Our upbringing, environment and our significant emotional experiences shaped our lives. This help to structure our values, beliefs, attitudes, decisions, they even determine what we like or dislike and why.

These three factors (upbringing, environment and significant experiences) that shaped us to the persons we are were all not pleasant experiences. Many of them occurred before we met our spouses or present relationship partners but still influence our relationships and choices.

Our partners find that we are especially sensitive to specific comments, actions or behaviours. A large part of these sensitivities also known as ‘enduring vulnerabilities’ in truth has no history in our present relationship but keep dictating what is allowed by us or not in this current relationship and often these triggers will stay with us through our lifetime.

It can sometimes be confusing to be at the receiving end of an outburst or other forms of protest that we do not understand what you have done to deserve the reaction.

It is for this reason we encourage couples to discuss these vulnerabilities, as understanding the circumstances that led to it can lead to the partners becoming closer.

It provides an opening for the couples to work together in finding ways and possible behavioural options when the vulnerability is triggered. A simple and subtle reminder to a partner having a reaction based on an enduring vulnerability can be enough to stop the episode.

If, however, the surrounding reasons for these sensitivities are buried in a very traumatic event that the partner has not sought help for or the reactions/protest as a result of a past event is severe; it may be advisable for the partner to seek professional assistance to deal with it.

We must be wary of using this information to mock, make any form of derogatory remarks or use the information to score points during a disagreement as this would erode the trust in the relationship and would lead to a sharp relationship satisfaction decline.

Remembering that we all have our vulnerabilities can help us to the more gracious in reacting to our partners’.

One the other hand, going through the healing process together, or working together to find more productive ways to handle our triggers can bring a couple closer, deepen their sense of oneness and build deeper trust.

  Nancy Oblete

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