Emotional Triggers: Relationships, Close

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September 8, 2014 | No comments yet

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by:  Staci Stallings

One of the things that constantly amazes me is how different people are and how alike they are.

My children are a great example of this.

All three are quite determined, organized, and hard-working.  All three care deeply about their friends and others in the societal circles.  All three LOVE what they love and HATE what they hate.

It has been absolutely fascinating to watch them grow up into the people they are becoming.

It is also fascinating to live out the emotionally charged concept of growing up, setting boundaries, and living together.

Recently, our family went through a huge life change when my oldest went off to college. Now first off, she didn’t go across the country, only a few miles away. But she is not staying at home either.

When I went off to college, I came home every weekend (a boyfriend back home will do that to you).  Although we didn’t talk on the phone often, I still felt very connected to my family, so naturally, I thought my daughter would be the same way.


One of the hardest things about emotional triggers in close relationships is that you set up in your mind “how you think it will be.”  Like in marriage. Before marriage, you have this idealistic idea of what living together will be like.  You’ll wake up together and just be SO in love with your spouse. They will do nice and thoughtful things for you. You will reciprocate. It will be Heaven on earth.

And then you get married, and after the first few months of trying to live out the fantasy, real life takes over.  Suddenly, his clothes on the floor annoy you, and her cooking really could use some help.  He comes home late; her job is stressful.  Add kids to the mix, and WOW! do you start pushing each other’s emotional triggers like mad.

Expectations that are unmet or downright smashed with a hammer can be REALLY hard to navigate.

Now, I thought I was pretty prepared for my oldest leaving, and that first day moving her went very smoothly.  Got her in the dorms, got her room set up, and we even left.  No major emotional meltdown (at least on my end).

Went home, and yes, that first night and day was hard not having her here.  I began to realize how very much like friends we had become.  (I know all about not being friends with your kids, but when your kids are responsible and make good decisions and are growing into amazing people, you just kind of start letting go of that control and just enjoying them.)  I started to realize how often we talked about schedules and how to get everyone where they needed to be on time.

All of a sudden, it was me… again.

And then she didn’t call.  Or text.

In her defense, I’ve never been big on texting, but still.

I waited that first night and the whole next day. Nothing.  Not a word.

Not an update.  Not a call for help on something.

I heard from others that they had seen her, and that was great.  But wow. Was I going crazy.

By the end of that night, I had to text–just to make sure she was still on the planet.  She texted the next morning to tell me they had gone to the movies.


She didn’t ask my permission to go to the movies!  Did she drive? How did she get there? Who did she go with? What was she thinking… that she could suddenly run her own life?  (Go ahead, think I’m an idiot or overprotective or whatever, but nothing in the Mom Manual prepared me for the fact that my daughter was actually going to be independent and not need me right out of the box!)

It took her four DAYS to get in contact with me again.

Then she came the other day, came to the front door, and RANG THE DOORBELL!

Strange to have your own child “visit.”

So I guess all of this is to say that when you’re dealing with close relationships, there are default settings you may not even be aware of.  When they get triggered, it’s amazing how deeply you feel them, and how hard resetting them manually can be.

The good news is, she’s been in school two weeks now, and she hasn’t disconnected completely. I still needed to pay for a math book, and she’s been back a few times to tell us how things are going, to find a calculator and to pick up some things.

But it’s weird how everything seems to have changed overnight.

I’m going to have to figure out new default settings and how to be in this relationship that has been so much like breathing for the last 19 years.

Maybe you can’t relate to this story (and maybe you can), but just know that those close relationship emotional triggers can be very surprising.

Which ones do you have?  Have you ever been surprised by one?

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