Recipe for a Light-Hearted Relationship: Part 1 – Triggers (Episode 219)
What is the recipe for a truly light-hearted, healthy and loving relationship? As my husband and I discussed this on our walk today, it prompted this series where we're going to dig into just this. As we started to create our "recipe" for a healthy relationship, we saw that there were just too many aspects of this to squeeze into one blog post or podcast episode.
First and foremost, our lives have seasons. And so do our relationships. Even the most solid of relationships will have its ups and downs at times, as it involves two individuals who may be growing at two different paces. There are many times for course correction in our lives, so let me first simply state that the relationships in your life right now - they will change, morph and grow as you do. Some people will stay in your life, some relationships will shift in dynamics, and for others, it's time for some adjustments to learn to pivot together again.
When you hit a bump in your relationship, recognize it isn't failure unless you give up there. It doesn't mean you start over, and it doesn't mean it's over.
It's time to take a fresh look at how you both have grown, and what you both can take personal responsibility for to create a relationship where you both thrive.
What lightens your heart versus hardening it? Have you considered those little "relationship triggers" in your most intimate relationship? We can think of triggers like literal incidences that drive us crazy, like putting the toilet roll on the wrong way or throwing your clothes on the floor. But deeper than that - it's the triggered emotions that jar us into reactive behavior. And oftentimes, that reaction-mode is not in our best light.
As a relationships coach, I speak often on understanding your personality style, and how having a better understanding of who you are isn't about throwing a label on it, but bringing self awareness to our actions - and reactions - and learning how to navigate our emotions in a way that brings out the best in us.
There are four key triggers that are based on personality styles that oftentimes are at the root of our insecurities and negative reactions.
#1 - Feeling out of Control
The first one is feeling out of control. When I teach people about DISC personality styles, this is a big one for the High D style. For some people, feeling in control is really, really important. When they feel taken advantage of, or out of control, it can be a scary spiral of unpredictability. And oftentimes, when someone feels out of control, what do they do? Look for something to control or manage! If they aren't aware, they can come across as demanding, a micromanager, insensitive, and more. Sometimes they hyper-control - to feel that sense of ownership and that they are in charge again.
For me, when I'm feeling triggered and out of control, I need to clean up and clear out. What I mean by that is that I often times need to slow my roll and take a moment, first, to see what is truly in my control vs. what I'm getting mad about that isn't. And second, I clear out all those thoughts in my head. Being the visual person I am, I literally take all the clutter and to dos and lists I have in my head, and I write it out on paper. Doing a "brain dump" on paper allows me to pull back and see things with a clearer perspective.
#2 - Rejection
This is a huge trigger for the high I personality style. For people who love being in the limelight, who are natural story-tellers, who gravitate toward people as their fuel for life, this is a huge trigger. And, unfortunately, our efforts not to be rejected are oftentimes the very ones that push people away.
Now, a word on rejection. Oftentimes our insecurities around rejection have everything to do with our perspective on the world, and what all is in our control. Pay attention to your mindset and the stories you write. Take note that sometimes when we feel like there is no one else it's because it's a critical time to look inward.
We face into our challenges pretty quickly. Sometimes silence and time can do nothing but give your mind a chance to write stories about how you were wronged and the damage that can't be fixed.
Nathan and I have the relationship we do at this point because of our continuous conversation about what we want - for ourselves, and for us as a couple. We're constantly talking about how we're moving together toward a goal, and yes, rubbing against triggers just like these so we can soften them for the moment to help support ease in our relationship. We face into these challenges and triggers to learn how to better support and love one another. Yes, we want our relationship to be full of ease and joy. It does not have to be hard and grueling, and we aren't waiting for one day to enjoy this life.
If rejection is a trigger, pay attention to what all positivity and support you have around you. Are you strong enough in your self-love that you can recognize when people pull away because they need to vs. it being a character flaw in yourself? Can you allow people their own space when there is conflict? Do you surround yourself with positivity and things that inspire you? Do you have a support system of people who lift you up and affirm you?
#3 - Loss of Security
Comfort and ease aren't a negative thing. If we're honest with ourselves, most people are going to vote for that vs. conflict and difficulty. Sometimes moving toward the path of least resistance isn't avoidance; but a brilliant move to simplify and un-complicate our lives.
When our security is challenged, comfort can go out the window, and someone who may have been incredibly supportive and nurturing may turn to apathy and indifference. If I hear my husband say, "I don't care," that' raises a red flag to me that he may be feeling insecure somewhere, and it's easier to not care than create conflict. Maybe there is insecurity in a relationship, or the chaos of a stressful schedule, or too much change, or too many curveballs, etc.
Sometimes it's not about picking apart the actual issue at hand. Relationship triggers can arise that can seem completely disconnected. Before we hit the road to RV the States full time, we had a lot on our plate. The six months leading up to us leaving were full of toxic work and extended family drama that had nothing to do with Nathan's and my relationship. Yet it clearly was going to impact our relationship for both of us to be maxed out and stressed. Nathan's "security" was pulled out from under him in many ways - he grew up in a home with traditional jobs and public school, and here we were about to leave everything we knew, amidst extended family falling apart and work adding more and more pressure. With so much upheaval, we needed to look for a constant.
