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54 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Do you ever wonder what causes your blink-of-the-eye, intense reactions to your spouse or partner? Jokes aside about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Do your ever witness yourself or your partner go from zero to bat-zip angry over something that, much later, doesn’t really matter?

It’s painful. And confusing.

How can you love someone so long and so much and feel an ocean of hurt around that person at the same time?

I've been in your shoes

I've been a TAM member on this forum since 2007 and have been married since 2000. I happen to be a couples therapist and author of several books about marriage and relationships. I'm posting this because I want to share with you a very personal event in my family's life that changed how I look at helping couples. I think it could help many people here and I would love to hear YOUR reaction and thoughts.

Your relationship isn't flawed because you're fighting

An intense, negative emotional reaction to your spouse or partner isn’t caused by a chemical imbalance. It’s not necessarily the result of having a rough childhood. And it’s most certainly not because you have a bad relationship.

There’s a shockingly simple explanation—and solution. If you’d like to know how I discovered the devilish cause for these haywire feelings and the shockingly simple way to exorcise—or should I say exercise—it, please read on.

When I discovered that the brain can have a kind of "psychological allergies," it completely changed how I looked at relationship problems. It also changed how I looked at the cure for acute emotional hypersensitivity that, if left untreated, kills marriages. All of us probably know some couple that has this, and most of us have probably experienced it ourselves at some point.

First, I need to tell you a story about real allergies. The scary, fatal kind of allergic reactions to certain foods that cause anaphylactic shock.

Seeing our son a few beats away from not breathing

My son, Brayden, has had life-threatening food allergies to nuts and dairy since he was an infant. He just turned twelve. If you’ve ever cared for someone who has serious food allergies, you know about the kind of fear you must live with all the time. I’ll share one small example.

Every year at back-to-school night, after all the other parents have left, I deliver my "come to Jesus" talk with Brayden’s teacher. By now I can do it without the slightest tinge of emotion. But the first time I did it, I couldn't stop the tears.

It goes like this: "If Brayden ingests a fragment of a nut in your classroom by accident, you have sixty seconds to get his epinephrine shot or he will die. Can you handle that?"

We’ve only had to give him his EpiPen once, at home. Seeing your son a few beats away from not breathing, and being revived in three seconds, is more than enough motivation to ask a very basic question about his condition, and about severe allergies in general: why isn’t there a cure?

Turns out, there is.

A real cure for out-of-control reactions

Let me be clear. There is a cure for food allergies. I’m not talking about administering antihistamines or epinephrine after an allergy attack is triggered. These are essential, and life-saving, remedies that counteract the body’s out-of-control inflammation. But they are not cures.There is a treatment that eliminates the fear of ever being helpless to an out-of-control reaction in the first place.

The cure for food allergies is incredibly simple and highly effective. It’s called oral immunotherapy (OIT), which will be widely available in 2018, but right now, we drive three hours to Philadelphia every two weeks for treatment. (If you know someone who suffers from food allergies, you can find an OIT doctor in the US at OIT 101.)

Oral immunotherapy gradually desensitizes the immune system until it’s trained to be more tolerant of the problematic environmental triggers. It's no different from the conventional allergy shots Brayden received for years that virtually eliminated his asthma and seasonal allergies. These are life-changing. But OIT has never been offered in the US outside of very limited clinical trials.

Brayden’s allergies to dairy are equally as fatal as eating nuts. Nuts are far easier to avoid compared to dairy. There’s dairy in just about anything! So just imagine how ecstatic we felt to learn that, six months after our son starts OIT treatment, he’ll be drinking milk daily to keep his immune system trained.

It seemed too good to be true!

Having allergies doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with our son’s immune system. In fact, the same immune system response that causes his debilitating allergies is essential to all human beings to stay alive. The problem is that his immune system overreacts. Rather than seeing a piece of cheese as food, his body sees it as a pathogen that must be attacked.

His body misjudges the threat and overreacts. This is exactly what happens in every relationship.We misjudge the threat and overreact.

“Go throw up somewhere else!”

Having helped hundreds of couples in my busy clinical practice as a couples therapist, I’ve witnessed with reliable predictability how spouses or partners in conflict misjudge the threat their partners pose, and they overreact. Rather than seeing their spouses as a source of comfort or a trustworthy companion, their brain “attacks” their partners as though they’re a threat to survival.

Does this sound familiar to you?

Unfortunately, I know this problem firsthand. I’m all too familiar with having a psychological “allergy attack” to my wife. Rather than seeing her as the sustaining, highly valued person she’s been to me for more than sixteen years, there are moments when my brain goes into complete whacko mode over (forgive me) peanuts!

Complete. Whacko. Mode.

