In Relationships, Let’s Push More Buttons, Fewer Triggers

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Trigger warning

By now everyone is familiar with the language of “triggering.” It has, unfortunately, been hijacked in the service of calling someone who feels “triggered” as if that is a bad thing.

Knowing our triggers, knowing ourselves, is a good thing. However, more tools to think about it, with nuance and language does a lot of good in relationships.

Partners trigger each other every day. When you hear a defensive tone, you are triggered, when you speak with one, you are triggered.

Let’s look at a hypothetical:

“Honey, I thought you were going to put out the recycling last night.”

“Oh, I forgot, probably because Bill came by. I’ll do it this afternoon.”

“Why not now?”

“Why does it have to be done right now?”

And, they are off and running.

Let’s call them Bob and Mary, and imagine any combination of pronouns, coupledom, that you like. Our human ability to be triggered is just that, human. It does not depend upon sex or gender.

Bob and Mary have one child, one dog, one cat, and one big problem. Each wants to be heard, and each, instead feels mildly “triggered.”

They invalidate one another when they speak. Mary wants to be validated that she reminded Bob, and that she is dutiful and conscientious about tasks. She wants to push progress forward.

Bob feels like this is nagging. Mary also feels like he is nagging her, to remind her repeatedly that her “reminding” is not respected, or honored, but dismissed.

The first remedy is to notice a trigger has occurred.

The next step is to take a very short time out. One partner must say, “Hold on, let’s come back to this.”

The third step is to come back after the frustrating thoughts, annoyance, physical symptoms of it, have faded somewhat. Take a couple of deep breaths, to recalibrate. Say “sorry,” if appropriate. (it almost never hurts and is very validating to a partner.)

Don’t pull the trigger of a gun, instead push a button

A fourth step which I prefer in couples work is language work.

Using the word “trigger” implies a violence, a weapon, and a certain hostility.

There certainly are times when it is an appropriate word, of course, especially as concerns our past traumas and early childhood needs. And, now we have a whole other layer of politicizing it.

There is an alternative.

Think about the phrase “pushing his buttons, pushing her buttons, or pushing their buttons.”

It speaks to our familiar visceral responses, our ingrained habits, and our impatience with one another. Yet, it doesn’t involve the same now heavily laden idea of “triggering.”

Also, due to the less hostile imagery, pushing buttons can become a huge positive.

Consider the following:

I pushed her “I love home-made lasagna button.”
I pushed his “Isn’t that an adorable puppy face button?”
She pushes my “I love that you know so much about woodworking button”.
He pushes my “I love travel and adventure button.”
We push one another’s “let’s get up and dance button.”
We push one another’s “let’s just be lazy and watch a movie button”.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. Just as we all have triggers, we all have buttons. We all react and for the most part we all react automatically.

Pushing the right buttons for the right reasons, for connection, bonding, and security are really good habits to create. We can acknowledge and build a world full of both sad and happy buttons, but fewer traps and triggers.

Previously Published on medium

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The post In Relationships, Let’s Push More Buttons, Fewer Triggers appeared first on The Good Men Project.


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