When your Partner Reacts with Strong Emotions Towards You

Have you ever had an emotional reaction to your partner and thought to your self, what was that?

Or you have seen the emotional reaction in your partner and thought the same thing?


I have been working with couples for several years and seen some similarities with couples issues that I would like to bring light to and see if maybe it could help you to first identify what is actually going on, and then to be able to do something about it as a couple.


One of the things that we have to realize is that each of you comes from your own family of origin and had a way of doing things, including how you attached to your parents, including how you sought support and learned to have your needs met.

Attachment Style

Our attachment style has a big part as to why we are the way we are in our relationships. If you came from a family that didn’t talk about emotions, and were dismissive of you, do you think you will feel safe to share those emotions? In this scenario people learn to deal with emotions on their own.

There are a few different styles of attachment that we see in children and can impact us into adulthood. Maybe you can see which style yours is from the following description of what different babies reactions are to a situation when the mother leaves the room and returns.

  1. Secure Attachment: a securely attached baby explores the room and plays with the toys while the mother is present. When she leaves the baby gets slightly upset and actively seeks comfort when she returns. A securely attached child is one where the mother is emotionally sensitive and responsive to their babies cues.
  2. Insecure (anxious/ambivalent) Attachment: A baby is clinging one minute and then resisting the next. Becomes very disturbed if left with a stranger. When the mother returns, the child may be ambivalent to physical contact. These mothers may have been inconsistent, and moody. There may be some unpredictability in their mothers responses.
  3. Insecure Avoidant attachment: An avoidant baby interacts little with their mother, shows little distress when they leave the room and when she returns, they may actively ignore her. Mothers of these children are often unresponsive or at the other extreme overstimulating.
  4. Disorganized/Disoriented attachment: These kids exhibit fear of their caregivers and you may see a pattern of being dazed and confused and one minute greeting mother, then turning away from her.

These patterns of attachment can impact us even into our relationship. Imagine if you had an avoidant attachment style combined with someone who had more of a secure attachment or insecure anxious attachment.

From my observations, I know it is not always true and I can only speculate at this point, couples seem to trigger the other person’s attachment injuries as a child.

Think about the injury that comes for a child who cried and cried and cried, till eventually they decided to give up because no one was responding to their need.  When we think about the core wounding’s that we had as children even if we had the most well intentioned childhoods, there are messages we perceived about ourselves that can be negative.

I like to think of the core wounding’s we have as children as the negative core beliefs that we somehow grow up with perceiving as we grow. Going back to the “what is that” question, we may be able to find the answer to this as we go deeper into our core beliefs.

What are the core stories, internalized messages that you started to believe about your self even as early as you were in early infancy? Often these stories form the framework for how we see our selves or as per what triggers us.

Core Beliefs

Our core beliefs can be one of things that is triggered in relationships. A few of the core beliefs that you may have could be anywhere between these down below. As you read each one maybe you think of multiple experiences throughout your life where this has been the script.

  • I am powerless
  • I am unloved
  • I am defective
  • I am responsible
  • My Needs don’t matter
  • I am dumb
  • Something is wrong with me
  • My voice doesn’t matter

You may not know why you react the way you do to situations, but chances are there is a core belief or wounding that gets poked.



One of the reasons why we may react with such strong emotions in an argument or in something where we feel triggered can be explained by a few things.

if we think about where we store memories in our brain and what is the mechanism for emotions in memory if can help us. We store long term memories in a place in the brain called the hippocampus. It is where all the hippo’s hang out on campus. We have another part of our brain called the Amygdala. We can think of it as AMY. Amy assigns emotional significance to events. Further, if we have a very emotionally charged memory, or a trauma we have experienced, the amygdala is very active in these memories and it doesn’t get put into long term storage like a normal memory. The emotionally charged trauma memories kinda float around in our bodies until something that closely resembles that incident reminds our amygdala “your in danger.”

Another thing that happens here is that when you are experiencing this type of strong emotional reaction, there are times you may not be able to think anything else that disproves that negative belief. You may find that you have to take a break before you can see where your mind went.

This is a brief description and there’s a lot of details left out.  Anyways, we react because there’s an emotionally charged memory that may have a difficult time understanding context and time.


This is why we literally have to stop and see where our mind went.

Did it go back to when you were a little girl?

Did it go back to when you felt powerless or that your needs didn’t matter?


Self Awareness


One of the things that I believe as a Psychologist is that awareness is often the first step to being able to respond to your emotions and reactions in a healthy way. If you know your core beliefs and also are aware of your behavior, you will be able to take a step back and ask your self the question “what was that?”

Not an Excuse for your Behavior

In a relationship, it can never be an excuse to treat our partner poorly, just because we have had significant trauma or woundings in the past. It can be healing though, to be able to communicate these wounding with our partner and recognize that the surface reactions are something more that is going on inside. When you have a partner who is willing to listen and be present to you as you share, it does bring understanding and healing; however, the next part would be what can you do to make things better for the next interaction?

It is important to have repairs in the relationship, and with repair it needs to have action attached to it so that you can not only apologize, but make changes as necessary.


Individual vs Couples therapy


Generally, if you are working as a couple on things, my recommendation is to see a couples therapist and to put aside your individual therapy for a time. I have seen it where people are trying to do both. If you are in couples therapy it is a chance to let your partner in on your struggles and learn how to support one another in them.


Individual therapy does allow you to work through some of the core beliefs with the Psychologist and perhaps do some EMDR around processing through events that may have impacted you to carry these beliefs.


Through the work either individually or through couples, the hope is that your thoughts would move towards more adaptive, less self defeating beliefs about your self.



If you are interested in couples or individual therapy in St. Albert, there are two practitioners at iMentalhealth Counselling that work with both.



Mental health is vital to our overall well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and behave. When compromised, it can significantly impact our lives. Mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses are common, and many people struggle with them at some point. Fortunately, many mental health services from psychologists are available to support those who need help in St. Albert.

The Importance of Accessing Quality Mental Health Services

Accessing quality mental health care is crucial for anyone experiencing mental health issues. Mental health services can provide individuals with the tools and support to manage their symptoms, improve their quality of life, and prevent future mental health problems. Seeking help can also ensure individuals understand their condition better and reduce the stigma around mental illness.

Mental Health Services Available in St. Albert

You’ll find many mental health services to support individuals struggling with mental health issues. Some of the services available include:

  • Mental Health Counselling Services: Mental health counselling services offer individual therapy to individuals struggling with mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. Counsellors can help individuals identify the root causes of their problems and develop coping strategies to manage their symptoms.
  • Family Counselling: Family counselling services are designed to help families experiencing difficulties related to mental health issues. Counsellors can help families communicate better, understand each other’s perspectives, and develop strategies to manage mental health issues collectively.
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is a form of talk therapy that involves working with a mental health professional to address mental health issues. Psychotherapy can be individual or group-based and help individuals manage their symptoms, develop coping strategies, and improve their overall well-being.
  • Mental Health Treatment: Mental health treatment services provide comprehensive care to individuals experiencing mental health issues. Treatment may include medication, therapy, and other support services.
  • Anxiety and Depression Counselling: Anxiety and depression counselling services help individuals experiencing anxiety and depression manage their symptoms. Counsellors can help individuals develop coping strategies, identify triggers, and manage stress.


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