couple fighting

Get a Grip: How to Keep Emotional Reactions From Hurting Your Marriage

couple-fightingYour emotions have a huge impact on your marriage.  Whether your reaction to these emotions is to show them on the outside OR to keep outside of your awareness, your reaction might be driving your partner away.  After many times of reacting similarly, a pattern sets in.  This pattern may be a big contributor to the difficulties in your marriage.

People react differently when they have an emotion inside. Some people are overreactors and some are underreactors.  An overreactor is very obvious.  When they’re emotionally triggered by something, they can react with their body.  They might clench their fists or jaw, stomp around, point, or stand up to appear bigger.  You can see their emotions in their face: anger, sadness, crying, or disappointment.  They can also react with their voice by yelling, raging, cursing, using sarcasm, bemoaning, complaining, or non-stop talking.

An underreactor is trickier to see.  These people tend to shut down and close off from others.  They may not even know they are feeling anything.  Underreactors may leave the room or the house, curl up their shoulders, go off to bed, or turn to some distraction like the computer.  It might show up if they say very little, are silent, or speak quietly. Often you can hardly tell by their face that anything is going on because there’s hardly any change in their expression.  Many times you can hardly tell that an underreactor is having any feeling at all because they hardly show it.  They’re just as upset on the inside as an overreactor; it’s just that it isn’t evident on the outside.

Your emotion (or what looks like your lack of emotion) is deeply affecting your spouse.  You are so closely connected to your spouse, even if you currently feel distant, that your spouse can pick up on your feelings.  And it DOES affect us to be in the presence of someone who feels angry, sad, or disappointed.  Unless your spouse can stay calm and connected to you, your spouse likely has difficulty with your emotion and your reaction to your emotion.  So, when you have a painful feeling, your spouse reacts to it.

Whether your spouse is an underreactor or overreactor will determine just how your spouse reacts to your emotion.  Now, the two of you are experiencing painful emotions and reacting to them.  For most couples in conflict or with great distance between them, this pattern is a big problem in and of itself.

All humans have emotions.  We definitely have emotions when it comes to our spouse because we are so connected to this person.  Rather than continuing to freak out OR to shut down:

  1. Stop and think before you overreact or underreact.
  2. Notice what it is you are feeling.
  3. Think about how you would like to react instead that will not cause a secondary problem.
  4. Reach out to talk to someone who supports your marriage and will help you sort through things.

This skill ALONE will have a profound effect on your spouse and everyone around you.  Plus it’s your duty as an adult to know how to handle yourself and your emotional reaction to what life throws your way.  You’re going to continue to have feelings about life’s events.  Here at the Couples Therapy Center, we teach people what to do with their emotions: how to identify them, how emotions are showing up in your body as tension or illness, AND how to react to them in a way that keeps your relationship intact!  Taking these steps can go a long way to achieving a stronger, more peaceful relationship.  Here, you’ll learn the skills needed to stop overreacting or underreacting. Once you learn to react appropriately to all that life throws your way, you’ll find more peace and harmony both in your life and with your spouse.

To schedule an appointment to learn more, call 908-246-3074 or email

Meredith Keller's Book

Relationship Essentials

You can purchase Meredith's book for $9.95 on

Relationship Essentials book

Reserve your spot on our next group now

Come join us in our next group. The power of group work is phenomenal in transforming yourself and your relationship.

Sign up for our monthly Ezine

Click here to begin receiving helpful and very real advice on how you can improve your intimate relationship.

And don't worry, we never share, sell or distribute your information.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.