Engaging Triggers in Marriage

This week on the podcast, Dan and Becky Allender talk about triggers in marriage with their good friends Dr. Steve and Lisa Call. You may recognize Steve and Lisa from the new Marriage Online Course. What follows is both a humorous and deeply insightful conversation. Triggers can undermine a marriage relationship as a couple often does not have language or context to understand what provoked their partner, or how to engage one another after someone is triggered.


“I think whenever we have a sense of being alone in this journey, whatever it is, such as watching kids, taking care of the car, that for us is where we get triggered often—when there is a sense that it feels like we are alone at this moment.” Dr. Steve Call

“How does each of your own backgrounds shape something of the trigger you experience with one another?” Dr. Dan Allender

“Understanding his sense of ‘I always need to get it right in my family, I think for me to be able to hear that in his voice and reinterpret it, and now that I understand a bit more, I’m going to be a little more sensitive to not taking it personally.” Lisa Call

“I think for many of us that’s the core story—we’re terrified of doing something wrong because we potentially lose the relationship and I think for many of us, we’re often not even aware of ‘oh that’s what’s happening, I lose something of a connection with you when I don’t do what you hoped for me to do.’” Dr. Steve Call

“This process happens at an unwitting, unconscious level, and it happens so quickly it triggers a process for how the two of you have largely handled conflict together in the past.” Dr. Dan Allender

“I think I’m getting better at that with my defensiveness, and I love that with Dan, he’s not a defensive man with me. I think it’s beautiful to not go to shame, but we know that that’s my story, that’s where I go, and then to not hate myself for it, to just see it and realize that’s not what he’s placing on me to go there.” Becky Allender

“It’s in the simple, everyday moments that reshape, rewire, redo those kinds of upsetness interactions.” Dr. Steve Call

“Normalizing the fact that triggers are going to be there, everyone is going to experience them and you can’t avoid them, they happen, I think can also help mitigate a little bit of shame that might come up if you get triggered.” Lisa Call

“What helps me get out of the triggered process? Probably kindness, first thing, just not being so hard on myself, not hating myself for not being perfect. That kindness, if it’s between the two of us, I think we’re gaining trust.” Becky Allender