindness and understanding. Your partner may find it difficult to hear that they are triggering your trauma and may even get defensive. If your partner has experienced trauma, these conversations may even trigger a trauma response in your partner.
Try to find a time when you’re both relaxed and not in the middle of an argument. Explain to your partner your triggers using the “I” statements described above. You may also want to share some examples of when you have been triggered in the past and let your partner know how they can support you in the future.
Set boundaries and ask for support from your partner
Setting boundaries is key in managing triggers. It’s important to clearly communicate your needs to your partner in order to feel safe and secure. For instance, if certain topics trigger you, request that your partner steer clear of them or approach them in a more empathetic and sensitive manner.
Don’t hesitate to reach out for support from your partner when you’re feeling triggered. This could involve asking for a temporary pause in the conversation, or simply seeking comfort and a listening ear from your partner.
By setting boundaries and seeking support, you and your partner can collaborate and navigate triggers in a positive and mutually supportive manner.
Discuss a safety plan
When triggers hit, they can leave you feeling overwhelmed and needing space. But the fear of how this might be perceived by your partner can make the thought of taking a break overwhelming in itself. It can be helpful to have a pre-agreed upon phrase with your partner to help facilitate your escape to a safe space.
By coming up with a pre-agreed phrase with your partner, such as “I’m feeling triggered and I need a moment to myself,” you can take control of the situation and find the peace you need without any added stress.
Imagine the relief of knowing that you have a plan in place, one that allows you to prioritize your well-being and take care of yourself in the moment. Don’t let fear hold you back – take charge and make this plan with your partner today.
Coping With Trauma Triggers in the Moment
The significance of handling triggers as they occur and keeping a level head cannot be emphasized enough. Triggers can often make you feel like you’re losing control, with emotions taking over and causing distress, anxiety, and even panic. But by maintaining your composure and utilizing effective methods to manage your triggers, you can take back control and minimize their effect on your life.
Have a plan in place
It’s important to have a plan in place for when triggers occur. This can include having a go-to self-care activity or a trusted person to call for support. Having a plan can give you a sense of control and help you feel more prepared when triggers arise. Make sure to communicate your plan ahead of time with your partner.
Deep breathing involves taking slow, deep breaths and focusing on the sensation of the breath moving in and out of your body. This technique can help slow your heart rate, calm your nervous system, and reduce feelings of anxiety or stress. In addition, research shows that deep breathing can improve mood and reduce emotional volatility.
Practicing deep breathing regularly can help you develop greater awareness of your body and emotions, and give you a tool you can use in the moment to manage triggers.
If you want to learn more about deep breathing and other mindfulness exercises, you can find more detailed instructions on websites such as WebMD or Calm.
Mindfulness means honing in on the present moment with a non-judgmental outlook and zeroing in on your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. By immersing yourself in the present, you’ll cultivate a sense of calm and stability, even amidst the storm of challenging emotions or sensations that might arise.
Here is a simple mindfulness exercise you can try:
- Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or stand
- Close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths
- Pay attention to your thoughts and emotions, without trying to change them
- Focus on the physical sensations in your body, such as the sensation of your breath, the sensation of your feet on the ground, or the feeling of your clothes against your skin
- If your mind begins to wander, gently bring your attention back to the present moment and your physical sensations
- Repeat this practice for several minutes, or as long as you need
Practicing mindfulness regularly can help you develop greater awareness of your body and emotions, and give you a tool you can use in the moment to manage triggers.
If you want to learn more about mindfulness and other related practices, you can find more detailed instructions on websites such as Headspace or Calm.
Remember to be gentle and compassionate with yourself. You are doing your best, and it’s okay to take a step back and prioritize your well-being. With time, patience, and the right tools, you can learn to manage your triggers and live a more fulfilling life.
In conclusion, it’s important to acknowledge that trauma triggers can be incredibly difficult to deal with and can take a toll on your relationships and overall well-being. However, know that there is hope and there are steps you can take to gain control and find peace.
Healing is a journey, not a destination, and it requires time, effort, and the support of loved ones. Surround yourself with a support system of friends and family, and consider working with a professional therapist who can provide guidance and support.
The key to managing trauma triggers in relationships is open and honest communication, taking care of yourself, and staying present in the moment. By implementing these strategies, you can lessen the impact of triggers and strengthen your relationship with your partner.
So, take a deep breath and remember that you have the courage and strength to overcome these challenges. Healing is possible and you deserve to live a life free from the burden of triggers. Keep moving forward, one step at a time, and never hesitate to reach out for help when you need it.
For more in-depth reading, consider checking out the following books:
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
Trauma and Recovery by Judith Lewis Herman, M.D.