Sometimes my husband says the wrong thing. He’ll make statements that contain trigger words such as, “obsess,” “scream,” “always” and “never.”

We’ve all heard these words before, and the reason they drive us crazy is because they contain a trace of truth.

Today, he advised me not to “… obsess too much about it. I think your exercise plan is fine,” because I watched a long (and drawn-out) video about heart health and how to prevent heart disease.

Trigger Words

This trigger word brought me to my feet and I practically chased him out the house while raging at him, “Are you crazy? I’m not obsessing! I’m doing research and looking for positive reinforcement. I need to stay motivated!”

Yes, the truth is I do read a lot about healthy foods and alternative medicine, but I’m not obsessing; I’m educating myself.

Thank goodness, it snowed again last night. He had a great excuse to go outside, putting a set of double-glazed French doors between us. I still yanked it open, glared at him and snarkily said, “I’m surprised you’re not suggesting I take laudanum for my hysteria.”

Of course, only a fan of historical romance would make that kind of retort. He averted his eyes and kept shoveling, but I’m sure the corner of his lip lifted as he processed my silly remark.

“Scream” is another trigger word.

I’ll admit that I have a loud voice and when I’m having a rant, it tends to go a bit louder. “Quit screaming at me,” however, is not going to make me lower my tone. He knows this, but he also knows that accusing me of “screaming” is going to divert my attention from his offense. It works and I launch into a new tirade correcting his misinterpretation of my volume.

I’ve gotten better at tossing out “Quit screaming at me,” whenever he’s being loud, just so he can see how it feels. He looks affronted, as if I accused him of having a vagina. “Men don’t scream,” he’ll proclaim with arrogance.

Then, there’s “always” and counter-argument “never” — two of the most heinous trigger words in the relationship vocabulary. “You never pick up after yourself” and “You always leave the gate open” are classic examples of the hurtful accusation. We both use these trigger words when we want to rub salt into a wound, earn points in an escalating argument.

Counselors warn couples to toss out these trigger words, but it is hard to do. Even after thirty-plus years, you’d think we’d know that “always” and “never” are trigger words, but we still use them and they still feel like a slap in the face with a big, wet fish.

What’s the solution when even old-timers like my husband and I still use trigger words to inflict pain and gain superiority?

In our relationship, laughter is the balm that soothes the wound. It’s impossible for me to harbor a grudge, especially with my lover, my best friend.  So, we just let it go, roll our eyes and make a joke. It feels so much better to “let it go.” Who cares about being right? I care about being happy and, thanks to being playful and forgiving, we are.

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Trigger Words by Robin Van Auken is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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