By Mark and Jan Yokers
During our 53 years of marriage, we’ve discovered numerous areas to work through as a couple. One of them is: Why do we have these exaggerated or acute stress responses and triggers? Before we answer this question, we want to give you a brief history of our relationship.
It all began in college when Mark, a tall, hungry football player, took cuts in the cafeteria line in front of Jan, and she called him out and said, “Hey!” A year and a half later, at age 20, we walked the aisle and declared, “I do!” Totally committed to each other from the beginning of our relationship, and we have loved each other for over 53 years. With Mark’s sparkling personality and Jan’s steady insight, we’ve had great times together and yet had areas in our relationship that desperately needed radical change and growth.
So, after 21 years of marriage, we began to invest in attending a seminar or workshop on marriage once a year. We went to 17 events in 21 years, attending some more than once and even later independently teaching a number of the workshops to small groups. Each time we learned valuable principles that we applied, enhancing the way we lived and loved.
But we were stuck in one central arena of our relationship. How could we keep from hurting each other when we had a major conflict? What did we do when in an instant, our emotions would escalate from 0 to a 10, as we discussed in our article Understanding our Triggers. How could we have done all this work on our marriage relationship and still struggle when there was a conflict?
In 2011, we were invited to a workshop called How We Love, a book and curriculum developed by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. At this workshop, we learned about our personal triggers and where they came from. Kay Yerkovich said: “When we are flooded with negative feelings during an encounter or argument with our spouse, and we notice the conversation going downhill fast, it’s usually because someone has hit on a trigger. The result is heightened anxiety, anger, frustration, or perhaps withdrawal.” Jan’s reaction was frustration/anger, then withdrawal because of guilt, and Mark’s reaction was anxiety and withdrawal.
Gratefully, we say “was” because today, after 53 years of marriage, we regularly use the tools we learned 11 years ago at the How We Love workshop. Those tools revolutionized our relationship, and we’ve been teaching HWL workshops ever since. Our triggers are now few and far between! And if we ever are triggered, we know what to do! We handle conflicts with respect and honor for each other!