21 Biggest Relationship Triggers & How To Stay Calm (2024)

You know how they say, “Your relationship is your mirror’ or ‘Your relationship is a reflection of you.’

Ever wondered what that means? Well, the answer lies in your past, or to be more precise, your past relationships and unhealed emotions. 

The next time you get into a heated argument with your partner, take a second to observe yourself and your feelings. They are your mirror.

If your emotional reaction to a situation becomes bigger than the situation itself, it means you’ve probably been triggered. 

Today, we’re talking about the most common relationship triggers and tips on how to stay calm.

What Are The Biggest Relationship Triggers?

Here are the 21 biggest (and most common) relationship triggers to look out for.

1. Trust Issues

Trust is an essential component of every healthy relationship.

When there’s little to no trust, it’s hard to be happy in a relationship. Whether you’re the one with trust issues or it’s your partner, lack of trust can hurt you both.

Trust issues often come from previous relationships where you’ve been hurt, cheated on, or lied to. They can also have an underlying cause in your upbringing and your earliest experiences.

Trust issues may also arise from childhood trauma. It’s important to find the meaning behind mistrust to be able to heal fully. 

2. Lack of Respect

Mutual respect is key to a healthy relationship.

If you’ve ever felt unheard, excluded, or ignored in your past relationship, you may have become more sensitive to these emotions as a result. You can even track some of these feelings back to your childhood.

Children that were mistreated or disrespected by their parents are more likely to develop emotional trauma that can manifest both physically and emotionally later in life.    

3. Past Relationships

Some of the major triggers result from past relationships. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you carry emotional baggage into each new relationship you enter, and so does your romantic partner. 

How you’ve been treated (or mistreated) in your earlier experiences is what will define you in a certain way and influence your future relationships.

Of course, this can be a good thing because you will be able to grow from each experience. But sometimes, you will get hurt, and those old emotions may become sensitivities that you will bring into each new situation.

4. Your Ex Partner’s Behavior

Your partner’s past behavior may interfere with your current relationship, especially if you’re at the very beginning of it.

Projecting your past fears and insecurities onto your new partner is the first clue that you might be dealing with a trigger. 

Try to communicate your fears with your partner if you want to overcome these relationships triggers.

Don’t sweep those old emotions under the rug, but try to make sense of the whole thing and strengthen your current relationship.

5. Your Critical Inner Voice

Your critical inner voices are destructive thoughts toward yourself or others that may affect your romantic relationships.

That nagging inner voice that tells you things like “You’re stupid,” “He doesn’t care about you,” or “You’re weak” often comes from early life experiences. 

They can make you question everyone and everything, including your loved ones.

Your critical inner voices can make you undermine your partner as well as your feelings for them, so it’s important to learn to conquer your inner critical voice and not let it control you. 

6. Incompatible Belief Systems

It may be hard to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t share the same belief system as you. It’s up to you to decide if this is a deal-breaker or you can compromise on some of your beliefs.

But oftentimes, having different core values and belief systems may trigger you and interfere with your relationship.

7. You Feel Insecure

Whether it’s because of your critical inner voices or your past experiences, you may occasionally feel insecure about yourself.

It’s important to learn to identify the root cause of your insecurities; it can be anxiety, lack of self-love, or no self-respect. 

But if those feelings have nothing to do with your own triggers, it might be time to consider leaving for good. Before you do, I suggest you read this helpful guide: 13 Expert Tips To Consider Before Leaving A Relationship.

8. Being Cheated On Before

relationship triggers cause sadness
Photo by Yanalya on freepik.com

If you’ve been cheated on in the past, you may occasionally project all the blame onto your new partner.

You might worry that they’re going to hurt you, that they’re talking to someone else, or are still in contact with their ex-partner. That could be a sign of old trauma.

Try to remember that this is a totally different person and a different relationship. It’s time to let go of those old emotions once and for all.

9. Holidays

While holidays are all about togetherness and family, they often bring out the worst in us. Why? Where do I even start? 

There are so many reasons the festive season is so uniquely stressful – financial problems, food, pressure to be happy, unhealed family trauma, etc.

Add your current relationship to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a potentially triggered state. Try to talk it out with your partner, take a moment to breathe, and prepare yourself in advance. 

10. Boundaries

Another crucial aspect of all healthy relationships is boundaries. You need to set clear boundaries and share them with your loved one.

In the same way, you need to respect your partner’s boundaries if you want to make the relationship work. Overstepped boundaries are a common trigger in relationships, so it’s important to know your limits very well.

