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When it comes to relationships, it is often recommended that individuals focus on taking steps to feel closer to their partner and increase satisfaction in the relationship. It is important to note that one person always has 100% control of 50% of the dynamic in a couple. This means that our efforts can hold a significant amount of influence, and even if they do not yield the desired results, we can at least rest assured that we have shown up as our best selves.

However, it is easier said than done to maintain composure and react appropriately when we or our partner are triggered or when their behavior is off, hurtful, dismissive, or frustrating. While there are several tools that can help calm us down and react better in such situations, it is also important to recognize that there is an entire world inside our partner that is separate from us.

It is not to say that our actions do not have an impact, as they certainly do. However, adult relationships are often characterized by a plethora of implicit memories and emotional baggage that can affect how we relate to one another and what our expectations are. Our early attachment patterns are likely to influence our behavior and expectations in a relationship.

It is common for us to project our past experiences and emotions onto our partner, such as feeling that they are pulling away, or don't care about our feelings, or that they are interested in someone else, and the like. Similarly, our partners may be projecting their insecurities and past experiences onto us.

Insecurities and expectations that we hold inside us are often a result of defence mechanisms that we have built based on painful experiences we have endured, especially in our early lives. Therefore, when our partner's reaction does not make sense to us, it may be because they are being triggered by something deeper, something old inside them that has little, if anything, to do with us.

It is important to recognize that not all emotional reactions in a relationship are solely based on the present; some may be a result of past experiences. In such situations, it may be better to give it some time and space, take a deep breath, and let your partner do the same.

It is common for us to personalize much of what goes on with someone close to us, assuming that their mood or behavior is a reflection of their feelings towards us. However, the truth is that when we are triggered by something, we are not usually great at recognizing it. Often, our oldest wounds get reopened in a relationship, even when things are going well.

It can be helpful to be aware of such situations, to remind ourselves that our partner's strong reaction or intense emotions may not have anything to do with us, and rather than being reactive, we should be curious.

Understand our partner's perspective or situation, it can help us become more compassionate towards them. Responding with a softer or less reactive approach can improve the situation. Although we can't control our partner's reactions, we can create an environment that allows them to figure things out independently of the dynamic between us.

We can start by taking a non-judgmental approach and saying something like, "Hey, I noticed you seem to be going through something or struggling in some way." Or "You seem quiet/ serious/ easily frustrated, etc." We can then offer our support by saying, "I'm here if you want to talk, and I am happy to give you space if that's what you need right now. But I think something else might be going on for you, and I am curious to know what that is."

If we don't like the way our partner is treating us, we can be direct and let them know that we are not comfortable with their behavior. For instance, we can say, "I don't like the way you're treating me, and I'm starting to feel bad, so I'm going to leave for a little while/ take a walk/ sit in the other room." This kind of communication differs from putting words into the other person's mouth or entering into an argument. It also doesn't mean we passively accept being treated in a way that we don't like. Instead, it opens the door for the other person to reflect on their internal world.

Perhaps our partner will open up to us about their struggles, or maybe not. However, having the awareness that whatever is happening inside our partner isn't always about us can help us feel less reactive and more curious about ourselves. It's a genuine and non-dramatic way to take a gentler approach to each other and avoid falling into destructive patterns where both people may end up regretting their actions.


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