When it comes to navigating the tricky, narrow path of emotional intimacy building, there are a lot of factors at play.
How can you feel safe opening up to someone authentically when you’re afraid of being hurt?
How do you start to trust someone when they haven’t yet proven that they’ve earned it?
How do you form an unbreakable bond when you’re still healing from the wounds of relationships past?
Putting yourself out there to freely love and trust again can feel like you’re playing Russian Roulette with your heart. And we all know the detrimental risk involved with that senseless game. But just because it feels like that doesn’t mean that’s what’s actually happening. Your mind is just doing its job of protecting you based on the negative experiences of your past.
The main part of developing emotional intimacy in your relationship is showing up as yourself, unapologetically, boldly, and with the utmost confidence. This requires the ability to know yourself, flaws and all, and be fully comfortable with being vulnerable and naked with the one you care about. Having faith in yourself and in your partner that no matter what comes, you each have committed to face it together. Where you are strong is where they may lack, and vice versa. Lean into the fact that collectively, you are equipped to navigate life’s ups and downs and that you will each come out stronger.
Emotional intimacy is vowing to one another that you will join hands and weather the storm together without walking away from each other, even at the scariest and most unpredictable moments. You can do this because you know that at the height of adversity, they will not allow you to fall.
I’ll be honest with you, getting to that point is reeeeally tough. Like, in the midst of the battleground, battle wounds afflicted, and battle-tested tough. But, the keys to reaching this place of trust are consistency, longevity, and commitment. Once you determine the value of your relationship, how it enhances the quality of your life, personally improves you, and makes you happy, you’ll eventually develop the dedication necessary to see it through. Getting clear on what you want and adopting a laser focus on the positive aspects of your relationship are the first steps of creating the life you want with someone else.
Now that we’ve covered how to approach the process of developing emotional intimacy, let’s take a look at some of the obstacles that may come along with your journey. This would be a good time to take a brief pause for the cause, grab a cup of tea and do a quick woo-sah, sis. Shit’s about to get real…
Question of the hour: When you feel triggered in your relationship, are you responding to your current situation or your fears?
First, let’s discuss some of the common emotional triggers you may experience in response to circumstances in your relationship and what they mean.
As badly as the ones you love may want to protect you, it’s impossible to go through life without experiencing pain, hurt, and betrayal. How we show up in our lives and in our relationships is a direct result of these painful experiences and how we choose to handle them. I think of unresolved pain as sticky relationship residue. If you fail to put in the work to take care of it, it’ll just follow you like gum on your shoe into each new romantic experience.
An emotional trigger is an individual or a collection of situations, words, or circumstances that are the direct cause of a negative emotional reaction. For example, if you’re good one moment and the next, you’re dredging up painful memories and emotions from your past, you’re probably not emotionally unstable, you’ve just been emotionally triggered.
Being triggered by something your partner has said, something that has happened, or seeing or hearing something familiar can happen quite often if you have unresolved pain from past relationships.
So if you suddenly have a hairline temper when it comes to the subject of their ex, you feel as though they’re too lax when it comes to commitment, or you’re concerned about the words they use when describing you or your relationship to others, it’s time for each of you to sit down and unpack the insecurities stemming from the fear that you’re experiencing.
Noticeable Signs of Emotional Triggers are:
- You’re consistently acting out of character
- You experience inconsolable anger, irritation, unjustified/explosive reactions, responses
- You live in constant fear of being abandoned
- You routinely shut down instead of expressing how you feel
- You are stunned and confused by your own physical and emotional reactions to triggers
When I say these signs are more common than a bachelorette party at a male revue, I tell no lies! Instead of labeling these emotions as an inability to speak up for yourself or properly regulate your emotions, consider it a sign of something much deeper. You have to do the shadow work in order to uncover what the true matter is in order to show up in a positive way for yourself, first, and eventually your relationship. There’s no doubt in my mind that you’re deserving of love. No feeling in this world will ever compare to the feeling of loving and accepting yourself. So, let’s get to work.
Rerouting Negative Emotional Trigger Responses
When you see a thirsty comment from your partner’s ex under their photo on social media and all you want to do is cuss them out for not blocking them, or you’re suddenly annoyed about something they said weeks ago, or you notice they haven’t been initiating sex as much lately, instead of shutting down, crying, or playing the blame game, you’re going to reroute those passionate feelings to a more positive place.
- Unpack your baggage on your own. Designate a specific notepad for documenting your emotional triggers. Keep it on you at all times. Each time you feel triggered, take a moment to stop what you’re doing and grab a pen. Write down exactly what made you feel this way. Dig deeper by asking yourself what the source of that feeling is. Dig another layer deeper by asking yourself whether that feeling is directly tied to your partner or a negative experience from your past. Define the experience and map out a plan for how you can resolve those negative feelings and move on from them. Do this every single time you feel triggered.
- Unpack your baggage together. Be intentional about establishing healthy relationship communication by explaining what specifically triggers you and why to your partner.Include them on your healing journey by explaining the relevant parts of your past that keep you from opening up to them, trusting them, or fully showing up with them. This allows them to stop displaying behavior that triggers you and better understand your reactions. Allow them to hold you accountable by explaining the details of your healing process and your goals for progress.
- Actively catch and reroute negative thoughts and behaviors. Yelling, crying, blaming, and shutting down are all natural reactions to a triggering situation. As we attempt to defend ourselves against hurt, it’s easy to see your partner as your enemy. But I’m asking you to stop and take a second to embrace exactly what you’re feeling at this moment. Actively assess what caused your emotions and thoughts and try to find ways to uncover what has led you here. From there, use positive words to assure yourself with facts that reaffirm yourself and the state of your relationship. Stand firm in what you know to be true and use that as your anchor to weather the emotional storm.
Every day, we have a choice of how to show up in our relationship. We have to actively choose what to focus on, what to believe, and which words to use when communicating with our partner. Each day, choose to acknowledge the positive that’s sitting right in front of you and make good on your vow to put in the work necessary to show up each day exactly as God made you. This will be a daily routine for the course of your relationship, so as long as you’re willing to put in the work, you’ll have the option to put your fears and insecurities to rest and be present by choosing to believe in the good in your relationship and in yourself.