**Originally published here. This website is no longer active.**
Learning your triggers will help navigate the relationship waters...with your partner and others.
The Latino community talks about life lessons with dichos, or proverbs. One that deals with marriage is, “Antes que te cases, mira lo que haces.” This translates to, “Before marrying, look at what you are doing,” and essentially means, “Look before you leap.” In light of focusing on relationships, another way of using this dicho is, “look at what you have done in your previous relationships.” This applies whether you are in a relationship or are preparing for a new one. It also means looking at both romantic and familial relationships.
How will deconstructing your past relationship experiences help you in the next? As previously discussed, knowing how to handle a conflict with your partner requires listening to your gut and identifying the trigger. The thinking mind helps discern the accuracy of the trigger and then you problem solve.
So, do you know and can you explain what triggers danger for you? A place to start is by identifying moments when you felt upset and the resulting emotional messages. Perhaps you think back and wish you could have done something differently. What are the changes you want to make now? Do you know how to ask for what you need? By answering these questions you become familiar with your triggers.
For most people these questions are quite uncomfortable. The discomfort of not knowing which words to use is so great that we avoid or deflect. Sometimes people say,”I don’t know! I never did anything wrong!” or “That’s dumb! She should have just known better.” If that seems like how you would answer, then individual or couples therapy can be helpful. In therapy you create trust with your therapist and they gently challenge you to confront these questions.
It is important to understand your triggers because they are bound to come up. When they do, you may not like it. However, since you talked about it in therapy, you will be ready to communicate your values and desires. You can also share with your partner and help them “learn you” in advance so they and you are not surprised when it happens. In a conflictual moment, you can say out loud, “This is my stuff. I am not going to make it my partner’s issue. I will ask for their support to help me get through it.” By including your partner, you can feel soothed as they are able to be compassionate rather than feeling attacked or caught unawares. And when it is their trigger, you can do the same for them.
You can work to deconstruct thoughts and memories that haunt you and turn them into values that are helpful in creating a fulfilling relationship. You are also empowered to keep “leaping for love” but with a healthy dose of insight for change.