Detaching from Reactive Comments
Your partner gets upset and makes a comment in a heated moment and now you are tormented by it. You find yourself replaying the comment over and over and feeling the sting each time. Perhaps your partner has apologized and given you reassurance that it means nothing. Still, it hurts and stays with you. How can you get past it?
Three things are helpful to consider. One, the comment likely triggers your own insecurities or unhealed wounds. It is related to something in yourself that remains unintegrated. The comment keeps coming up in your mind as a way of directing your attention towards healing for yourself. Just sitting quietly and resting your attention on the sense of pain and discomfort without being swept away into your narrative about it, will help you to connect with what the comment touches in you. Once you can name this part of your experience, immediately bring a sense of kindness and acceptance. In addition to a call for kindness and acceptance in your emotions and energy, your words might sound something like this, "I see that my partner's comment triggers my own doubt about whether I am loveable or not. A part of me feels frustrated that this still comes up for me, because I long for relief and healing. I also know that it's okay for this to be here and I can meet it with love."
The second thing that's helpful to consider is your partner's experience. The more you can connect with what's really happening in your partner's heart, the more you can detach from the comment. Underneath the reactive misperception of what's happening, are valid feelings and needs for your partner. Hearing these with empathy can help ground you both in what's true.
Sometimes though the present moment context doesn't land you in the sense of compassion you want to access. In this case, it's helpful to bring fully to heart and mind the life-long context of your partner's pain from which the comment arose. This often means understanding how wounding occurred in childhood or in another significant period of life for your partner. It's tricky here. If you aren't mindful, you can slip into analysis of your partner which usually leads to judgment. If you lose yourself in judgment, start again with self-empathy.
Lastly, reactivity sticks around when a clear agreement or plan for future interactions hasn't been established. A promise from your partner not to say something like that again is often not enough. A specific, do-able, authentic agreement arises from three things:
1) Accepting that you will get triggered again about the same thing in the same way.
2) Honoring each other's feelings and needs in that particular situation. This means your partner really gets the impact of his or her words on you and you really connect with the feelings and needs of your partner.
3) Finding a genuine desire to behave differently in a future similar situation.
Coming up with a new agreement requires patience and creativity. Too often I have seen couples settle with an agreement that glosses over the needs of one person or make a vague agreement that's really more like a wish not to ever get reactive again.
Finding trust and emotional safety after a painful reactive comment requires focused attention and a willingness to turn towards what's painful to find a way through. Without this attention and direct action, reactive comments fester in the relationship's toxic dumping ground, over time, becoming ever more difficult to clean up. The reverse is also true, the sooner you turn towards a reactive comment for repair, the faster and easier the clean up and healing.
PracticeTake a moment now to feel your heart as you think about your relationship. Is there something there that wants your attention? Hang out with the pain and discomfort, breathing into it for three full inhales and exhales. If you are in the middle of a busy day, make a note to yourself to come back to this and complete a self-empathy process.