Premarital Counseling: Conversations for Commitment

Premarital Counseling: Conversations for Commitment

Premarital Counseling: Conversations for Commitment

What to Know Before Marriage

Imagine you and your partner want to go on a big trip together, you know you want to do this together, but what else do you plan for? Are you going somewhere sunny and beachy? Or somewhere where you can go skiing? What does your budget look like for this trip? Do you want to go big on where you’re staying or on food and experiences? Does one of you organize the activities or do you decide on them together? 

These questions might come naturally to some, and maybe to others they’d rather point to a place on the map, throw caution to the wind, and have an adventure. They all have something in common though; they highlight beliefs and expectations we each bring into big decisions about our future and what we would like it to look like. What’s even crazier, we might not even be aware of certain expectations until you catch yourself feeling disappointed or frustrated over something that didn’t cross your mind to talk about ahead of time. 

For example, you get to your warm and sunny beach vacation and your partner DID NOT pack the sunscreen. You might think, “Why wouldn’t they think to do that, we’re going to the beach!” A question to ask yourself in this situation might be, why did you expect them to pack the sunscreen? 

We each have lenses through which we view the world that have been shaped by our own subjective experiences, messages we get from families, teachers, and society that lead us to having certain beliefs and expectations. Sometimes we can forget that and get caught thinking, “well I would’ve definitely remembered putting the sunscreen in the suitcase first because we’re going to the beach,” but our partner might not have that thought due to their unique beliefs and expectations. 

 

Premarital Counseling: The Road Map to a Successful Marriage

 

Expectations, both conscious and unconscious ones, can be really important to discuss ahead of making big life decisions, like deciding to get married. This is where premarital counseling can be so helpful. Talking about these expectations ahead of time, before you find yourself wondering why the heck your partner didn’t pack the sunscreen, can be helpful in understanding more of what to expect from each other in marriage. 

What is helpful to me when working with premarital couples is having a sort of roadmap ahead of starting our work together, another way I’ve described this to couples is “let’s do a relationship check-up”. Maybe you’re a really strong couple, or maybe there are areas you are both struggling, a check-up can be helpful in both scenarios. 

In order to stay healthy, we don’t just go to the doctor when something is really hurting or broken, we go in annually to make sure everything is working the way it should. This is how I like to view premarital counseling as well as counseling or therapy in general. 

 

Topics of Discussion in Premarital Counseling

 

So, what does this “check-up” look like? We can assess common areas that couples may have mismatched expectations, such as managing family relationships, finances, sex, deciding whether or not you want to have children, etc. These are great topics to go into to give each partner time to describe their beliefs, expectations, and meanings of these topics in their future together. 

A few examples of questions that might come up are shown below.

Finance Examples

  • When we get married will we merge our finances? What will that look like – will we share access to all accounts or just some?
  • What are beliefs about money that impact the way you spend, save, or invest? Where did those beliefs come from?
  • What are our shared financial goals? How can we come up with a plan to reach those goals? What does that timeline look like?

Extended Family Examples

  • How involved do we want each side of our families to have in our decisions as a couple? How involved would we want them in the lives of our children if/when we have them?
  • What boundaries already exist between your partner and their family, are they healthy? 
  • What is the meaning of family to each of you? Is it different? How might that impact your expectations around spending time with or making decisions about family in the future?

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

 

Exploring Relationship Strengths and Weaknesses in Premarital Counseling

 

In addition to exploring expectations and beliefs around topics such as these, part of our “check-up” is assessing areas of strength and weakness in your relationship. 

Maybe you both have an incredible friendship and agree on a lot of things, but a disagreement ends in yelling, defensiveness, and anger. Or maybe you find it hard to talk openly about certain topics and might need more tools to feel confident in having that conversation and feeling heard by your partner

These seemingly “small” things might feel like things you’ll both just figure out in time or things that don’t matter as much because you both really love each other, but why not have a place to explore them with someone who could give you tools, help you both gain clarity, or even just share a different perspective?

Things we might “check-up” on in your relationship include:

  • What does your friendship look like? How well do you know and attempt to learn about your partner’s world?
  • What does trust and commitment look like in your relationship?
  • How are you both supporting each other's goals and dreams?
  • How is your communication with your partner? Do you feel heard and validated? Are there often misunderstandings?
  • Do you see your partner in a generally positive way? Or do you catch yourself seeing your partner more negatively, maybe in the form of past mistakes?
  • What does conflict look like in your relationship? What does resolution look like?
  • Are there past hurts from previous relationships that keep coming up in your relationship and causing stress or conflict?

