All couples come to experience the raw buttons of their partner. Happy couples understand each other’s imperfections and enduring vulnerabilities, while unhappy couples use these enduring vulnerabilities as fire power in the heat of a battle. Instead of holding hands, they point fingers.

Pushing Each Other’s Raw Buttons

Steven and Ruth met while traveling through Brazil five years ago. Both are in their late thirties, and both had a difficult childhood.

Steven was abandoned by his father at the age of 6. He felt like a burden because his mom constantly stressed about money and his childhood expenses.

Ruth’s mother divorced her dad and moved 400 miles away. Because Ruth’s father was a workaholic, she spent most of her time at her dad’s girlfriend’s house. His girlfriend often shut her in the basement because she “needed silence.”

As a couple, they travel to faraway lands. Yet these exotic trips are full of conflict.

While in Thailand, Steven lost Ruth just before they were going to get on a boat to visit another island.

Assuming Steven would wait by the dock, she wandered off to get some fresh coconuts to drink. After 7 minutes of waiting, Steven’s mind went into panic mode. He freaked out and ran down the streets looking for her.

When he saw her walking towards the dock, he was enraged.

“Where did you go?”

She looked at him with big eyes as if to say, can’t you see? There are two coconuts in my hands…

“What’s wrong with you?”.

“I had no clue where you went to!” Steven shouts. “What were you thinking? The boat is about to leave?”

Ruth doesn’t respond. She thrusts a coconut in his arms, grabs her bags, and sits on the boat alone. Steven feels upset that Ruth is ignoring him. Like she doesn’t recognize that he’s stressed out.

He remains there, stewing for the duration of the ride. When they arrive at the dock, the tension has vanished over the waves, but the underlying issues was never discussed or resolved. The issue lurks below the surface like a shark, eagerly waiting to attack in the next conflict.

What Are 3 Things That Hurt Your Partner?

Every individual has a handful of issues that breaks us down. These issues often originate in our childhood and are carried into our adult relationships.

The essence of our issues can typically be placed under three things that cut to the heart of our insecurities.

Attachment Type Anxious (Needy) Avoidant (Independent)
Insecurity
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Separation distress (if alone for too long without connection)
  • Fear of being a burden
  • Feeling trapped and out of control
  • Fear of being too close (leads to rejection)
  • Fear of being blamed

Oblivious To The Insecurities of Love

Steven and Ruth are oblivious to each other’s insecurities and how they’re slowly being pushed apart. They are unaware that their shared childhood abandonment is bleeding through their connection.

Steven’s insecurities cause him to believe:

  • He is a burden that becomes his partner’s problem
  • His partner struggles to trust him
  • His partner would leave him at any time without a care in the world

Ruth’s insecurities cause her to believe:

  • She has to do everything alone
  • Everyone is unreliable and she can’t count on her partner
  • Other people’s expression of emotion is overwhelming and childish

As you can see, the boating incident shows how successful they are at pushing each other’s buttons. They did nothing to relieve the other’s distress.

Ruth was insensitive to Steven’s fear of abandonment by not telling him where she was going, and she was shocked at his anger. Steven was insensitive to her withdrawal when he was upset. He was unprepared to make amends when he found her.

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