Friday, September 11, 2009

Getting Upset With Your Partner?

Principal fissures and lobes of the cerebrum v...Image via Wikipedia

Why do I feel upset when my partner is upset, when I have determined that it has nothing to do with me? Why do I get irritable when my partner is irritable?

We cannot underestimate the intensity of the relationship between partners. Sharing lives involves sharing emotional response and feelings. As partners we seem to pick up the emotions of the other. Why does this occur?

We may have been feeling peaceful and calm when our partner arrived irritable and anxious from a day at the office. Soon we are feeling tense and cranky and unable to determine the cause. We have suddenly changed mood and we are confused. What happened to us?

Within our nervous system exist mirror neurons. These mirror neurons relay a complex grouping of information to our brains including spoken words, tone of voice, body language and minute meta-messages that we are likely unaware we are sending and receiving. This information received by our mirror neurons causes us to release neurotransmitters in our brain creating a copy cat emotional response within us akin to what our partner is experiencing.

How do we determine what feelings belong to us and what feelings are being created within us by our relationship to our partner? Each of us is empathic within close relationships to some degree. We can tell a great deal about how our partner is feeling from tell tale signals they send within their voice and body language. We know when they are upset or angry.

We learn to differentiate when we practice our tools. We learn to respond rather than react when we are confronted with strong emotions. We take a moment to think about how we felt prior to being in the presence of our partner. This brief pause for reflection may give us insight into the origin of the feelings we are attempting to discern. We can then decide to respond rather than react. We may diffuse a potential disagreement by showing compassion for our partners foul mood and allowing them the space to soothe themselves back into balance. This allows our partner to practice self care and keeps us at arms length from the fray.

When partners become aware of how they may be mirroring each others behavior and attitudes they can choose compassion over reaction. Over time through learning to respond rather than react partners may overcome their natural tendency to mirror one another and improve the quality of their relationship.

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