1. Be Aware of Your Hang-Ups
Self awareness is a crucial skill— and it’s particularly useful in learning your triggers. As Parke Sterling, a Virginia-based therapist, points out, interactions or comments trigger insecurities, which are often blind spots. For example, if you’re freaking out about forgetting to do the dishes, you might have an underlying fear that your spouse doesn’t respect you or that people see you as irresponsible. When that insecurity kicks in, you might feel threatened and defensive.One antidote, Sterling says, is simply to be aware of your hangups. “They’re really just patterns of thinking and feeling that are a natural result of each person’s genetics and conditioning,” he says. Once you recognize and accept your hang-ups, you can look at them instead of from them. Focus on recognizing when you’re triggered, slowing down to own it, and then determining if you want to act from your hang-up or your desire to grow as a person or connect with your spouse.
2. Watch how you talk to yourself
Once you pinpoint your insecurities in the moment, you’ll also want to keep working on them. Part of that work, Marsac says, entails keeping tabs on your internal dialogue – the self-talk that influences how you see yourself and, ultimately, how you behave in relationships.For example, if you continually tell yourself stories throughout the week that you suck and your partner’s mad at you, you’ll filter every interaction through that narrative. Instead, work to challenge those thoughts. Try simply reframing that negative self-talk with a caveat, such as “I can be forgetful about chores, but I’m working on it” or “I’m not the best listener, but I want to get better.”
3. Check in with your partner
Another big part of growing out of taking things personally? Involve your partner in the process. Nick Bognar, a California-based therapist, says looping your spouse into the conversation can help promote more realistic thinking, all the while strengthening your relationship. For instance: If you’re ruminating on the dishes situation, tell your partner you’re worried they think you’re an asshole. “Tell them you really don’t want to make up a story that isn’t true, and that you want to check in with how they really feel,” Bognar says. Then, actually listen.
4. Take your partner at their word
Here’s the hard part: When insecurities are causing you to spiral, you’ll find any cognitive affirmation you can to solidify them. Work against that urge, and resolve to actually take your partner at their word when they tell you the truth about how they feel. As Bognar says, believing what someone else tells you is a sign of respect for them. Once you resolve the issue, don’t second guess – it’s your partner’s responsibility to be honest when you provide an opportunity to open up emotionally. “If they don’t tell you something you’re doing that’s bothering them when they ask, then that’s on them, not you,” Bognar says.
5. Enlist additional support
If your insecurities continually interfere with your well-being or taking things personally is taking a toll on your relationship, consider therapy. “Talking to someone can be a good thing because there’s some part of you that learned to anticipate someone will be angry with you if you hear criticism and make it the worst thing possible,” Bognar says. “Therapy can help you understand where that mindset was implemented and why it doesn’t work.”If the problem is taking an ongoing toll on your relationship, and nothing’s helping, a couple’s therapist can help – think of it as having a conversation in front of someone who can help you decode it. Either way, know you’re not the only one struggling, and that growth – as uncomfortable as it can be – takes time. “All these changes are so easy to rattle off, but they’ll take practice for you to learn,” says Bognar.
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