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Have you ever flown off the handle at your partner without the slightest idea why?
Yes, what they said or did was annoying. But looking back on the situation, it wasn’t that big of a deal. There was just something about what they said or how they said it that set you off.
Now you’re feeling guilty and know you need to apologize, but you don’t know how to explain what happened or why you were so upset.
No one likes when their partner blows up at them. It’s even worse when the anger or emotion seems to come out of nowhere. As a rational, thinking human being, you understand that.
But somehow, your partner eating the last cookie morphed into a tirade about how “they are so selfish and never think about your feelings.”
These reactions not only hurt the people in your life but also damage your relationships with them.
So before you unintentionally do irreparable damage to your relationships, find out why you overreact to little issues and how to stop doing so.
Understanding Why You Overreact
Remember when you were a teenager going through puberty and your emotions seemed to get away from you? At least then you could blame it on your hormones.
Though you’re well past puberty, you don’t seem better able to manage your emotions now than you did then.
So, what pushes you over the edge when it comes to trivial issues?
Why are you so quick to overreact?
Why do you shut down instead of talking through your feelings?
There could be various reasons you overreact. Identifying the issues that you react to most strongly is part of knowing how to subdue overreaction.
You “never” spend time with my family. We “never” spend any time together. You’re “always” late.
These are all examples of statements that can trigger overreactions in us.
Presumptions are critical, overgeneralizations that leave us feeling attacked and judged.
The longer you’re in a relationship with someone, the easier it is to presume to know the truth about their actions or assume what they are thinking or feeling.
And because we think we already know the “what” and “why,” we overreact and speak in sweeping terms, never considering that we’re off base in our assumptions and conclusions.
Our presumptions are often based on our experiences with other people, past partners, or even our current partners. And since no one enjoys being judged based on the actions of other people or based on their past, your partner becomes defensive and the communication devolves into a screaming match.
2. Unhealed wounds from the past.
Every relationship we’ve been in, whether romantic or platonic, has influenced the way we relate to other people and how we let other people relate to us. Sadly, many of these relationships have hurt us or taught us unhealthy ways of interacting with others.
Some of us have been able to work through that pain, but most of us have not. We’ve ignored our past hurt or used work, sex, drugs, or alcohol to numb the pain. Unfortunately, these methods of coping with our wounds do nothing but postpone dealing with pain.
Eventually, we all have to deal with the unhealed wounds from our past because the pain we’ve suffered becomes sensitive areas (or triggers) that we bring into our current relationships. If our current partners mistakenly touch on these triggers, they unleash pent-up emotions that they do not understand.
3. Physical neglect.
We live in a fast-paced world where technology has made it easier for us to always be plugged into work. As a result, we’re working more without even realizing it.
Have you ever been so caught up with work that you did not realize that the only meal you’ve had all day was a cup of coffee? Are you so used to being hungry that your brain no longer recognizes normal hunger pain? Perhaps you’ve been working with physical pain for so long that it doesn’t hurt anymore?
A major challenge of always being on the go is that you often ignore your physical comfort or health. That is, until a major health problem creeps up, like a heart attack. Then you’re forced to take things slowly.
Our bodies are built in such a way that there will always be a sign when something is wrong…
…You may not feel hungry, but you’ve become especially irritable.
…Because you’ve had so much coffee, you’re not yawning every few minutes, but you’re having difficulty communicating clearly.
…When we’re hungry, tired, or in pain, we are less able to regulate anxiety and emotions like anger.
If you notice you’re irritable and snapping at those around you, check when you last ate or slept. Are you in any pain or suffering any sort of discomfort? When was the last time you visited the doctor for a checkup?
4. Lack of self-care.
We keep reading and hearing about self-care because of its importance to our overall health. Unfortunately for many of us, it’s easier to take care of everyone around us and our responsibilities than it is to take care of ourselves.
While we may feel this helps us accomplish more in the short term, it is hurting us in the long run.
When you’ve been pouring yourself out into all your responsibilities without taking care of yourself, you have less and less to pour out. Taking time to replenish gives you the opportunity to refuel so you can give and operate at your best.
When you don’t prioritize self-care, you can fall victim to mental health crises and physical ailments.
Self-care is not just about resting and relaxing, it’s also about making sure you’re mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy. You may think that ignoring your self-care is the right decision given the amount of work/errands you have to do, but it only ends up hurting you and those important to you.
If you don’t take care of yourself, everyone loses out. And so do your relationships.
10 Ways To Stop Overreacting In Your Relationship
Now that you know why you overreact, the next step is to figure out how to stop doing so.
Our loved ones do not deserve to be the emotional or physical punching bags for our personal issues. It is our responsibility to work on ourselves so we can be the best partner for them.
