Nothing can make our emotions go haywire more than our partner can. Our children come a close second. Have you noticed? I’ve heard that policeman are in more danger when they are called to a domestic situation than to a bank robbery. Emotional reactions to our partners can hijack our senses in a way that blindsides us as well as loved ones. I like to call it “marital road rage”.
Dr. John Gottman is the premier researcher in the world in relationship health. He describes the physiology of our emotional tornado as “flooding”. The brain actually goes off-line when our pulse rises to ten percent over its normal pounding. When you feel your body reacting to an issue with your partner, think about the pulse. Take several deep breaths. If you are not able to respond to your partner in a way that says “I’m upset, but I want to talk about this in a way that says I care about you”, then you are not physically able to make that conversation go well! Isn’t that a relief? We can talk more in my office about how to get the body and brain back online so that you can connect with your loved one, even in your upset.
Ok, I really do keep the scissors and any other weaponish items hidden in my office so that couples who feel their pulse pounding or their stomachs in knots won’t get any funny ideas about things to say to their partner that they will regret later. What do you need to put away in your vocabulary with your partner so that next time (not if, WHEN) you get flooded, you don’t leave flood damage? What words should be completely retired from your home?
Make a commitment to yourself to be more aware when you begin to feel the boil, then do something different. Do something different. Stop. Breathe. Breathe again. Leave the room if you need to recover on your own. Leave the verbal scissors in the drawer instead of unleashing on the person you say that you love.