On what I’ve been learning about triggers

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

Triggers have been a hot topic in my groups over the last couple of weeks.  It’s been really good to have these conversations about how to recognize a trigger and how to work through them.  It seems with each group, I’ve learned something new about these triggers and I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned here:

1)  Everyone on God’s green earth is triggered, none of us avoid them.  And in the aftermath of sexual betrayal – they are ugly.

2)  I defined a trigger in this blog post as a “any situation, thought or feeling that causes us to feel fear or decreased safety within our marriage.”  Although this is accurate, there is more to the story.  A trigger is also something that reminds us of the past.  Whether it be a situation from childhood or from disclosure or anything in between, remember that a trigger is connected to our past.















Photo source

3)  I believe it’s important for us to recognize how we respond to triggers.  I typically don’t even realize I’m in the midst of a trigger until hours or days later.  The quicker I am at pin-pointing that I’ve been triggered, the quicker I can work through the trigger.  I’ve found for myself that my “reaction” tends to either look like getting angry or withdrawing.

4)  Piggy-backing off of #3, keeping a close eye on our emotional reactions to interactions with others is also something we can use to help identify our triggers.  Think of these reactions as a litmus.  If there is a high emotional charge after an interaction with someone, it might be a trigger.  (Thank you Heiti for pointing this out!)  Go ahead and work through the process and see what you come up with.

5)  Figuring out what we need to feel safe can be tricky.  Remember that you might have more than one need. I’d encourage you to split these needs into short-term needs and long-term needs.  Think of a short-term need as something that you can do for yourself (as in self-care) in the moment.  It could be taking deep breaths, going for a walk, or reading a book.  Long-term needs are probably a little more complicated.  And you might have to try something before knowing if it helps.  For instance, a longer-term need might be this:  Not driving by a certain area of town that reminds you of what your husband did when he was betraying you.

6)  And finally, working through a trigger shouldn’t be done alone.  Reaching out and processing these triggers with others helps each of us learn more about ourselves and learn more about what we need.  Ultimately – these terrible triggers have the potential to refine us.

I have a five-step process that I use to work through triggers.  If you’d like to look at it, feel free to leave a comment (you can do this anonymously if you’d like) and I will send it your way!



25 thoughts on “On what I’ve been learning about triggers

  1. Caroline

    February 5, 2015  |  02:37 am

    Shelly, I would love to see your 5 steps.

    I’ve made my own list, but as I still get triggered in many areas, I am always looking for more insight on this process.

    One thing I have learned is that a trigger gets it’s power from an area that is yet unresolved.

    Avoiding never worked anyway, as my very dreams were haunted. Many circumstances that were very strong triggers in the beginning of this journey lost their power over me as I had the courage to work through them rather than depend on avoidance.

    But, as my understanding of my husband’s alternate reality grew, brand new triggers would surface and highlight even more areas of unresolved chaos and the processing through of triggers was more or less constant for a long time.


    It’s really hard to be brave when the bullets seem to come from all directions. I agree it is impossible to keep moving forward all alone, a community of fellow struggling believers is essential.

    • rlforwomen

      February 6, 2015  |  01:35 am

      HI Caroline!! I’m happy to send you the five steps. Be looking for them shortly. How is that baby boy of yours? xo-Shelley

  2. Heiti

    February 6, 2015  |  06:37 am

    Awww, Shelley, thanks for the shout-out! Glad that you are sharing about these pesky triggers with even more people.
    Blessings to you!

    • rlforwomen

      February 7, 2015  |  02:01 am

      Heiti, you seriously put words to what I was feeling but couldn’t articulate! I learn so much from you and the other girls! xoxo

  3. Brokenheartedwif

    March 1, 2015  |  02:39 pm

    Triggers are everywhere. Especially since it was very long term adultery and took place in my home and bed with a supposed friend of the family. I’d really appreciate your five steps.

    • rlforwomen

      March 2, 2015  |  09:04 pm

      Hello! I just sent you the five steps. Please let me know if you don’t receive them. I’m so sorry about your situation. So personal on so many levels. With love,

  4. Abigail

    March 25, 2015  |  01:39 am

    My situation is somewhat different in that I experienced all you experienced plus some other stuff that eventually lead to a divorce. I’ve been divorced eight years but I’m still triggered as if were yesterday. I’d love to know your steps! It’s affecting every part of my life.

    • rlforwomen

      March 27, 2015  |  09:25 pm

      I will absolutely send you the five-step trigger process. Triggers are literally everywhere and whether we are married or divorced, they can don’t go away. Hope that it helps and thanks for writing here! Heart, Shelley

  5. Kelly

    April 6, 2015  |  03:11 pm

    I need to have this sent to me please! I had something happen church this week that left me struggling to breathe, and I feel like my “safe place” has been ripped away from me. I can’t not go to church so I hope these steps will help.

    • rlforwomen

      April 8, 2015  |  09:37 pm

      Hi Kelly! I will send them over here in a moment. I’m sad to hear that your one safe place isn’t safe anymore. I wish I had something to say to make the situation more cheery, but I don’t. I’m just really sorry that you are in this situation. Know you aren’t alone. xo-Shelley

  6. Lauren

    May 6, 2015  |  10:46 pm

    I really need these steps, please! Thank you!!!

    • rlforwomen

      May 6, 2015  |  11:52 pm

      They are coming your way here shortly! Let me know if they help. xo

  7. Sharie

    June 13, 2015  |  08:03 pm

    I would also like for you to send me a list of theses steps please!! I am struggling a lot with this & nothing that I do seeemes to be working 🙁 It is taking over my life & I am slowly drowning . Thank you so much!

    • rlforwomen

      June 17, 2015  |  05:26 pm

      Hi Sharie! Absolutely, I will send it your way here shortly. If you don’t receive it, please let me know. xo-Shelley

  8. jen

    June 17, 2015  |  09:37 pm

    please send your 5 step trigger process! I’d love to see it! 🙂 Thank you.

    • rlforwomen

      June 18, 2015  |  12:00 am

      Absolutely, Jen, I will send it your way! And so fun to see a pic of you. 🙂

  9. Cheryl

    December 8, 2015  |  03:52 am

    I would love to see your 5 step trigger process. I’m nine months into healing and triggers are such a huge deal for me. Thanks!

    • Shelley Martinkus

      December 8, 2015  |  11:37 pm

      Coming your way! Let me know if you don’t receive it. xo-Shelley

  10. Caroline Fakatou

    December 19, 2015  |  05:35 am

    Id really appreciate a copy.

    • Shelley Martinkus

      December 23, 2015  |  07:35 pm

      Click on the resources tab from the home page and you will see where you can download a copy of the 5 step trigger process. I hope it helps.

  11. Jenny

    June 4, 2016  |  05:29 pm

    Hi Shelley I have just read this at the “right” time and would love for you to send me your 5 steps, thank you 🙂

    • Shelley Martinkus

      June 6, 2016  |  08:50 pm

      You got it Jenny! I will send them over. xo-Shelley

  12. Sara

    November 10, 2017  |  06:16 pm

    I would love to see your process, 3 years into recovery with my husband and still have major triggers that rear their ugly head!

  13. Anne

    August 31, 2019  |  01:11 pm

    Hi Shelley, please send me the five step trigger process.

    • Shelley Martinkus

      September 3, 2019  |  02:43 pm

      It’s on its way now! xo – Shelley

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