30 Mar Emotional flooding harms relationships

Relationships evoke strong emotions. Sometimes they’re so strong, partners loose their ability to think and react in healthy ways. Learning how to relate during normal day to day interactions is one thing: managing to do so during times of extreme stress is a completely different challenge.

Photo by hang_in_there

In times of stress we don’t think straight. Marriage counsellors sometimes refer to this as emotional flooding.

When some people are emotionally flooded they argue, shout, and become irrational and aggressive. It’s easy for their partner to see that they have “lost it”.

Don’t be fooled though: for others, emotional flooding looks very calm… they become silent, still, and may even have a blank expression on their face. Under the surface though, they may be raging. Staying silent doesn’t mean that someone isn’t emotionally flooded, it simply means that they react to (and display) those feelings in a different way.

Whether we are loud and combative or quiet and frozen, we need to know both how to handle ourselves at these times, but also how to read (and handle) our partners when they are in this state. The central lesson is that when we are emotionally flooded we are not in relationship problem solving mode. There is no point in trying to negotiate or resolve an issue with your partner when you are in this state. Instead, escalation of tension will be the likely result.

If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, let your partner know (it will probably be obvious once you know each other’s style). You now need to pause your interaction about your conflict or issue and take a “time out”. Breathe deeply. Leave the room/car/building – go outside or into another space. Take the time you need to regroup, before acknowledging with your partner that you are ready for the interaction to resume (this may take minutes, hours, or days).

If your relationship or marriage is important to you, it deserves to be respected and nurtured, in good times and in bad.

Conflict, and the strong emotions it fosters, is a normal part of any healthy relationship, and is actually great fodder for relationship growth. But only if it is constructively managed!

By managing your emotionality and knowing when “enough is enough”, you will create an environment in which your relationship or marriage can thrive.

Contact Pamela to book an appointment; schedule a complimentary (and confidential) phone assessment; or request more information about fees, services, and relationship workshops on the Sunshine Coast.