When someone “over-reacts” to something that you don’t think warrants such an extreme reaction, it’s likely because they are not just reacting to what happened in that moment, they are reacting to everything that happened in the past that led up to that moment. If a wound is not healed, the pain and resentment does not just go away. And you ask yourself “Why does my spouse overreact all the time?”
Whether you are conscious of it or not, it stays with you, and there is a snowball effect where the next time there is a similar occurrence, all the accumulated emotions will surface, causing an apparent over-reaction when in fact it is a build up of the reactions to all the past events. Find out how to finally break the cycle of pain, hurt and resentment and use this as an opportunity for healing.
Why Does My Spouse Overreact All The Time?
In the midst of a heated argument, your spouse, who is no stranger to conflict, utters those familiar words, “I’m back in the abuser dog house again.” You might think it’s a jest, but deep down, you sense the seriousness of the situation. Dr. David Hawkins, director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute, brings attention to a pervasive issue that plagues many relationships – overreactions.
In this article, we’ll delve into the question “why does my spouse overreact all the time”, unpacking four essential points that shed light on this phenomenon and provide a path toward healing and understanding.
The Present is Always Informed by the Past
When your spouse reacts strongly to a seemingly minor incident, it’s important to understand that the present is never isolated from the past. Each event is connected to a web of previous experiences, creating a narrative that influences reactions. A seemingly insignificant remark or action can trigger a strong response because it echoes past hurtful incidents.
An Overreaction is Just an Apparent Overreaction
While it may appear as an overreaction to you, it’s crucial to remember that, given the past’s weight, it’s not truly an overreaction. The emotions that surface are genuine and justified by the accumulated pain and trauma. To understand your spouse’s reaction, you must recognize that their response is not disproportionate when viewed in the context of their emotional history.
An Opportunity for Empathy and Understanding
Rather than viewing these reactions as problematic, they present an opportunity for both partners to explore the underlying wounds. It’s a chance to sit down and engage in a heartfelt conversation marked by empathy and curiosity. Ask your spouse about their feelings and experiences. Be genuinely curious about what’s going on inside them. This approach can be an empathetic bridge toward understanding and healing.
The Need for a Robust Conversation
To address the issue of overreactions, engage in a robust conversation. Approach it with empathy, validation, and ownership of your actions. Acknowledge the validity of your spouse’s feelings and their right to react as they do. Avoid rushing to the forgiveness card, as it can invalidate their emotions. Instead, focus on validating their feelings and finding ways to heal together.
Overreactions in a relationship are not merely erratic emotional outbursts; they are the result of a complex interplay between past experiences and current events. Understanding this dynamic allows couples to transform these situations into opportunities for healing and growth.
By approaching these moments with empathy, curiosity, validation, and ownership, partners can break free from the cycle of hurtful patterns, potentially forging a future that differs significantly from the painful past. It’s through these efforts that we can avoid finding ourselves, once again, in the abuser dog house.
Also read: 3 False Promises Narcissists Make
About Dr. Hawkins:
The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.
Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.
He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.
In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.