11. Unclear Expectations

Just like you should communicate your fears, boundaries, and emotions to your partner, sharing your expectations is equally essential. It will be hard for them to meet your needs if you don’t communicate with them upfront.

Otherwise, you risk those unclear expectations turning into anger, discomfort, or conflict. 

12. Emotional Detachment

If you’ve ever been with an emotionally unavailable or detached person, you may occasionally feel the need to question your current partner’s intentions.

I’d suggest reading this article to learn more about push-pull behaviors: Push-Pull Relationship – How To Break The Cycle In

The fact that your previous boyfriend or girlfriend couldn’t connect with you on a deeper level doesn’t mean your current partner doesn’t either. Try to heal that past trauma and allow yourself to open up to love again. 

13. Feeling Unsafe

Feeling emotionally safe with a partner is one of the main prerequisites of a healthy relationship. Being betrayed by someone close to you will inevitably leave its mark on you and all your future relationships. 

Try to heal those wounds, work on those past traumas, and open yourself to a safe environment. This guide might help you establish a healthier relationship: 13 Stages Of A Healthy Relationship

14. Financial Issues

Experiencing financial insecurity during childhood can result in long-lasting trauma and anxiety.

So whether it’s going to bed hungry or worrying about your next meal, having any economic issues as a child or a teenager will inevitably leave its mark. 

So, if you find yourself in a heated fight with your partner over unpaid bills or money problems, financial triggering might be the reason for your intense and strong reaction in these situations.  

15. Time Issues

You and your partner may have different schedules from time to time. Not finding time for each other can hinder your relationship growth and make you upset with each other.

You may feel they don’t care enough about you to fit you into their busy schedule and, as a result, get triggered by it. But try to stay calm and understand if there’s an underlying reason behind your trigger before acting on it. 

16. Words That Trigger Old Emotions

Words hurt, especially those that remind you of traumatic events or situations. But your partner can’t know this about you if you don’t tell them.

So once again, it all boils down to communication. It is absolutely critical to communicate with your partner if you want to feel safe with them. 

17. Any Family Trauma

A lot of unresolved triggers come from childhood and early life events. When you’re a child or a teenager, you’re more sensitive to stressful situations.

If you’ve had a challenging childhood or a toxic parent, you may have developed family trauma that is now causing triggers in your relationship.

18. Ex-Partner

If you catch yourself obsessing over your partner’s exes, ask yourself this: Has my partner ever done anything to make me worry about their exes, or am I only projecting my deepest fears onto them?

You should try to get to the bottom of this before acting on your impulses and potentially hindering your partner’s trust.

19. Criticism

If you find yourself feeling surprisingly angry or defensive about a remark from your partner, it might be a sign of hidden trauma or underlying insecurities from your childhood.

Of course, you shouldn’t accept harsh criticism or bullying from anyone, not even your loved ones. But if a bit of feedback gets you utterly upset, it may be time to work on it. 

20. Unresolved Conflicts

It’s always better to address relationship problems early – even when you think they’re not so important – before they become too much to handle.

Sustained conflicts can create unnecessary tension and potentially ruin a relationship. If you don’t talk it out one issue at a time, you will end up being triggered by the smallest situations or events in your daily life. 

21. Any Other Overwhelming Feeling

A trigger can be practically anything.

Any intense reaction to a situation or event may be a reason to step back and dig a little deeper. If you want to live a more peaceful life and manage your triggers, you need to start with self-reflection and self-work.

Can Relationships Trigger Trauma?

can relationships trigger trauma
Photo by Külli Kittus on unsplash.com

Relationships triggers are strong emotional reactions to current situations. They are reminders of some painful moments from your past and can appear seemingly meaningless when they’re, in fact, very important. 

An unkind word, a rough situation, or a stressful holiday, a trigger can be anything. As long as you feel that your reaction doesn’t quite match the situation, it means you’ve probably been emotionally triggered. 

We can often trace back triggers to our childhoods, past traumas, and painful memories. A relationship can trigger trauma, but you can definitely heal from it with time and work. 

Relationship abuse or abusive behavior (physical, sexual, emotional) can cause lingering trauma that can produce lasting effects and create challenges in intimacy.

How Do I Stop Being Triggered in a Relationship?

We can definitely learn to stop being triggered in a relationship, react in healthier ways, and avoid causing long-lasting damage to ourselves. 

The first step is to learn your triggers. Ask yourself, why do I feel triggered by this situation? Are my old emotions haunting me now? 

It’s also vital to pay close attention to your critical inner voice. It may be misleading, upsetting, and a huge trigger. Finally, sit with all those feelings and allow them to simply be. 

