New Relationship who dis!?
I’ve been in my current relationship for about 8 months now. Well technically, it's been 7 months, 23 days, 14 hours, 37 minutes and 20 seconds… but I mean who’s counting right 🌚? It has been quite the journey thus far and right now it feels extremely stable, which is, surprisingly, not something that I am used to.
Reflection and Introspection
One of the benefits of reaching a state of stability, peace and calm in a relationship is that I now actually have time to sit back and analyze my own behaviours and tendencies, without getting caught up in the whirlwind of emotions that often come with newfound romance.
While analysing myself over the past few weeks in particular, I’ve become quite acquainted with some of my many triggers - triggers that I assume have been with me since my childhood.
“Someone’s triggers are events or situations that cause them to have an extreme reaction of fear, upset or anger - especially because they remember a traumatic experience.”
At the beginning of this relationship, I wasn’t really that aware of my triggers, so when my partner did something that triggered me, I’d automatically and unknowingly go straight into trauma mode. This would involve me being either defensive, frustrated, sad, angry, or eventually even going distant. Initially, these reactions of mine seemed completely natural and justifiable, but over time I slowly realized that these reactions and behaviours that I had become so accustomed to - despite how natural they felt - were not at all rooted in the here and now.
As time gradually passed from one encounter to the next, I realised that I wasn’t basing my actions and perspectives on the events that had just transpired, how my partner currently felt or why she felt that way. Nor was I taking the time to figure out what I could actually do to make the situation better. Instead, I immediately started reliving past trauma. Re-enacting the child-parent relationship dynamic that I became so accustomed to while growing up. Placing myself as the main opposing figure in the story, the chastised antagonist, even though on some occasions it actually had nothing to do with me, and even when it did involve me it was hardly ever to the extent that my catastrophizing self thought it was. (i.e "ok she's not happy today, what did I do this time? it's not my fault, it was a mistake, I didn't mean it, why does she hate me? Now she's going to leave me 😱. I can't do this anymore. Relationships are hard 😞. I'm going to die alone 😭 ")
So what are some of my emotional triggers you ask?
- 1-word responses 😩 (bane of my existence)
- Reduced expressions of affection, written or verbal 💔(why you no love me no more? 😞)
- The slightest change in communication behaviors 📵(where are my goodmorning Whatsapp messages? 😭)
- Silence 😶
- Disagreements & disapproval 😡
Sure, they might seem minor at face value but as soon as those triggers occur I’m immediately thrown back into fight-or-flight mode. Why? Because that is exactly what I did as a child. I either fought in an attempt to defend myself and vigorously prove my perceived innocence, or I took flight, in an attempt to distance myself as far as possible from the situation, with the hope that by the time I returned, everything and everyone would have calmed down. These were the coping mechanisms I relied on when I encountered difficulty in my relationships as a child, and it turns out that I have unknowingly and involuntarily adopted these exact same tactics decades later, deep into adulthood.
“Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.” ― Carl Gustav Jung
Given my realizations, I’ve started paying a lot more attention to my own behavior on a daily basis. Constantly reminding myself that just because the person I love is unhappy, sad, or for whatever reason exhibiting a change in behavior, it does not automatically mean that I’m the problem, that I’m in trouble or that I did something wrong. And even in the cases where I did do something wrong; frowning, shouting, raising my voice, throwing my toys out of the pram and storming off is not the solution anymore. I’m an adult now and I need to approach situations accordingly.
So now in my relationship, whenever I do feel triggered, instead of hastily reacting, defending myself, or drastically jumping to conclusions, I’ve started lowering my guard a bit more, patiently taking my time to assess the situation, while asking a whole lot more questions in the process. Actively choosing to be open, apologetic, humble and vulnerable, instead of being closed off, defensive, arrogant and resistant. Opting to work together with my partner in an attempt to collectively come to a resolution instead of working against my partner in an attempt at self-preservation and self-vindication.
It’s definitely not an easy journey, but it is certainly one that will help prolong and preserve this relationship, paving the way for a brighter, calmer, and much more peaceful future.
“If you don’t heal what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you” - Unknown