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Divorce Blog

Stop pushing my buttons!

By Colette Fortin

Angry Man

How can someone go from being an intelligent, rational individual to crying, yelling, angry person?

People tell me all the time: “I’m not normally like this”, or they “just brings out the worst in me. I wish they would stop making me feel so crazy. I hate being this way.”

So why is it that your Ex pushes your buttons so easily?

It might have something to do with control — or lack of it. Let’s be honest, we all love to be in control. It makes us feel safe. We have a natural desire to want life to be smooth and predictable. So when those unexpected ‘ex’ curve balls come at us, we react.

It’s natural to react to unexpected stress in life. After all, it wreaks havoc on our plans, our dreams and desires.

And especially in divorce, control is something we often feel we lose.

And that is why those trigger buttons feel like they are getting pushed way too much.

Chances are you hate feeling this way.

So what are you going to do about it?

Your friends might tell you to ignore it – you’re being too sensitive.
Or worse yet, they’ll play into your rage. With pearls of wisdom like “your ex is such a jerk I can’t believe they are treating you that way”.

But these statements neither help nor do they make us feel any better. On the one hand, you feel like a loser for being so sensitive. And on the flip side, you feel like a loser for letting them get to you.

And now you’re stuck

Because if they would only stop then all would be okay.

But it’s not likely to stop. If you have children together, you will have a relationship with your button pusher for life.

What do you do now?

Regain control in your divorce

We’ve all heard people say that others can’t push our buttons unless we allow them to. And as it turns out this advice isn’t far from the truth.

So if you allow it to happen, how do you make it stop?

The key is YOU.

YOU are in control of those emotional reactions, not your spouse.

Take a moment and reflect on why you feel this way?

What is it about this moment or event that is pushing my buttons?

The first step out of conflict is to understand why you feel the way you do. Taking time to reflect will help you to gain control of the situation.

Reacting with anger is easy.

When your spouse is a half hour late for picking up the kids or has cancelled a weekend away with them.

Instead of reacting in frustration, which often results in lashing out, ask yourself:

Why is it that I feel this way?

It is rarely about the incident at the moment

The real issue will likely be about feeling valued, and that your time is important too. Or it may be about respect. You may want to your ex to ask you beforehand, instead of surprises.

No matter the cause, there is always a reason for emotional reactions. And that is both the gift and the opportunity.

Stop letting other people push your buttons

It isn’t easy to step out of reaction mode. But when you take the time to practice you will see the benefits. By learning about what triggers your buttons to get pushed, you’ll have a better idea how to deal with it.

Some practical tips to stop the instant reaction:

Just breathe

Tell yourself you won’t do or say anything until you breathe for 10 seconds. Never underestimate the power of taking time to pause.

You do it when you see that your four-year-old has dumped all the shampoo on the bathroom floor. As they look at you sweetly and say “look I’m skating!”

Wait — before you respond

How many times have you sent text messages or emails in the heat of the moment only to regret it the second you hit ‘send’. Make a pact with yourself that you won’t respond to messages for one hour – or better yet, if it’s not urgent a day.

Who said answers have to be instantaneous?

When your teenager asks if he can go to a concert out of town with his friends, you’ve often said I need time to think about this.

You’ve seen how effective that strategy can be in thinking through issues. So claim the time you need. Tell your ex you’ll get back to them tomorrow.

Vent productively

Don’t do it in front of your children. Don’t yell on the phone with your ex-spouse. Instead, find a way that does not inflict damage to others. Acknowledge that something has hurt you. Give yourself permission to be angry, but own it. These are YOUR feelings and that’s okay.

Get beneath the surface

What is it that’s REALLY bothering you?

What part of my ‘control’ do I feel that I am losing? And how is this event affecting that? Will this matter a year from now? Do I need to hold on to this or can I let it go?

It’s not easy work but with a little practice, you can tame the reactive lion that lashes out at your ex-spouse. And when you begin to experience the calm within, that is where the true power of control lies.