This May Be Why You Can't Communicate Well In Your Relationship
Do you ever just tense up in conversation with your partner after they've said something that rubs you the wrong way? Something in your system just shuts down, and emotions take over. And worst of all, you're so in your head that you can't even communicate what's going on to your partner. Anything you're able to express comes out ugly, standoffish, or even accusatory.
Almost all communication that goes awry in our relationships is not because of what is happening in the moment. It's due to the perception we choose, which is often associated with a past "trigger." This means there is some form of familiarity to a previous experience we had with that person, in a previous relationship or emotionally heightened interaction, or even with your parents growing up. These past experiences influence how you view certain situations and the meaning you give them.
What it can also mean is your needs aren't met in other areas of your life, and as it tends to occur, our partners take the brunt of it, even if they don't technically play as big a role as we force on them.
For example, let's say you're speaking to your partner, and they say something along the lines of, "I need some space for a minute." In your mind, you might take it as abandonment or rejection, seeing things from an egocentric point of view. It may remind you of the past when a previous partner had said the same thing, and then the relationship ended. So your current partner saying something similar is now spiraling you back into that state—when really, your partner may be someone who needs to take a breather sometimes to collect their thoughts.
This is an example of a past trigger. What actually contributes to the conflict or negative feelings and behaviors during that time is not what has actually happened most often. It's your perception, which precedes your reaction. In other words, your reaction tends to come from this weird "auto-responder"-type space in you.
How can you fix that?
Getting to a higher state of mind.
I have this saying: Don't share things with others unless it will serve them even more than yourself.
How can you get out of the limited view you have from your own eyes and see the entirety of the situation from a higher version of you, or even from the other person's eyes?
You might ask yourself these questions to help achieve that state:
- What else could this behavior mean?
- Do they have a lot going on in their mind, family life, or work life right now that I may not be aware of?
- Do I have a lot going on that I haven't taken into consideration here?
- Could pouring love or understanding into the situation right now help us better connect?
- Do I want to be right more than I want to be connected?
- If I want to be heard and understood, is it possible my partner wants the same too?
- Can I be the more conscious individual right now or take the time to get into a higher space? What would that version of me do with this conflict?
- What do I love about this person?
- Am I triggered? Does my trigger involve them, or could it be from my own past or just my own interpretations that may be incorrect?
As you can see, there is so much juicy opportunity to change our perspective and see things more clearly.
Compassion, an understanding of the needs unmet for both parties, and the willingness to help the other individual meet their need in a healthier and more conscious way will resolve things quickly and easily without so much escalation or miscommunication.
How to deescalate a conversation going off the rails.
A few years ago, my husband and I had an epic fight. I was deeply triggered because an experience from my past was brought up, and I was living in that reality instead of the "now." I felt like my husband couldn't care less about me and my feelings and that he wasn't listening to me in my "depths of pain." I literally spewed with anger, not because of anything he was truly doing in that moment but because of what he was triggering in my own belief system.
Thank heavens for our work on having conscious and loving conversations where we both promised to serve one another more than ourselves. At this point, my husband said something along the lines of, "I am not serving you correctly right now, but I love all of you, and I will love you until love is all you know. But this is unhealthy, and I am unsure how to fix it, and now I am triggered."
We took a few hours away to cool off, and then we began our digging into what happened as a team.
What had happened? The issue went as far back as me at age 10 when I experienced a trauma that flipped a switch in me. The experience made me believe that no matter how important what I had to say was, it would not be fully heard, and it would result in more pain.
So what was the need that was going unmet since I was 10 years old and showing up inappropriately most of my life since? Feeling heard.
Him telling me he loved me, giving me space, and both of us choosing to serve one another allowed for us to begin the discovery process of what was really going on.
What to do when you're shutting down during a conversation with your partner.
Feeling heard was my unmet need from the past, and I certainly have many others that bubble up at different points when triggered. You will likely have your own set of triggers and unmet needs that influence the way you respond to events in the present.
You can use this in your next conflict. Try to stop before the escalation gets too heated that you even need to break for clarity, and instead decipher the needs of both individuals. Is someone's behavior unhealthy and not serving the unit? How can that behavior be brought up without causing guilt or shame to the other? How can healing occur where pain once was? Feel into moments in the conversation where your body may tense up, or you feel anger or sadness rising, and say it out loud. Again, this is a discovery process, not a perfection process.
It's amazing what can surface once awareness is brought in with love and understanding. The relationship deepens drastically, healthy boundaries naturally build themselves out of mutual respect, and healing can take place whether that is inside of or outside of the relationship.