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3 Questions To Get To The Bottom of A Hurtful Relationship Pattern

November 2, 2017
2 min read

Ever wondered why something as simple as your partner’s tone of voice can send you into a tailspin? How something seemingly small feel like an inferno inside, sending you off the charts? Do you judge yourself for this? Or justify your reaction?

What (the hell) is going on here?!

Most likely it has to do with safety. How safe or unsafe you feel in a certain situation – and how you perceive threat in your relationship.

The nervous system has a way of constantly assessing your level of safety that’s happening all the time.

Because a situation felt scary to you when you were young – or because you actually experienced a real fear or life-threatening situation – you may react as if it’s a actually happening again. Your partner triggers you, and you behave like your 5-year-old self did then.

Sometimes all it takes is a gesture, or a look, and our system gets tripped, just like a switch going off, instantly.


When we feel threatened, we go into survival mode.

Our brain shuts off, reasoning goes offline, and we react instead of thinking.

If not addressed, these patterns can deteriorate safety and connection in your relationship over time.

So what do we do?

Relationship expert and psychotherapist Terri Cole lays down 3 questions to help you get to the bottom of the relationship pattern:

According to Terri, we need to ask ourselves:

  1. Who does this person remind me of?
  2. Where have I felt like this before?
  3. Why is this behavioral dynamic familiar to me?

And then see if you can get clear about what’s really going on. Why are you so upset? Or scared? Why is this such a big deal?

Recognize that you are feeling threatened and remember that the person in front of you is not mom or dad or whoever the scary person was back then.

When you’re ready, share what you’ve discovered with your partner.

Owning and understanding our reactions gets us resourced and better able to deal with the real time, real life issues that show up.

Breaking down a hurtful relationship pattern opens the door to building your way back into safety and connection!

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