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Relationship Minute: You are responsible for how you react. Your partner is not.

No matter what the other does or says, you each are solely responsible for your responses.  This may seem counter-intuitive to you, particularly if your mate behaves in outrageous ways but couples who successfully manage their own emotional reactivity and can keep physiologically regulated (and not “rage” for example) can more effectively work through disagreements.  The goal is to learn self soothing skills (self-imposed time outs, breathing, mindfulness…) and ideally get to a place where you can also turn to each other for soothing.  If you continue to blame each other for your anger, you run the risk of continuing to damage your relationship.

One of the things I do in my couples therapy practice is teach couples ways to avoid hostile communication by education about the physiology of anger.  I also help them learn how to stay regulated and explore possible deeper family of origin issues as they relate to trust and attachment.

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