One of the most important things you can do to improve the quality and connection of your relationship is to be familiar with the others wounds.
The vast majority of us are vulnerable and sensitive to certain triggers – based on our experiences in our families of origin. When couples engage in conflict, it usually means one of them has had one of their sensitive spots dinged.
For example, if you had a parent who was highly critical, you were likely hurt by that on some level. It’s possible as you’ve moved forward in life, you’ve tended to be more reactive to criticism by others (particularly intimate partners because there’s more at stake and more of a need for attachment). This is what I’m talking about. If you can share your experience with your partner and they are able to validate and empathize with how that might have felt for you, they can also be aware of that sensitivity moving forward and when it gets triggered, have a better chance of stopping to think, “Ah, here it is…this is one of my partner’s triggers and it’s being activated.”
At this point there’s a critical juncture. Your partner, if he/she is mindful in the moment, can make a choice between getting spun up in the emotional reactivity with you – or pausing and going in for connection. He/she might say something like, “I can see you’re feeling upset and possibly criticized. This wasn’t my intention…can I give you a hug?”
As a couples therapist, I’ve seen countless couples who have not gotten familiar with each others wounds and they play out damaging cycles repeatedly. This is one thing you can do now to be closer to your partner and really know them on the deepest, human level possible. As in life, it takes practice but is well worth the effort.