What Are Your Trigger Words?
Some trigger words are easier to identify than others. Common trigger words: “you always, you never, you should, you need to, I love you, but”, cause problems in all relationships. The same words or actions can mean different things to different people. Pay attention to words and actions that instantly cause a reaction.
Action triggers lead to wonder and confusion. “What did I do to get such a negative reaction?” My husband and I had an issue over property rights. It took years for us to identify this source of conflict and begin to work on resolving it. Some trigger actions that resulted in an intense reaction from me: using my computer, comb, scissors, pencils, pens, and other personal items without asking permission; assuming everything I buy and own belonged to everyone in the family.
One weekend Everett and I went to a marriage retreat. The leader asked couples to write down something they didn’t like about their partner. Everett wrote, “She is possessive.” I was surprised because I am generous. It didn’t take long to understand our conflict was about property rights.
I grew up in a family who believed in authoritarian parenting. My parents micro-managed my behavior and emotions. They were loving generous people who believed strongly in property rights. If you wanted to enter my bedroom, you were expected to knock. If you wanted to use my pencil, you needed to ask me to use it. So property rights became a huge part of my sense of self.
Everett is the next to the youngest of seven children. His parents had few rules. He signed his own report cards and controlled his own life. He never had a bedroom of his own. He slept with two older sisters, had no drawer or space of his own. He had no concept of property rights. During our first week of marriage I brought home a salad I hadn’t finished eating at a restaurant. When I looked for my salad the next day, it was gone. I asked Everett, “What happened to my salad? He said, “I ate it.” I said, “You ate it? You didn’t ask me!” He looked puzzled. I didn’t care if he ate it, but it was my salad. It took us years to identify the cause of this kind of conflict.
Look for the words and actions that trigger conflict. Then avoid them, clarify them and eventually get rid of them. I must admit this one still comes up sometimes. It helps to laugh at it when you understand it and good will abounds.