A mindful approach is a great tool for overcoming your triggers. Once you’re more in control over new patterns, don’t forget to talk to your partner and seek a collaborative communication approach.  

How to Communicate When You’re Triggered

It’s pretty hard to stay calm and keep your cool when you feel triggered. As much as a trigger can hold you accountable in your life, it’s important not to let it take control over you. 

But triggers are, after all, negative reactions, so they carry a strong emotional charge. You shouldn’t let them control your behavior, though! Instead, learn to communicate when you’re triggered. 

Here are some tips to stay calm when in trigger mode. 

  • Be aware of your triggers – Learn to recognize when you’re triggered by observing what happens in your body. Silently label your over reaction as a trigger, don’t criticize yourself for it, and move on;
  • Hit pause – Once you notice a trigger, take a step back from the heated argument or conversation. Get silent for a little bit and listen closely to your critical inner voice or your inner child;
  • Sit with it – If you need to excuse yourself from a social setting, go for it. Triggers are overwhelming and could be a sign of a childhood wound being reopened. Try to sit with the feeling and pay attention to see if any old memory arises;
  • Take a deep breath – Breathing is fundamental to staying calm when you’re triggered. While you’re letting the trigger arise, take a few deep breathes, and visualize your breath coming in and out;
  • Dig a little bit deeper – Try to talk to yourself first before communicating with your partner about it. What’s the meaning behind this trigger? Am I projecting my fears onto the other person? Can I leave my self-centered perspective and put myself in their shoes? Don’t beat yourself up about your emotional reaction, but find a way to understand it on a deeper level. 
  • Communicate When you’re triggered, it’s definitely harder to stay calm. That’s why you shouldn’t rush it and say something that you don’t mean or that you may regret later. Instead, follow the above simple steps before starting an honest conversation with your partner and working on your collaborative communication.

What Are Examples of Emotional Triggers?

examples of emotional triggers
Photo by Yanalya on freepik.com

Emotional triggers are strong emotional responses, such as anger, fear, or sadness. They often result from earlier life experiences and can be triggered by situations or events in the present. 

For example, if you feel particularly overwhelmed and upset when someone is crying, that might be a sign of a trigger.

Of course, seeing someone cry is always emotional, but if you notice extreme discomfort on your end, crying is your trigger.

Let’s see some other examples of emotional triggers in a relationship.

Toxic Relationship Triggers

Relationships are supposed to feel right. You’re not supposed to feel emotionally drained or constantly sad. Sure, everyone has their bumps on the road and occasional quirks, but toxic partners are another story. 

Some toxic relationship triggers are jealousy, envy, lack of respect, resentment, abusive behavior, constant stress, walking on eggshells, etc. 

If you feel utterly unhappy with your partner, it might be time to walk away and talk to a therapist about your trauma.

I often use this relationship test as an online life coach to help my couple clients. Check it out: Relationship Test – Proven By Tony Robbins.

Relationship Triggers Feedback

Some people get triggered when they receive feedback from a person who they think doesn’t have the right to give them feedback or with whom they have a problematic relationship.

It all usually comes down to the issues of credibility, broken trust, or general dislike. 

Feedback triggers tend to occur between family members, but they find their way into intimate relationships as well. 

Relationship Triggers Childhood Trauma

Unresolved childhood trauma is a common reason why fights happen in an intimate relationship.

Both you and your partner carry emotional baggage from your previous experiences, childhood being one of the most important ones. 

Some symptoms of repressed childhood trauma are attachment issues, childish reactions, inability to cope with normal stressful situations, anxiety, sudden new fears, etc.

Trauma Triggers in Relationships

Living through traumatic events and situations can take a toll on you. If left unhealed, physical, emotional, and verbal trauma may create negative patterns in your relationships. 

Abusive relationships or growing up in a dysfunctional family can also cause trauma-like reactions and sensitivity to emotional triggers.

Some examples of trauma triggers are expectations of betrayal, potential harm, or abuse. Also, traumatized people tend to be more vulnerable and insecure about what a safe environment looks like. 

Final Thoughts

Thanks for taking the time to read my article. I hope my insights helped you learn more about relationship triggers and that you’ve gained a better understanding of your personal triggers. 

If you have any questions about this topic, I’d love to help you out! We’re all in this together, so don’t be shy about your doubts. 

Remember that everyone is going through something. What’s important is that you accept yourself – with all your trauma, fears, and triggers – to be able to heal yourself.

If I can help you in any way, don’t hesitate to ask. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below, and I hope I hear from you soon!

About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.