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Emotional Flooding and Time Outs

Does conflict in your relationship seem to escalate fast? Does it seem like what happens during an argument is far more damaging then what started it in the first place? If so you may be experiencing emotional flooding. In John Gottman's research he noticed couples who ended up getting divorced were experiencing flooding often. He developed a time out technique to help couples change the way they argue. When we are flooded we can't think rationally so we don't communicate effectively and we don't listen very well. Signs may be an elevated heart rate, feeling hot, clenching your fist, a wave of anger or yelling.


I always tell my couples that you can call a time out if you feel that you or your partner is flooded. No need to explain why though, come up with a code word so you both know what you mean when you say it. For example if one of you states "break time!" you will both know that a time out has been initiated.


Next you'll want to follow these steps:

-set a time limit, 20-30 minutes is usually a good place to start for a time out

-go do something relaxing and distracting (deep breathing, meditation, take a walk, listen to music or play a game)

-don't stew and think about the argument and what you want to say next (you are taking a break from the argument)

-come back at the time agreed upon even if it's just to tell your partner you need more time (coming back shows you aren't avoiding the problem)

-if you are calm and ready to talk don't engage right back where you left off

-start by telling each other how you are feeling and what you need from your partner (a gentle start up)


This technique can help drastically reduce conflict in your relationship. Click on the picture to learn more from the Gottman Institute.





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