Like the time when she was pregnant and suffering from horrible morning sickness. She turned to me and said she was going to be sick. Okay. This happens. I could’ve told myself, it’ll be okay. Just go rub her back and help her get to the bathroom.

But no.

I had an emotional allergy attack. A part of me was sick of her being sick. So you know what I did? I told her to go throw up somewhere else.

That’s completely nuts! There was no excuse for me not being selfless in that moment. But I couldn’t. Like the physical symptoms of a real allergy attack, I was inflamed within.

The scientific cure for “emotional inflammation” in your relationship

Exactly how does emotional inflammation cause a normally rational and caring person to do something horribly hurtful and selfish?

Emotions can flood your brain with sensory information that, if left unchecked, creates the kind of mental conditions that will take your relationship down a dark path.

More important, there is a scientifically proven method to transform these conditions, not in your partner’s mind, but in yours, where you have the most power to control them.

Click on this link to get my full report about emotional allergies and marriage emailed to you.

Being able to see your partner without constantly looking through the narrow, debilitating lens of emotional distress and negativity is completely life-changing.

I can’t wait to tell you more about it.

As a bonus, when you sign up for the full report, I'll also send you my book 10 Myths About the Emotionally Unavailable Man: Stop Divorce in its Tracks. The book is my gift to you. All I ask is for you to share something also. Would you post your experience with your own emotional "allergies" to your spouse or partner?


54 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Sorry for the confusion...the post was published prior to the webmaster being able to stick it as a sponsored post so I understand the questions about it.

I'm most interested in starting a conversation here.

Of course, I'm sharing info about the resources I've created for couples because I happen to think there are a lot of rabbit holes people can go down trying to get help. I've gone down a few of them myself. At a certain point simply got tired of witnessing it, in my counseling practice, among my friends, and in my family.

This is my way of adding to the knowledge that is out there and hopefully saving someone some trouble.

I really hope people will add their thoughts about the idea I propose in the post: Are you allergic to your spouse?

44,459 Posts
What causes this? Is it typically something like a power struggle, or emotional exhaustion dealing with some issue, or something else? We see this all the time. I’ve had that kind of a knee jerk reaction as well to things. I guess most of us have.

54 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Hey EleGirl,

Good question. When we are in the rut of having instant-negative reactions to our partner, I think it's the result of a repeated emotional stress injury (low-level irritation or annoyance) that develops into deeper emotional resentment, and sometimes, hatred.

For example, I know a guy I'll call Rick who said that when he gets up in the morning to get ready for work, if his wife is in the bathroom when he's trying to get ready at the same time, his head explodes. They get into awful fights about it. She feels so rejected and alone and thinks that his reaction means that she is defective or worthless (well, actually she attacks him verbally but that is really just hiding her rejection and emotional pain). And he gets furious and can't understand why she won't just give him some space and respect his need for privacy certain times.

We have this part of our brain--the logical prefrontal cortex (PFC)--that keeps track of right and wrong. Normally it serves us well at making choices and judging what needs to happen in our environment. But the problem is that our PFC doesn't get information directly from the outside sort of eaves-drops on our sensory-emotional system (limbic system) which registers info from the outside.

So by the time Rick feels irritated by his wife and is aware of it consciously in his PFC, his body has already been experiencing discomfort for a while, but he really hasn't had the skills to notice it until it reaches a boiling point and is already being projected (unnecessarily) onto his wife, (who, by the way, may have her own blind spots that keep her from realizing how to side-step their confrontations more nimbly).

Now here's where Rick's emotionally "allergy" gets created.

Rather than paying attention to his body's discomfort in such a way that is soothing and relieves his discomfort, Rick focuses on his wife (who is conveniently available as a target) and attributes his distress to her. This mistake further inflames his irritation because his attention is even further from where is would be most effectively placed, on the real source of his discomfort, inside himself.

So what I've learned to do to help Rick and his wife is to teach them simple mindfulness skills. These are ways of paying attention to the body and to moment by moment experiences, that naturally trigger the body's relaxation response, and greater relationship intelligence.

Rather than going down the rabbit hole of exploring what his wife is or isn't doing wrong or how he should treat her differently, he learns to pay closer attention to what is happening. Like REALLY close attention. In fact, when you pay close attention and really, really slow things down physiologically in your body, your mind gets into a cool kind of creative state that psychologist call FLOW. I also know that other people sometimes experience this as a God-led or spiritual it has more than one label, for sure.

So, in a nutshell, I've been teaching couples how to reverse their worst allergies to each other's behaviors, using mindfulness, for years.

There's lots of mindfulness and stress-reduction courses out there, but nothing that's really designed for the complications of stress between a couple. I finally got around to condensing the steps into a neat course that can be followed for 21-Days to learn it.

Hopefully that's just enough time to get the habits to stick.
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