Trigger words are language that unintentionally evokes a negative reaction in a partner. These words are typically unique to the couple and occasionally go across couples.

In a couples counseling session, Cam told Sue what she was feeling. Sue resented being told what she felt. Instead, Cam said “I sense you are feeling ….” In this way, Cam could share what he was perceiving, without imposing his impression on Sue.

In addition, Sue would start a sentence with “I’m afraid….” and Cam would react negatively to this lead-in phrase. He didn’t want Sue to feel afraid of him. Instead, Sue began the sentence with “I’m concerned….” In this way, Cam was open to hearing her concerns without reacting negatively.

When your partner reacts to your words, try to find substitute words to convey your message. This can mitigate negative reactions to unintentional trigger words.