• Sarah E Davila

Don’t Push That Button: When the Small Things May Break Them

Things are definitely not “normal” right now in our home. So much so that we aren’t even currently living in our home due to an unfortunate case of mold remediation. But trust me when I tell you that’s a giant can of misfortune you do not want me to open on you, so I will spare you the details.

Having to move out every single belonging, find temporary housing, and maintain my sanity while continuing to balance work/home life has been a pretty significant adjustment. So when I had my (I’m just going to go ahead and own it here) meltdown last week, I’m sure that this was part of it.

If I were to sit down and make a list of other contributing factors I would include annoying medical issues, my baby graduating preschool (how is that even possible?) and a crazy baseball season for my two boys. All of these have been stressful and to be honest my coping skills have not been up to par as of late. But did these things trigger my meltdown?

Nope, nope and nope. The straw that broke the camel’s back, or better yet, led me to want to break my husband’s back, was one simple statement spoken from his lips in regards to a recent bathing suit purchase. “You look like you are going to a swim event.”

That was it. That was all it took. For the record, I am not going to a “swim event.” We are going to Costa Rica on an adults only trip where my goal is to look hot and sexy and not like I am competing in a 200 meter freestyle relay. And I know, or at least I'm pretty sure, he knew just how sensitive this topic is for me right now.

Let’s just say that my reactions to these said words was definitely not hot or sexy, those of which I will be keeping to myself. You didn’t actually think I was going to share the details did you? Haha. Looking back on the meltdown, there are many things I would have changed about my reaction and there are many other coping skills I should have utilized.

But you know what? I get it. And honestly, I don’t’ blame him. It is so tempting to “push the buttons” of family members because it can be so easy to do so. It’s like seeing a wet paint sign and touching the wall anyways because you’re dying to know if it is actually still wet. But think about that for a second. If that paint is wet, how much work will it take to repair the damage? Luckily for me, and definitely for my husband, the damage wasn’t significant. I got over it pretty quickly and we are still excited for our trip.

However, let’s talk about real damage for a second. When families experience conflict, grief or trauma, there is a very deep pain that is shared among family members, and “buttons” can often arise from this pain. In fact, our loved ones are typically the ones who get the brunt of our worst behaviors. Many professionals would say that this is due to the fact that we can trust our loved ones and therefore push the limits of that relationship. Essentially, our most important relationships become the ones we neglect the most.

So how can we remain mindful of this dilemma and resist the urge to push those buttons? Here are 5 ways that may help.

· Don’t take the bait: If your loved one is trying to take out their negative emotions on you, find a way to give them something else to focus on besides their problems and concerns. Help them to feel connected and useful in another way that will promote more positive feelings.

· Use empathy: Negative behaviors are often symptoms of negative emotions. Try to put yourself in their shoes and attempt to gain an understanding of what they are going through.

· If you don’t know, ask: This is where “I” statements come in to play. State your own feelings about what you see happening and then ask what you can do to help. (Ex. I feel frustrated when you complain every day because it makes it hard for me to stay positive. What can I do to support you right now?)

· Share your strength: If you have enough strength in that moment to push their buttons, than you probably have some strength to spare. Take awareness of their moment of weakness and extend some love in any way that you can, even if it’s the smallest gesture of kindness that you can muster.

· Walk away: If it’s just too tempting and you know that you will push their buttons if you remain in the conversation than remove yourself as quickly as possible. You hopefully already do this in public, at work and with friends. If we can make the effort to avoid conflict in those relationships, why can’t we do that for the ones we love the most?

Most importantly, practice these skills now! Even if it is about something silly like a bathing suit, put these skills into action. One day life will probably throw you a curve ball and these seemingly simple steps will begin to feel impossible to conquer. Pull your loved ones closer. Remind them they are worthy. Put their insecurities to sleep. And please, stop pressing those buttons!

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