In relationships, much of what we fight over or are triggered by goes much deeper than couples realize. You may be upset that your partner left his/her socks out again, or that he/she didn’t strike up a conversation with you. Or maybe they had a certain “tone” last time you talked. Or any other common complaints or day to day issues that all couples face.
Through this blog, I want to encourage you to think about the more important underlying emotions in these scenarios – the ones that it is easy to overlook in the midst of the moment. In the moment, anger is probably blinding you from these. Your body is in survival mode, and your brain is telling you to fight or flee. Please know – this is NOT a great time to try to “get to the bottom” of something. Our systems are completely hijacked during this, and we are not capable of doing what this very blog is aimed at encouraging you to do. Which is: be better about identifying both YOU and YOUR PARTNER’S underlying emotions driving the behaviors.
Here’s what I mean by this – when you are angry I’d like to ask you to stop, breathe, and answer the following question:
What am I afraid of right now?
When your partner is angry I’d like to ask you to stop, breathe, and ask yourself the following question:
What is my partner afraid of right now?
I’m not implying that there is ALWAYS, 100%, without a doubt, a fear underneath anger. Maybe there are cases where there is not. But there is definitely an underlying hidden emotional experience that is driving anger/frustration and its accompanying stress response symptoms.
Perhaps you are afraid your partner isn’t noticing you and you feel unimportant – and that’s why them leaving their socks on the ground is driving you mad. Or, you have been feeling alone and you fear your partner is no longer interested in you, so when they didn’t seem into the conversation you were highly triggered. Maybe your partner fears inadequacy, and never wants to look bad in your eyes – and that’s why he or she became very defensive when you were frustrated by something they did.
If you can unlock some of these underlying emotions, you can begin to give life to them in your relationship and see your partner as a human being with fears and emotions that are simply difficult to express sometimes. You can acknowledge and help soothe both your own and your partner’s vulnerabilities rather than let them drive you apart. Is this easy to get in the habit of? No! That’s why couples therapists exist. But give it a try – go a little deeper – look for what’s really going on, why something is a trigger, where it comes from in your partner’s past, why it might be rearing its ugly head in this moment. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Talk about these vulnerable emotions and allow them to bring you closer from time to time.
If you need help practicing this, call us at 312.809.8702 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your first appointment.