“You always make me feel so mad.”
“It’s your fault because you cause me to be so crazy.”
“I wouldn’t treat you like that if you would just stop making me feel so frustrated.”
Dana and Mike had struggled for the last several years through a cycle of love and forgiveness, building tension, and explosive hurtful words and actions. And they are not alone. We have worked with many couples, like Dana and Mike, who live this crazy cycle of interacting.
You Make Me Feel This Way
Different versions of the same problem seem to focus on the idea that, somehow, it is our spouse’s fault that we are feeling the emotions that we are feeling. It is our spouse’s actions, or lack of action, that has caused me to feel these intense emotions. If we did not have this spouse, or if we did not experience our spouse’s actions (or lack of action) that way, then we would not feel the negative, intense emotions we are experiencing.
It makes for a perfect excuse to feel the way we do. When we blame our spouse for what we think about ourselves or how we feel, we have a great advantage of not having to accept responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, assumptions and actions. In our minds, we can experience a sort of “free pass” to blow up, act out, have a fit, etc.
Unless you are in a dangerous relationship, you need to double check your strategy of blaming how you feel all on your spouse.
What Causes Me To Feel So Bad?
It is true that our emotions are triggered by what we sense. We walk into a new home showing and smell freshly baked cookies and feel the joy in our memories of visiting our grandparents or other special occasions. The sense of smell triggered our joy. And all of us have the underlying need to be loved and nurtured. The smell of cookies baking is the realtor’s way of trying to make us feel loved and nurtured in the house so that we will want to purchase it.
Likewise, our spouse does something that we perceive is an attack of who we are. We are triggered and feel scared and angry. The underlying reason that we feel so scared and angry is that we have a lifelong need of safety and to be respected. Here are some other examples:
Trigger Feelings Underlying Needs
Belittled Indignant, Distressed, Tense Acknowledgement, Autonomy
Betrayed Outraged, Hurt, Confused Justice, Understand, Fairness
Coerced Angry, Frustrated, Scared Choice, Freedom, Self-Efficacy
Criticized Humiliated, Anxious, Irritated Understanding, Recognition
Disrespected Furious, Embarrassed, Hurt Respect, Trust, Acknowledgement
Distrusted Sad, Frustrated, Hurt Integrity, Trust, Authenticity
Harassed Angry, Aggravated, Scared Respect, Consideration, Ease
Insulted Incensed, Embarrassed, Sad Consideration, Connection
Intimidated Scared, Vulnerable, Lonely Safety, Power, Independence
Left Out Sad, Lonely, Anxious Belonging, Connection, To Be Seen
Manipulated Resentful, Sad, Angry Autonomy, Consideration, Choice
Overworked Angry, Tired, Frustrated Respect, Consideration, Rest, Ease
Pressured Overwhelmed, Scared Relaxation, Ease, Space, Clarity
Rejected Hurt, Scared, Defiant, Sad Belonging, Connection
Unappreciated Sad, Hurt, Irritated Appreciated, Respect, To Be Seen
Unsupported Sad, Resentful, Hurt Support, Understanding
Violated Outraged, Anxious, Agitated Safety, Trust, Space, Respect
What Do I Do When I Get Triggered?
- Find My Part. Find where you have contributed to the situation. It may have been something that you did or did not do.
- Own My Feelings. Remember that what you feel is yours. It comes from within you. A growing body of research suggests that when we take ownership of our feelings and identify them, we feel much better even if our circumstances have not changed.
- Check My Underlying Needs. Discovering why you were triggered is very important. What did your interpret your spouse’s action to mean about you? What is the underlying need that was threatened by their action?
- Own Your Behavior. You have little control over what triggers you. You have no control over what your spouse does. What you do with the emotions that you feel is in your 100% complete control. Own what you do with the feelings you feel.
- Calm Yourself. Take a time out away from your spouse for at least twenty minutes. Soothe yourself with music, walking, relaxation, or prayer.
- Decide What You Want. In the future, what specifically do you want your spouse to do or not do. Don’t expect your spouse to understand that you want to feel more “love”, “respect”, etc. Decide the specific behaviors that will show their love an respect.
- Talk To Your Spouse. Use good listening skills to communicate what you want. Make sure that you hear from them that they understand you before moving on so that this issue does not keep popping up again.
What Do You Have To Say?
We always love to hear from our readers. Why do you believe it is so hard to not blame your spouse for how you feel? What advice would you add to our list of action steps to handle your emotions in marriage? If you tried using this approach, how did it go?
This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at www.LifeTogetherForever.com © Roy and Devra Wooten 2015. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at Secret@LifeTogetherForever.com.