As you’re reading this you might be thinking, “My partner and I have such a strong relationship and we’ve talked about so much ahead of this decision, I don’t think we need to consider something like this.” Maybe you’re right and your relationship is super solid, AND I bet there are still things you might uncover in this work that you didn’t even know to ask or didn’t know about your partner. 

 

Preparing to Go the Distance

 

I think of premarital counseling more like training ahead of a race. Maybe I feel confident that I’ve taken the necessary steps in preparing, but I haven’t run this race before so I might get some training tips from someone who coaches or who has expertise in how to get me ready for something like this. Regardless of the state of your relationship, premarital counseling or this relationship check-up, can help celebrate and bolster the strengths you already possess, give assistance and tools in areas of weakness, and give space to conversations that might have layers of beliefs, expectations, and meanings associated with them. 

 

What to Expect in Premarital Counseling

 

A couple of questions might still be coming up for you as you read this. I think a common question I hear when a couple starts premarital counseling is, “so how long do you think this will take?” and I love this question. I think it really depends on the couple. 

Generally, going through this work together can take time, so I like to understand what expectations my clients are coming into premarital counseling with. Are there time or budget restrictions that I should be aware of that might impact how long we are able to work together? 

I like to start with an assessment of the relationship that covers a lot of the topics and areas mentioned above, to have an idea of what we’re needing to make space for in session. Then I bring this to the couple and highlight areas of strength and areas and topics that might need further discussion. If there are restrictions on our time together, maybe we prioritize the most important topics or areas for you, and I get you connected to supplementary resources that could help outside of session for the topics we don’t get to. It’s possible to spend a few sessions on a topic, or discuss it in one, it all depends on what you both need out of it and if there is clarity at the conclusion of that topic. 

Another question that typically comes up after this is, “well what if we work together and find that we have some deeper issues going on somewhere in the relationship?” There is no shame in this. You’re actually in the perfect place to process deeper issues if they do come up. 

If we assess areas of strengths and areas for growth, and during our work, come across something that needs more time and processing, we can work together to reexamine our goals to accommodate what is most pressing at that time. 

Premarital counseling is beneficial to any couple wanting to get a relationship check-up ahead of a big decision such as marriage. It doesn’t have to be reserved for religion or couples that are struggling, it can be a helpful space for assessing strengths and weaknesses and identifying topics and expectations that could use more discussion. 

Wishing you all the best,
Kara

Dr. Rachel Merlin, DMFT, LMFT, M.S.Ed.

Kara Castells M.S., MFTC is a couples counselor, life coach, and individual therapist who creates an accepting and supportive environment for you to find clarity in your personal life and relationships. She is skillful at applying systemic and evidence-based approaches to create lasting change. Kara can help you and your partner prepare for a happy life together through premarital counseling and couples therapy. 

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

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How To Communicate With Someone Who Shuts Down

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How Do I Communicate With a Husband Who Won't Talk?

[social_warfare]

“He tells me whatever I want to hear so that we can stop talking about it as soon as possible,” Mary says, huffily, arranging the pillows of the Marriage Counseling Couch behind her. “I bring up anything, and he immediately gets defensive. It's impossible to get him to talk about his feelings. It’s like talking to a wall.” She goes on. “If I really, really push it and go after him sometimes he’ll react and we’ll finally address something, but it’s like I have to totally freak out to get him to go there with me. It’s so frustrating. I don’t want to be that person, but I feel like it’s the only way to get him to listen.

Can you relate to what Mary is saying? If so, you’re not alone. It’s incredibly common to have one person in a relationship shutting down during conflict, which increases the frustration and loneliness (and often the volume) of the other. You might be tempted to think that this is a “man thing.” Not true: a significant portion of relationships have women who withdraw in tense moments, and male partners who pursue. This dynamic also happens in same sex relationships with both men and women.

Whether you're trying to get through to your guy or your girl it can feel like the harder you try to communicate, the harder they try to avoid. Sometimes they defend themselves — invalidating what you’re saying in the process — and sometimes they simply refuse to participate in the conversation.

