When our partner gets triggered or upset, here’s how we can support them:
Get to know what your partner’s missing experiences or pain points as a child were. This gives you a better idea as to their vulnerabilities today, and where they may need extra support and compassion.
Get curious + non-judgemental about what is coming up for them. How are they seeing the current situation?
Validation - letting them know what part of their experience makes sense given what you know about them + their history. Be genuine. If it doesn’t make sense yet, stay curious + keep asking.
Have a conversation ahead of time identifying what soothes them best. Some people become more triggered when we try to touch them while others become relaxed. Some people get triggered by words while others are soothed.
Ask them: I can hold you + listen, or I can help problem solve. Which would feel supportive right now?
Patience - “Let’s slow down + take a moment together.”
DO NOT: Tell your partner to calm down
DO NOT: Defend your actions before your partner feels heard + understood
DO NOT: Dismiss or minimize their experience as something they shouldn’t have a reaction about
When our partner or loved one becomes upset, overwhelmed, or dysregulated, we want to be supportive, but we may not know how to meet them in a way that is meaningful for them.
As a result, we might try to soothe them in a way that would work for us...but not necessarily for them.
We also might say: “How can I support you?” This is heartfelt, but may perpetuate their dysregulation rather than help.
Because when we are feeling overwhelmed or dysregulated, our brain can be in a frenzy or foggy + unable to identify what it is we need. Asking an open ended question can further dysregulation.
There ends up being an unconscious pressure to know what it is we want/need, and for some of us we were never modeled to know how to identify that.
Therefore, upsetting us further.
Identifying soothing tools + vulnerabilities ahead of time can help you help your partner more easily in the moment they're triggered.
In those moments, most of the time we need someone to feel with us + tend to our nervous system BEFORE we are ready to receive or do any kind of problem solving.
I truly hope this helps you as we move through our ever-evolving relationships together. Stay tuned for part II on co-regulation and strategies for supporting our own nervous systems + our partners.