Relationship triggers are opportunities to come together and support one another. It's an opportunity to look toward the common goal of what you want "home" to be for you, and set in place support so triggers don't result in thoughtless reaction. During that hectic time for us, we set up a 7-7 rule. We had young children, and it was perfectly reasonable for them to be in bed by seven. By 7:30 or so every night, Nathan and I would go sit outside and talk about the day. We'd get any stresses and frustrations off our chest, and "air out all the laundry." Then, we would leave all tension and stress outside our house, and go in for a clean slate of connection for Nathan and me - everything else left outside and a time for us to be together fully in the moment, offering love and support for each other to recharge and do it again the next day. In the morning, we were up before kids to have our coffee, assess the day, and get a moment to breathe and get intentional about the day.
This time every day - the consistency and stability of knowing we had this release to let it out and let it go - this created a security and stability in a very hectic time in our lives. We knew loss of security was a relationship trigger we were proactive in tackling.
#4 - Criticism
The final relationship trigger is criticism. Sometimes, in our fear of being criticized, we end up moving into our own hypercritical mode. There is a desire to get things right and do the research to the point that analysis paralysis is a legit stumbling block that gets people time and time again. We can get so lost in the weeds we lose sight of the big picture. And for this, I stress literal and physical space as the best way to literally step back from the detail and see the full scope.
In the scope of life, is this really necessary?
In the scope of all that is going on, is this detail even going to be noticed?
Would life still go on even if this isn't perfect?
Play through your fears of not reaching perfection. I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone struggling with perfectionism. Pay attention to areas you are confident in, and when you are feeling overwhelmed with trying to get something "right", beyond pulling back to see the big picture, you can also look at doing a little something you know you can excel at to give a little confidence boost.
Your Weekly Challenge:
As much as this is a family-focused blog, the success of your family thriving boils down to each individual in it, and their willingness to do their own personal work.
Before you can support another, you must learn to love yourself. It's a confidence that brings a whole new dynamic to a relationship.
If you are looking at life through an "it would be better IF" lens, just go to "it would be better" and start living in it!
It's easier to sit in a pile of "they should have". Or I can be proactive in loving them the way I want to be loved. Instead of wishing someone else would do what you want, try doing it yourself. You want more support and love in your relationship? Who is going to start?
Everyone wants to have security that helps them feel in control without rejection or criticism. That encompasses all the relationship triggers. And we aren't mind readers. The first step is recognize the triggers so you can look for solutions to support them from spiraling to reactive behavior. The second step is to look at what is within your control. Where are you finding security, stability and consistency in your life? Do you know how to get affirmation and support? Are you clearly communicating what you love to your partner?
Instead of waiting for love and appreciation from others, give it.
You want to feel in control? Allow others to take the lead at times as well.
You want security and stability? What are you showing up for in other's lives on a regular basis?
You hate criticism? Pay attention to how much you encourage vs. criticize.
Move toward those feelings of lightheartedness together. Be the light you want to also receive. Life is forward motion, and it's constantly changing. And we're constantly going to be looking for that ease - that flow in life. As we do this and recognize our triggers, it helps us to give grace and understanding for others who may be acting in reaction-mode. We can start to identify - is it control, rejection, security, criticism...what is one little thing you can offer to add some support?
It's the little subtleties that break a cycle that's spiraling downward. It's easy when you're feeling conflict to get lost in that spiral of defeat and negativity. And when those relationship triggers come up, if just one person shifts the script from negativity and defeat on what's not right and moves to gratitude and appreciation, it breaks the cycle. It may not solve everything, yet it's a first step. Repeating the same debate over and over again isn't going to give you a different result. And that little step my be the positive relationship trigger to prompt the other person to match your genuine appreciation with their own. And you start to create synergy, where that gratitude builds on each other and becomes a different energy. And it's that beautiful step toward valuing how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Namaste
- What Is A DISC Personality Assessment?
- Juliet Talks Feelings: Wisdom from an 8-year-old (Episode 165)
- Head Clutter and The Chaos of Overwhelm
- How We Eased Into A Life We Don’t Escape From (Episode 201)
- Which is More Important - Skillset or Mindset? (Episode 218)
- Self-Love, or Self-Sabotage? (Episode 152)
- Ashley Logsdon, Relationship Coach
- Focus, Awe, and not waiting for "One Day" - What Is Your Word?
- Does Your LIFE Have Seasons?
- What is your goal? Or maybe that is the wrong question to be asking
- To Build Resilience, Let Them Bounce (Episode 36)
- Personality Styles
- Personality Test For Kids
- Make Me Feel Important – The High D Style
- Precocious People Person At Your Service: The High I Style
- Never Confuse Kindness for Weakness – The High S Style
- Dot Your i’s and cross your t’s – The High C Personality Style
Questions or comments?
Personality styles, marriage/intimacy, parenting, education, minimalism or travel - what is pressing on your mind?
Or, hop on over to the Unschooling Families FB group and ask your question there!