Through several decades of my own bumbling, study and observations, I believe that people in relationships have just about created an art form out of severely annoying each other. I’m not talking about the little run-of-the-mill annoyance; I’m talking about stumbling across your partner’s triggers – the things that when tripped creates what someone of the outside (or the receiving end) might call an “unreasonable response“.
The point of this post is to learn how not to trigger your partner.
We’ve all experienced both triggering someone, and being triggered. To have it happen to you catches you by surprise. Everything is fine until something happens – then BOOM! An irrational knee-jerk reaction comes out like a poorly scripted soap opera, usually in the form of anger (however it could trigger upset or any amount of other wonderful emotions). Ever wondered why anger is so contagious? Mirror neurons. This is how – if someone is triggered and without thinking responds with anger – the person on the receiving end of it is more than likely to have their mirror neurons fire and they’ll be angry right back…even when they don’t want.
However it plays out, everyone has specific triggers based on their past, hurts, traumas etc, and it far to broad to cover in a post – let alone an encyclopedia. So here are the top three triggers for men and women (or a more modern set of terms: masculine and feminine polarities).
Women / Feminine Triggers
1) Feeling unseen.
According to Tony Robbins, there are six core human needs; which are certainty, variety, significance, love and connection, growth and contribution. The feeling of being unseen directly goes against the natural need for significance, to feel unique, important, special or needed. A mother is all of these things when the kids are younger, however less so at they grow more independent. As I touched on in the Joy Gap article, understanding both yours and your partner’s love language is a helpful step! Understand what will help your partner feel more important – is it quality time? Touch? Words of appreciation or praise?
2) Not feeling understood.
Again I tapped into this in the Joy Gap post; most guys are logical creatures programmed to solve things. Fix them as quickly as possible. Problem solving like this isn’t providing the empathy that’s required however.
Observe your partner getting frustrated that you’re not listening and close your mouth (it’s not an accident that listen and silent have the same letters). Listen and don’t solve – that can come later!
3) Feeling unsafe.
This could be physically, emotionally, or financially – any which way it may appear, be aware that being proactive (not reactive) on these is a great step in the right direction.
Men / Masculine Triggers
1) Being criticised.
Men can feel a loss of masculinity when “constructive feedback” is less constructive, and more like criticism – particularly when it’s about them personally. Always being picked at or told they’re doing something wrong over time can create either a meek man who just takes it, or someone who pushes back. Keep feedback constructive, and maybe make a “feedback sandwich“:
Compliment + Feedback + Compliment = Happy Feedback Sandwich
2) Being shut out / partner closed off / withdrawn.
Being shut out from a closed off partner is a frustrating time for anyone, however for a man (who is also expected to be a mind reader) this experience can be a lot worse. If a man knows what’s wrong at least (if they can get out of problem solving mode) they have a chance to connect and understand. If they have no idea why their partner has withdrawn, all manner of reactions can occur – most of which will create a bigger problem that if the original problem had been shared.
3) Being controlled.
Men don’t want another mother, and woman don’t want a man baby. Plus, studies have shown that men that are easy to control are actually seen as less unattractive than men who take the lead or hold their own.
One of the biggest reasons in my opinion that some men don’t take initiative is because of Trigger #1 – being criticised. If you take the lead and it’s wrong, you’ll hear all about it. That can far outweigh the benefits on the off chance of getting it right for some.
Middle ground; listen, understand, remember (and if need be, write things down). Then when it comes to taking initiative etc it’s not blind faith leading the way. Have an opinion. Remember your favourite colour. Make time for what’s also important, all the while being respectful and ensuring your partner feels important, understood and safe.
Interested in your thoughts, and good luck!