What To Do If Your Partner Gets Triggered

by Heather Daisy

A trigger is an action, word, emotion, smell or other noun that causes a negative, often flashback-style feeling in a person. They are often the result of abuse, trauma, or highly negative emotionally-charged situation. Triggers can happen anywhere, and anytime, which is what makes them so terrifying. What you must remember about triggers is that – like the urge to eat a whole cake and marathon-watch “Gilmore Girls” – they may lie dormant for days, weeks, months and years at a time. There may be little to warning. In fact, you may be laughing, watching a movie, discussing bills, or other mundane activity when…


Your partner is triggered. You may not realize it just yet. You may be confused at first by their change in behavior. You may ask, “What the hell is wrong with them?” or “Get over it and help me put these groceries away.” (I recommend refraining from verbalizing these statements.) So what can you do? Try these statements:

• “How are you feeling?”
• “Can I do something to help?”
• “Can I get you anything, like tea or your fuzzy blanket?”

You want to show that you care and are invested in your partner’s well-being. They are experiencing a wide variety of emotions that may have nothing to do with you, but suddenly are being unleashed with the force of a ton of bricks. Your partner is beginning a physiological and emotional journey that may take hours or even days to recover from. They may be experiencing symptoms like these and more:

• Increased heartbeat and blood pressure
• Extreme temperatures: the chills and shakes or sweating and a fever feeling
• Mood swings and less-than-rational thoughts
• Fear, panic and anxiety
• Generalized feeling of being “not safe”
• Increased movement: pacing, rocking, fidgeting
• A change in vocal tone, speed and volume
• Anger, fear or other negative emotions directed at you

Know that this experience is unlikely to be about you, but about an event in their past. You may know what that is, you may not. Understanding the emotion your partner is feeling – such as anger, fear, or anxiety – will help you better bring them back to a safe place. Your partner may be able to communicate that they have been triggered, and you can begin the healing process. However, your partner may not know they’ve been triggered, and you may be called upon to test a series of self-soothing strategies until you find the right one (because saying “hey, calm down” is not as effective as one would hope). I call this your Emotional First Aid Kit! You might include items such as:

• warm, fuzzy blanket
• delicious tea
• playlist of soothing songs that evoke a counter-emotion
• dancing
• favorite movie, V show or YouTube video of kittens
• actual kittens
• cuddles: the gentle kind or the strong, squeezing cuddles that feel like they’ll never let go
• pre-negotiated physical pain
• sex / orgasms
• pre-written notes from family and loved ones
• aromatherapy: lavender, sandalwood, bergamot
• favorite smells: coffee, baking bread, vanilla
• yoga
• coloring with crayons or colored pencils
• breathing exercises
• guided visualization
• journaling
• crying or screaming (into a pillow if needed)
• running
• chocolate
• self-soothing movements (stroking, rocking, humming)
• go for a nature walk or to the zoo
• crunchy foods
• focus on a single object
• positive self-talk

I encourage you to make a list of items and activities for your Emotional First Aid Kit so you can remember what kind of care to offer your partner. Your partner may also be temped to act rashly during their triggering episode. Remember, this isn’t personal. Keep an eye on them and gently discourage negative behaviors that may cause heartache later, such as anger-texting, vaguebooking, destruction of personal property, name-calling, binge eating/drinking, or giving themselves a trigger-inspired haircut.

After the storm has passed, your partner may feel a little shaky and need trigger aftercare. Reaffirm your value to them and what you like about them. They may be feeling insecure or vulnerable about what just happened. The trigger may have sparked another strong reaction, such as the need to re-assert control over one’s environment or emotions. Include in your Trigger Action Plan possible “side effect” behaviors and contingency plans.

Like floods and earthquakes, triggers cannot be prevented. But if you communicate, keep a well-stocked Emotional First Aid Kit, and help your partner find the emergency exits, you can work to minimize the damage. Now you, too, can protect yourself against the dangers of…triggers!


HeatherDaisyThe lovely Heather Daisy hails from Denver, Colorado and identifies as a switch, which means she gets to do EVERYTHING! She is a top, bottom, sadist, masochist, caretaker, and mommy.

Somehow she also finds time to teach at places like SKALES, COLLAR, the Switch Group Scarlet Ranch, Shibaricon and Exploring Kink for Science. She also sits on the board of community support group LeatherMagick and organise events like fem-dom party Matriarchy and littles and petplay party FunnyFarm.

She’s also a wickedly kinky, sexy, polyamorous writer, and you can (and should!) read her work as The Redheaded Slut or on Fetlife.

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