Communication Trigger Series- Becoming a Conscious Couple Part 2

This week’s I will be covering the last two exercises in how to become a conscious couple.

Exercise 4: The Conscious Couple’s Behavioral Betterment Plan

The fourth exercise is one that needs time, because I’m asking you to work on changing behavior. Over the next couple of weeks, I want you to develop a sort of cheat sheet and fill in the triggers that set your partner off in a negative way. Write these down in a column on a piece of paper. Then, I want you to make a column next to the trigger column and list what you will do to avoid the negative triggers or replace them with positive ones. By creating a plan in advance, you will be more conscious of situations and events that are likely trigger territory. A little flag will go up in your mind and you’ll think “Aha, I know exactly what to do to avoid this potential negative trigger.”

So, on your sheet of paper or in a word document, list each of the 5 trigger types. Remember they are:

            Historical triggers

            New triggers

            Verbal harassment triggers

            Non-verbal triggers

            Combo triggers

Then, for each one you’ve listed, fill in what the trigger is with some kind of keyword that you’ll recognize. Next write down a plan for what you’ll do instead. Some examples are:

Historical triggers: if you know your partner’s historical trigger has to do with physical strength because they were picked on as a kid, you will either avoid offering help in lifting items until it’s asked for or, choose words that bring your partner closer to you such as: “I feel kind of useless standing here, so if there’s something I can do to be of assistance, please let me know.” That took some of the hear off of a potential trigger, while still allowing you to be a nice person and offer assistance. Also, can be used as a point of discussion. Reassure your partner that when you offer help you never mean it to be insulting… you love them and always want to give a helping hand.

For new triggers, obviously my best advice is to avoid creating them. The tip-off that a new trigger is happening is usually one or the other partner is confused over the other’s reaction. So, if your partner says something to trigger you and then acts surprised that you’re upset, I recommend you address it immediately. For example, “When you said that this article might be way over my head, that made me feel like you think I’m not very smart. Could you use another choice of words?” this approach works better than stewing over your partner’s comment for days and then lashing out a week or two later about it.

For verbal harassment triggers, these aren’t too hard to figure out: if you sound like a teenager who is mouthing off, you can bet that what you’re saying is probably going to be interpreted as disrespectful. This is another opportunity to be conscious of your word selection. You can choose to say the word “Whatever…” or you could say, “I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t agree with your idea.” One is disrespectful and dismissive and doesn’t contribute to a strong relationship, while the other allows you both to have an opinion is respectful and contributes to harmony.

For non-verbal triggers, you need to be conscious of your body language. Are you standing with your arms crossed in defiance? Turning your back on your partner while they’re making a point you don’t agree with? Ignoring them by texting on your phone? Are your eyes rolling? Those are all examples of non-verbal triggers that you can avoid doing by thinking how you might stand before a judge or a minister or your boss.

The last trigger is the combo trigger, that mix of verbal and nonverbal missteps that can trip us up. You need to be conscious of what works for your partner and what doesn’t. For example, if your partner brings you a treat such as takeout, you have noticed that when you make eye contact, smile and say, “Thank you!” your partner looks like they’ve been caught doing something right. But when you’re distracted and forget to do this verbal and nonverbal communication combo, your partner reacts with disappointment. Be conscious of opportunities like this to give a positive combo trigger and avoid the negative one.

Exercise 5: Develop Relationship Consciousness

If you want something different, then you have to ACTIVELY do something different- not just hope for something better. Or you will continue to say the wrong things and drive each other away. Watch the both of you as a couple in action. Keep a notebook of conversations with your partner. Rate them as good, neutral, and bad. Make notes as to what behavior occurred during each:

  • If the conversation was good, was there respect used in the words chosen?
  • If things were bad, what was said or done that caused that outcome?
  • Did you notice any particular triggers that set you off? That set off your partner?

Practicing awareness- which is being conscious- is something I tell my clients they need to do all the time. We have to be honest enough to admit to what we do that contributes to our relationship struggles. Over the next several days, I want you to think about that. I don’t want anyone to play the blame game in the relationship or take on all the blame. Analyze the way you deliver your words, and the effect your words have, and develop your own list of positive words that work for your partner. Take an objective look at your relationship and write down anything you think you can do that doesn’t benefit the relationship. This is how you begin to develop relationship awareness.

This is the end of the Communication Trigger Series of The Match Made in Heaven. Stay up to date with the blog postings to see our first blog in our next series called What Makes Them Really Tick. This will discuss how to tap into your partner’s emotional resonance frequency. Until next time!

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