All you want to do is for them to listen to you. Hear you. Respond to you. But whenever you try to communicate, they clamp down like a clam under assault. You try harder: Raising the volume, raising the intensity, and getting more passionate. But the harder you try to connect, the harder they work to block you.

If this communication style turns into a pattern, you might stop believing that you'll ever get though. You might eventually give up on trying to connect. And that is a very serious problem. Because relationships fail when people stop believing that their partner can be who they want or need them to be.

 

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

Here are some new ideas to consider if you want to get your withdrawn partner to open up:

1) Stop Being Scary

I say this a bit humorously, but seriously: It's often the case that “pursuing” partners can get… intense. (I know I certainly can when I'm not able to get my point across). And it's totally understandable — when you're feeling frustrated, shut out, unheard, and uncared for it hurts. It's the most natural thing in the world to get more intense and “passionate” in efforts to make yourself be heard. But consider how you may appear when you get that way.

It may be difficult for others to come towards you, and maintain soft, caring feelings about you, or fully appreciate your needs when you're yelling at them. Interacting with obviously angry people feels threatening. The louder you get, the less people can hear you. Take a breath, tone it down, and you'll get better results.

The louder you get, the less people can hear you

2) Practice Vulnerability

Help your partner move towards you by allowing them to see your pain. Dig under the anger and connect with the hurt or fear that is fueling it. When you can express to your partner that you are feeling lonely and miss them, that you are feeling overwhelmed and need their help, or that you're feeling frightened and need to know that they care — they will see you as softer and more approachable. It mobilizes their love for you, rather than their survival instinct.

3) Be Diplomatic

People like to be praised. Focus on the positive exceptions, and encourage more of what you want. If you must address something you don't like, sandwich it in at least two positive comments and make sure it's a “request” and not a “criticism.” Does this skill feel challenging when you're angry? Consider your options when you're feeling annoyed that your partner is checking out and not following through with household tasks (for example):

  • Option A: “I need to tell you want an inconsiderate a**hole you are, and I want you to sit here and agree with me.”  [Not going to end well.]
  • Option B: “I really appreciate everything you do around here, and I especially liked the way you took out the trash this morning. Would you mind helping me with dinner tonight to? That way we'll have more time to hang out tonight. I like it when we can just enjoy each other and relax in the evenings.”

Which option would go over better with you?

4) Focus on Solutions

Grinding away at complaints about things you don't like makes people feel overwhelmed, and defensive. When you get clear about what you DO want before coming into a conversation, and ask for that in a positive way your partner will be much better able to hear you. Furthermore, when they know what you want, they can give it to you.

5) Get Support

Sometimes, no matter how kind and gentle you are with your partner, they will still shut down, avoid and defend. This is especially true if a negative cycle has overtaken your relationship. Even if you are changing, they still expect you to be the same (and react to you accordingly).

It may also be the case that they are engaging in old, entrenched ways of relating that existed long before you came along. If you suspect that either of these things are happening, it may be wise to get both of you in front of a good marriage counselor or relationship coach who can help you untangle the impact of past relationship patterns, and focus on how to relate in a healthy way going forward.

I hope these ideas help you reconnect, if you're in a relationship with someone who avoids conflict, and shuts down. For more detailed, in-depth advice on how to communicate with a withdrawn partner and get things back on track, check out my communication podcasts:

• Improve The Communication in Your Relationship

• How to Communicate With a Withdrawn Partner (Without Pushing Them Further Away)

How to Communicate With a Partner Who is Upset (This one can really help your withdrawn partner understand YOU, and what happens to you emotionally when they refuse to talk or engage with you).

Wishing you all the best on your journey of growth together…

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: One fantastic, low-key, low-anxiety way to begin opening up lines of communication is to do it without actually talking. (Really!) Take our free “How Healthy is Your Relationship” Quiz and send it to your partner to take too. (It's set up so you can send them an email invitation from within the quiz). Then you can share your results with each other.

Just be prepared to learn new things about how your partner has been feeling about your relationship! Pro tip: Even if you learn that there are aspects of your relationship that don't feel good for them right now, it's a positive thing because they are giving you the chance to learn and grow together.

If you respond to their disclosures with empathy, curiosity, and responsiveness it might start to restore emotional safety and begin turning things around. Here's the link to get access to the quiz. xoxo, LMB

Expert Relationship Advice: Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's a licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed psychologist, and board certified coach. Dr. Bobby is the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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However.

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Comments? Questions? Success Stories? