Long Island Marriage Counseling Blog _ Hot Spots in the Marriage

LI Marriage Counseling Center, Huntington, NY

From Dr. Kramer – Give me a call now at 631-553-1476 to make an appointment or email me at Marriage Counseling Long Island.

“When marriage is just a collection of Hot Buttons

What is a Hot Button? It is a trigger that sets off a person’s amygdala, a part of the limbic system in the brain that is the center of a person’s emergency reaction system. This emergency reaction system is called our fight or flight system, anxiety or stress reaction system or sympathetic nervous system.

Here is what happens. Phil puts Betty down repeatedly in their marriage. Being put down is a Hot Button for Betty. Her Amygdala signals a threat to her Self or Identity, and sets off her emergency reaction system.

It is as if an internal switchboard has gone into emergency mode and starts overloading. What happens? Thinking can turn negative and even paranoid. Feelings are bad, especially about Self and Other, and include lots of self-attacks and/or other attacks. Behaviors may be impulsive in anger or holding back in fear. The intense focus is on the Hot Button situation and everything else becomes background until the situation is resolved. It is uncomfortable. Eating may increase or decrease. So may sleeping.

In marriage counseling and marital therapy, it is important to discover each spouse’s Hot Buttons. What about the other spouse is causing their emergency switchboard to overload? Why? As the marriage counselor discovers the answers, one thing becomes obvious. Each person has different Hot Buttons regarding their spouse or partner. And what one spouse considers a Hot Button, the other spouse sees in a totally different and benign way. Unfortunately it is not ‘Viva La Difference’. Instead it is YOU HAVE TO CHANGE.

So what to do in the marriage counseling to help the spouses. The first step it to literally get each spouse to STEP into the Shoes of the Other. Once a spouse learns to STEP IN to the Shoes of Another, they are never the same. They start to have more understanding for their spouse and less anger.

Next, the spouses really need to learn to listen to each other without reacting. This means learning to really hear the words and also to learn to watch the non-verbal behaviors of the spouse. Listen rather than react.

What is important to listen for is what your spouse needs that he or she is not getting in the marriage that would make everything better.
Everytime there is major conflict in the spouse, the spouses are not getting what they need, healthy or unhealthy. Sometimes it is that their spouse is not helping them to feel important enough or special enough. Sometimes, it is that their spouse is not listening to them enough. Sometimes, it is that their spouse is not being loving enough. When there is a lack of a key emotional need, one or other of the spouses gets angry around a key issue. They overreact… a little bit about the issue but mostly about the unmet need. When needs are not met, it is difficult to feel good and get along. When needs are met, most of the key issues can easily be resolved.

For marriage counseling to work, these underlying emotional needs must be uncovered and dealt with. Until then the couple will continue to remain reactive to each other.

From Dr. Kramer – Give me a call now at 631-553-1476 to make an appointment or email me at Marriage Counseling Long Island.

Warmly, Diane

Dr. Diane Kramer, Psychologist
Long Island Marriage Counseling Center at Huntington, NY
75 Prospect St., Suite 103
Huntington, NY 11743



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