Here are some ways to stop overreacting:
1. Identify your triggers.
Triggers are the result of the unhealed wounds of your past. Instead of dealing with the pain of the hurt that was inflicted on you, you learned to cope with it by being hyper-vigilant to any sign of it happening again.
Perhaps you were told you were stupid as a child. So, to avoid feeling like that again, you flair up when your partner asks questions that seem as if they’re questioning your intelligence.
Instead of viewing your partner’s questions as mere questions to gain clarity, your triggers filter them through your inner critic, which always assumes the worst.
Some of our triggers have been with us for such a long time that we can no longer remember what caused them.
When you notice that you’re starting to lose your cool, take time to note what is setting you off. Note the specific actions, tone, and words that are making you angry. This will help you figure out the root of your reactions.
An excellent tool to help you do this is journaling. Journaling has so many mental and physical benefits. Journaling is especially helpful in that it helps you organize your thoughts and emotions into coherent chunks of information that are easier for your brain to process. You can then go back over what you’ve written to see any patterns or clues as to the circumstances of your emotional flare-ups.
2. Talk to your partner about your triggers and overall concerns.
Communicating your triggers to your partner can help them to understand why you might react a certain way to something they say or do and help them avoid touching your sensitive areas.
If you simply bottle up your feelings about the little things they do that annoy you, of course you’re going to eventually erupt into a bout or rage at them when you can no longer bite your tongue.
After all, they won’t know that they are doing anything wrong if you can’t communicate this to them.
And don’t only communicate specific things they do that set you off. Talk about wider concerns and worries you might have so that your partner can show you care and compassion. This alone can make you feel more positively toward them and more patient with them too.
By being open, honest, but also vulnerable with your partner, you will feel closer to them and more willing to seek peaceful resolutions to any little grievances you might have rather than flying off the handle at the tiniest thing they do wrong.
3. Take a 10-minute break to calm down.
As you notice that you’re getting angry, take a ten-minute break. Tell your partner that you need to take a quick break, but you’ll come back in a few minutes. This will give you time to get your emotions under control and examine why you’re reacting the way you are.
Use the break to go for a walk or write in your journal. Do anything that will help you relax and let go of any pent-up tension. If you’re lucky, the break might even allow you to relax enough to see the issue from the perspective of your partner.
Perhaps your partner is the type of person who insists on getting to the bottom of the issue right then and there, regardless of how you’re feeling or your request for a break. If so, when you’re not as emotionally vested or you both have calmed down, explain to them why you’re requesting a break in the middle of a discussion. Let them know you recognize when your emotions are getting the best of you and need a few minutes to calm down to think clearly.
Explain that you’re not asking for a break to silence them or ignore their input or feelings. Rather, you want to make sure you are mentally and emotionally able to understand their viewpoint and communicate yours.
4. Let go of your expectations of your partner.
We enter our relationships with a lot of expectations. Our past relationships, our upbringing, and society have taught us what to expect from other people.
The only problem is that our expectations are mismatched in our relationships. We expect different things from each other. You may expect your partner to help with chores, while your partner expects you to respond to their text messages within five minutes of receiving them.
Often, we have preconceived ideas of what our partners are supposed to do and be. When they don’t (or aren’t) there is friction in our relationship
This is why good communication skills are key. Communicate your expectations to your partner.
If you need them to help around the house, tell them. Don’t expect them to just know. Would it be nice if they did? Of course. But not everyone has the same upbringing. Some people have not cleaned a day in their lives, while others can’t remember a day when they didn’t clean. Communicate what you need from your partner.
If you’ve communicated with them and they insist on not supporting you as you’ve requested, you have one of two choices to make. Either let go of your expectations and accept them for who they actually are. Or let them (that is the relationship) go entirely.
Trying to force them into what you expect will only hurt you and them in the end.
When you truly love someone, you accept them as they are. If you can’t, it’s not love.
5. Stop thinking about whatever has annoyed you.
Have you ever fixated on an issue to the point where you blew it out of proportion?
Maybe your partner tosses their dirty clothes on the floor, instead of the hamper. You’ve asked them several times to put their clothes in the hamper, but they just refuse to do so. Once again, after a long day at work, you enter the bedroom to see their clothes all over the floor.
You may have angrily tossed the offending clothes in the hamper where they belong. But you can’t get your mind off how lazy your partner is being. It takes no more energy to put their dirty clothes in the hamper than on the floor, right? The hamper, after all, is right there. At this point, you know they’re just doing this to piss you off. How can an adult just take off their clothes and toss them on the floor?
And off you go towards having an epic fight.
Instead of ruminating over the irritation with the clothes, take your mind off it. Remind yourself of the areas where your partner excels. They may suck at picking up after themselves but are great at making sure your car is in good working order.
Think about the things they’re good at and don’t let a minor error spoil an otherwise great relationship.
