In a conflict with your mate, have you ever been flooded with anger? When you get flooded, you feel emotionally and physically overwhelmed. Most likely you think thoughts of righteous indignation (“I don’t have to take this anymore”) or innocent victimhood (“Why is s/he always picking on me?”) Meanwhile, your heart is pounding, you’re reactive and agitated.
To discover whether flooding is a significant problem is your relationship, answer the following questions:
Circle T for true and F for false.
1. Our discussions get too heated. T F
2. I have a hard time calming down. T F
3. One of us is going to say something we will regret. T F
4. My partner gets too upset. T F
5. After a fight I have to keep my distance. T F
6. My partner yells unnecessarily. T F
7. I feel overwhelmed by our arguments. T F
8. I can’t think straight when my partner gets hostile. T F
9. Why can’t we talk more logically? T F
10. My partner’s negativity often comes out of nowhere. T F
11. There’s often no stopping my partner’s temper. T F
12. I feel like running away after our fights. T F
13. Small issues suddenly become big ones. T F
14. I can’t calm down very easily after an argument. T F
15. My partner has a long list of unreasonable demands. T F
Scoring: Give yourself 1 point for each “true” answer. If you scored below 6, you are able to confront differences with your partner without normally feeling overwhelmed.
If you scored 6 or above, your score suggests that you tend to get flooded during arguments.
When you get flooded, you lose your capacity to solve problems. You feel too agitated to really hear what your mate is saying or to use any helpful conflict-resolution skills. If that occurs, let your partner know that you’re feeling flooded and you need to take a break. Stop the discussion and learn to calm yourself. There are a variety of meditative techniques you can use to calm yourself, such as controlling your breath. (Close your eyes and focus on taking deep, regular breaths. Then find one calming vision, and stay with that vision for about 30 seconds.)
After at least 20 minutes (it takes that long for the body’s nervous system to calm down), calm your mate down as well. Many couples find massage and/or cuddling the perfect way to do that. Then together address the following questions:
What makes me (you) feel flooded? How do I (you) typically bring up issues, irritability or complaints? Do I (you) store things up? Is there anything I can do that soothes you when you get flooded? Is there anything you can do that soothes me? What signals can we develop for letting the other know when we feel flooded? How can we build breaks into our discussions to assist us in not getting too escalated?
Source: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman and Nan Silver (Three Rivers Press)