How to De-escalate Arguments and Manage Triggers

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Manage Triggers

What if you could learn to manage triggers and create healthier relationships? Paige and Don Marrs show you how to argue right!

Paige and Don Marrs returned to Last First Date Radio to talk about how to de-escalate arguments and manage triggers. They have been happily married for over 30 years and have worked together since the day they joined their lives. They co-authored two how-to memoirs, both of which teach through story. Executive in Passage: When Life Lets You Know It’s Time to Change, Let that Knowing Lead You, chronicles Don’s passionate struggle to leave behind the ethical conflicts in his career in advertising and find work that would be truly meaningful for him.

Their second book, Grabbing Lightning: The Messy Quest for an Extraordinary Love, reveals their “messy,” intimate journey to a love greater than either of them knew to reach for. Paige and Don have offered their relationship program, The Love Conversation®, for more than a decade, helping couples and singles resolve their challenges and experience the love they yearn for instead.

How to De-escalate Arguments and Manage Triggers

Arguments can be so painful that people (dating or committed) start to wonder if they’re a sign they shouldn’t be together. What’s your take on that?

Don: We think you should stay with the relationship when you’re triggered. When we first got together, we were blissfully in love. A few years later, we had an argument, and suddenly we were at war. Arguments give you an opportunity to go deeper into the relationship.

Paige: IF you learn how to be in the argument and respond and de-escalate, so the love wins instead of whatever fear got triggered. Otherwise, people split or stay in lives with lots of separation.

Don: In the early days of our relationship, I was extremely defensive. It was easy for us to get into an argument when I was triggered. After our first argument, Paige realized she needed to find a way to introduce the discussion without it sounding like an attack, such as, “Why are you ignoring me?” She approached me in a way that felt safe.

Paige: You can’t walk on eggshells either. You won’t like the results. We’d have little misunderstandings about things we think shouldn’t bother us. Don would snap at me with a mean tone. I’d either be so stunned I couldn’t talk, or I’d be angry and keep talking, both of which backfired.

Before we married, we recognized that the love we felt was a reflection of something larger; a transcendent love or eternal love. Arguments were transitory. I tried a gazillion different approaches [to get through to him when he was triggered].

What worked best for us was when I’d come back to him and say something like, “I’m struggling with something, and I need your help. Let me warn you that when I describe my view, you’re going to look like the villain.” It turned things around.

How did you turn things around in your relationship?

Don: I had an epiphany that everything was love. That stayed with me as a reality. I had connected love to my business, but I hadn’t connected love with relationship! The arguments had gotten out of hand so easily.

The root of every argument is fear. [My fear] was I wasn’t lovable. If we keep defaulting to love, it’s much stronger than the fear emotion. The strategy is how to get both people in a loving mood again.

How can people calm down when triggered?

Paige: We need to do the inner work enough so that we can say what we need to say without a charge to our voice. I check in with my body, work through the stories in my head, and if I know it was a fear fest, noticing leads to calming.

I shifted from being mad to being sad. Only then can I think clearly enough to have the conversation.

Don: Paige disarmed my fear. Then, I could listen. It’s important to get to ‘love’ before having the discussion.

Where do triggers come from and how can we manage them?

Paige: We’re hard-wired to be triggered. It’s important to keep our physical safety intact, which is why we get triggered. It keeps us alive. We’re also wired to not be able to tell the difference between physical danger and emotional danger or if your partner is snapping at you a little bit.

Two things are most important in managing triggers. 1. Knowing the neurobiology of it. 2. Taking time to understand how the trigger reaction becomes enacted in our conversations with one another. It manifests in the way we speak to one another. We can learn how we overreact and behave by raising our voices or running away. Lightbulbs go off and show us that we have other choices.

Don: Another thing in the neuroscience is that fear is not the boss. There’s a lot more that supports love; mindfulness, caring, and embracing others. When you disarm the fear and go deeper into love, you access the transcendent quality of love.

Paige: What Don just described is about the potential of relationship that few people get to experience. It’s so important that we’re doing this work and going way out of our comfort zone to help more people. That’s why we wrote the book. We care about having more love on the planet and less fear.

Get the book here: Grabbing Lightning, The Messy Quest for an Extraordinary Love.

Connect with Don and Paige Marrs here

Please subscribe/rate and review the podcast here.

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