6. Simplify your life to reduce overall stress.
Cut back on your schedule. Reduce your obligations. Unplug from technology. Essentially, simplify your life and give yourself time to just be. Create time to slow down and reflect.
In the last week or month, what was your schedule like? Be honest with yourself. How hectic was it? Were you going from one meeting to another, racing from one errand to a second commitment? Did you collapse into bed at the end of the day? Are you so used to racing full speed ahead that people regularly wonder where you find the energy to accomplish all that you do?
While on the surface, this may seem commendable, when you look at the things that truly matter, such as your relationships and your health, you’re doing great harm.
It’s ok to put boundaries in place when it comes to your obligations. Identify what is really important to you and commit to doing things along that line. Delegate or turn down everything else. Be reluctant to do things that don’t align with what is important to you.
7. Get enough rest to combat a short fuse.
The average adult needs between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Sleep is not something you can store up over the weekend to make up for the deprivation you suffer during the week. In fact, just one hour of sleep loss can take up to four days to recover.
If, on the other hand, you are getting the recommended amount of sleep but still wake up feeling groggy or not well rested, look at improving the quality of your sleep. The following habits may help improve your sleep health:
- Keep the same bedtime and wake time every day, including at weekends.
- Ensure your bedroom is as quiet and dark as possible and try to maintain a comfortable temperature.
- Avoid screen time in the bedroom – including phones, tablets, computers, and TVs.
- Avoid large meals before bedroom. Don’t consume caffeine in the latter part of the day. Don’t consume alcohol before you go to sleep.
- Get some exercise. The greater the physical activity during the day, the more easily you should fall asleep at night.
When you are well-rested, you’ll be able to think more clearly, and you’ll have a better handle on your emotional response to situations that currently lead to you getting angry with your partner.
You probably already know you’re less patient and less accepting when you’re tired, so make sleep a priority and see it as important not only to your relationship but to your wider life too.
8. Use breathing exercises to calm your body and mind.
Breathing exercises help reduce stress, anxiety, and even depression. A benefit to deep breathing exercises is that you can do it anywhere with no one knowing. This is especially ideal when you’re in a tense situation and cannot leave to cool down.
A simple exercise to try is the 4-7-8 breathing exercise:
- Place one hand over your heart and the other hand on your stomach.
- Take a deep, slow breath from your belly rather than your chest. You should feel your diaphragm slide down. Count to four as you breathe in.
- Hold your breath to the count of seven.
- Exhale through your mouth. Try to empty your lungs completely as you count to eight.
- Repeat the process three to five times, or until you feel yourself calming down.
You don’t have to wait until you’re about to explode at your partner to do this breathing exercise. It has so many benefits that you should do it regularly. Doing deep breathing exercises regularly can help people who have insomnia to sleep and balance the hormones that release endorphins in the body.
In general, breathing exercises will help you regulate your emotions and decrease the chances of you overreacting to your partner.
9. Use visualization exercises to find inner peace.
Feeling ready to explode at your partner for something they have said or done? Visualization exercises are great tools to use to help stop angry thoughts and relax your mind.
Try visualizing a calm and serene environment. Imagine you are in your favorite vacation spot or a beautiful, exotic location. Because this is your imagination, this could be anywhere in the world – a remote beach or the mountains or even sitting in your favorite chair or spot in your house.
In this place, think of yourself happy, with a smile on your face. You’re relaxed and calm, having a good time.
Look around you, take in the sights. Use your senses to paint a vivid picture in your mind. What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you feel? The more you use your senses, the more realistic the entire image will become.
Spend time touring your happy place, where you feel less ragey or on edge.
10. Ask for help when you need it.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It shows that you recognize your limitations. Most of the time, people don’t expect you to do it all yourself, anyway. Those that do are either being grossly unfair or lying about the actual cost it took for them to do so.
Don’t expect people to just see you struggling and offer to help you. If you don’t reach out for help, there’s no way for them to know that you need it. If you never complain, people will assume that you are ok.
This is your life. It’s up to you to live it the best way you deem fit. If the best way requires you to get help, do it.
As human beings, we thrive on relationships, whether platonic or romantic. But sadly, growing up, we weren’t all taught the necessary skills to have healthy and fulfilling relationships.
In fact, many of the relationships we witnessed were likely unhealthy. Some may have even been abusive. We’ve learned harmful ways to cope and protect ourselves from the pain we experienced through interaction with these unhealthy or abusive relationships.
While it is understandable that you would have triggers, it is your responsibility to work through them and to heal from them.
The most important thing you can do to improve the quality of your relationships is strive to be a better you. Not only will it benefit you, but the people in your life as well.
Still not sure how to stop overreacting in your relationship? This is one of those situations where you probably need to get help as an individual and as a couple. Luckily, a relationship expert can help in both regards. So why not chat online to one of the experts from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.
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