I’m feeling flooded. Can we talk later?
These are the healthy comments of a couple who was in a coaching session with me recently.
In the last few months, they have shared their struggles and joys. They’ve shared their fears, their desires, and their hopes for their young family.
One thing they have also shared is their conflict style.
And we learned something about them that is common to many couples.
One of them talks way more than the other.
I’m sure you can relate!
And when you have this in a marriage, one of the easiest but most dangerous things that can happen is that the person who is quieter may shut down entirely under stress.
It may even be their “go-to” for all emotional difficulties.
I turn things off and don’t deal with them and then I survive. (If you’re a #1 or #5 on the Enneagram this may be your go-to cover).
And I get why you’re there: This was once an adaptive behavior in your childhood. SImple and fast, it just worked!
Not so much in marriage however…
Don’t just take my word for it though.
John Gottman, the #1 marriage researcher in the country actually tests people with electrodes and has longitudinal, in-home studies, that have verified it.
The findings are clear: Those who “check out” or as he calls it “stonewall” regularly in a relationship have a much greater percentage of divorce.
Why? The other spouse recognizes it as a pattern of emotional abandonment when their spouse isn’t responding to their bids for attention time and again.
So next time you’re tempted to just back out of conflict by way of sticking your head back in your turtle shell, remember this simple and helpful active coaching tip!
Telling your spouse where you’re retreating to before you go there is SUPER important. As is telling them when you’ll be back (and yes, coming back is key!)
In other words, it’s totally fine that you need some space. It prevents verbal or physical attacks, high blood pressure, ulcers and the like!
And spouses, when you hear this comment or phrase, don’t freak out!
Remember that God has given you everything you need to take care of yourself while the conflict is not yet resolved.
It may take males a half hour to calm down so have some alone time if needed. It may take till the next day even. That’s OK, you have a lifetime together.
And recognize that if you’re bringing constant negativity into the conversation, anyone would be annoyed or overloaded. Sprinkling your conversation with positive and edifying language is totally biblical and wise. It blesses you both!
So as a quick coaching freebie, here’s a review:
Withdrawing spouses, feel free to take some time to regroup and then head back to conversation when you’re ready. Love is sacrifice and sometimes you need to feel it. It won’t harm you to do that as long as it’s not abusive, name-calling or derogatory. Listening to their concerns and trying to find compromise and understanding together brings life to your marriage. Just doing some active listening (no judging) helps too!
Pursuing spouses: Find some healthy enjoyment on your own and with God as you wait for withdrawing your spouse to open back up. Examine whether you were talking non-stop and if others may have also felt flooded by this. This self-awareness and self-control bring positivity into your relationship. It will make your spouse more gratefully attuned to you!
And if you get stuck, we are SO here to help!
Love Living Life Intentionally With You,
Christa and the Reflections Staff