“He knows the water best who has waded through it.”
Warning! A flood may be coming and your communication can get washed out. Beware! This flood may catch you unawares because it accumulates one drop at a time.
Actually, in this particular flood, did you know you can drown your spouse with no water at all? It can happen when you feel flooded--a condition that is usually preceded by washed-out communication!
Here’s how it happens. In the closeness of a marriage relationship, from time-to-time we all exchange negative communication. But sometimes we go too far in expressing our negative feelings. Dr. John Gottman, professor of psychology at the University of Washington, coined the phrase, “feeling flooded.” It’s when your spouse tells you something, and then tells you again and again. Drip. Drip. Drip. It’s biblical. Consider the proverb, a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping (Proverbs 19:13).
Sounds like flooding to us!
Dr. Gottman suggests we each have a sort of built-in meter that measures how much negativity accumulates during our conversations. How much you can handle before “flooding” occurs depends on your own personality and is also affected by how much stress you’re already under.
What are some symptoms of flooding? You may feel defensive, hostile, or just want to withdraw and go into your shell. So what can you do when you begin to feel flooded? Just knowing the term can help. Simply saying, “I’m feeling flooded. Let’s deal with this later!” can help the waters to recede. Then after emotions cool, you can revisit the topic or issue that you need to talk about.
Stop for a moment and make a list of times in the past when you felt flooded or you realize now you have flooded your spouse. It might be the time:
· You lamented (once too often) your budget that wasn’t working.
· You reminded your spouse that you put his towel back on the rack for the hundredth time.
· Another in-law discussion broke down the flood gates!
· You made one too many comments about the clutter in the living room.
Okay, we all have frustrating situations that can’t be ignored. How can you deal with issues without causing a flood? Here’s a tip that is helping us. We have agreed to try to focus on the problem and attack the problem, and not each other. For instance, you might say something like this, “Let’s focus on our budget. What can we do to make it work?” Or, “Towels don’t dry when left on the floor.” Or, “The living room needs some attention. Let’s attack it together. And afterwards, let’s have some frozen yogurt.”
When we resist badgering and nagging each other, we are on the right path to better communication. Here’s another great tip. We actually made a contract that we will not (intentionally) attack each other and if we feel attacked, we will resist attacking back or defending ourselves.
Simply agreeing to not attack each other or defend ourselves is one communication life preserver we all need. We wouldn’t wade into deep conversations without it.