5 Signs Your SO Respects Your Triggers, Because Your Mental Health Should Come First
Trigger warning: We're going to be talking about triggers today. But don't worry, this shouldn't be too triggering because no matter where you fall into the whole trigger warning/safe space debate, I think we can all agree on one thing: Your relationship should always be a safe space. And how will you know if your relationship qualifies? Well, one very important way is by looking for the signs your SO respects your triggers and looks out for your mental health.
First thing's first: What exactly is a trigger? According to Anita Chlipala, dating and relationships expert and licensed marriage and family therapist, "They go by many names: hot buttons, what Sue Johnson calls raw spots, and what Gottman calls enduring vulnerabilities," she tells Elite Daily. "A trigger is something we are sensitive to, whether through childhood, experiences, or negative interactions with our partner." The danger of being triggered, as Margaret Paul, Ph.D., a best-selling author and relationship expert, told Mind Body Green, is that it can "destabilize you," adding, "suddenly, you find yourself feeling off center and thrust into a bout of anxiety, depression, guilt or shame." This is why it's so important to have an SO who both recognizes your triggers and treats them with respect.
So, is your partner the kind of safe space you deserve? Here are the signs they respect your triggers, according to experts.
1. They know your triggers.
How well does your partner know you? Have they put in the effort to understand where you are strong and were you are sensitive? If so, that's a sign that they respect and care about your mental health. “You need to be aware of each other's triggers,” says Chlipala. “Everyone has them, so you both can be more open about your triggers.” But beyond learning your emotional needs and boundaries, it's also about how your SO puts that knowledge to use. Chlipala explains that once a respectful partner knows what your triggers are, they will “modify [their] behaviors to accommodate them.”
2. They never use them against you.
If, instead of using their knowledge about your triggers to accommodate and protect you, they chose to “push your buttons,” says Chlipala, they are showing a lack of respect. And in that case, she says, “You need ongoing dialogue about your triggers and be specific about ways that your partner can be sensitive to them.” Part of that conversation should be about the specific negative consequences of them pushing your buttons, says Chlipala, “especially if it's done deliberately.”
3. They know how to best soothe you when triggered.
One clear sign that they are honoring your triggers, explains Chlipala, is that they not only know what the sensitive topics are, but they also have learned how to soothe and address the trigger. “For example,” says Chlipala, “if you're sensitive to being excluded, your partner makes sure you feel included in his or her life. It doesn't mean you're joined at the hip 24/7, but they could invite you to join them at an event, or make sure to include you in conversation at a party.” They not only have taken the time to learn what you don’t need, but what you do. “You can also soothe each other when a trigger gets activated. Does talking through a trigger help or would a hug be better?” says Chlipala.
4. They help you heal.
Typically, if the origins of your triggers pre-date your relationship (and if they don't, then you might want to re-evaluate the relationship), Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist explains, “These triggers come from your family when you were growing up. For example, if you had a critical parent, you might tend to have a critical style in your interactions with your partner. Or, you might use a defensive style when your partner gives you feedback about your reactions.”
But because these triggers are learned, Dr. Wish explains they can also be unlearned, which “goes on all the time — and with minimum hair-trigger reactions.” And one of the bi-products of a healthy relationship is that some of the vulnerable areas will naturally heal. “In these healthy relationships each partner is chosen, in part, as a correction to the fallout from your family life growing up,” says Dr. Wish. “Good loving always includes re-learning.”
5. You feel safe being totally vulnerable with them.
The last sign isn’t so much what they do, but how you feel when you are with them. Do you feel safe, even at your most vulnerable, when they're around? If the answer is yes, then Dr. Wish says it’s a clear indication that you feel like your mental health is being respected like it should be. “The heart of being in a mutually loving relationship is for both of you to risk being ‘known,’” she explains. While this can be scary at it times, it’s also “necessary to feeling loved, respected, and supported in your personal growth and happiness,” she says. And while the hardest part of that can be opening up the parts of you that are the most raw and vulnerable, Dr. Wish says “one of the ways to have all that with your partner is to let each other recognize and respect each other's emotional triggers.” And if you can do that, your relationship is in a very good, safe, and loving place.
And why is that so important? “Because otherwise you can get into destructive patterns, such as shutting down and shutting your partner out, creating more emotional and physical distance in your relationship, deliberately lashing out at your partner because you feel so hurt,” explains Chlipala. “Also, you won't be able to be vulnerable in your relationship because there's absolutely no safety in it if your partner doesn't respect your triggers.” And when you sacrifice vulnerability, you also sacrifice closeness, and as Dr. Wish warns, “if you have a partner who does not recognize, respect and understand your triggers, then you find yourself in a relationship that cannot help you grow.” And that is just not good enough. You deserve better.
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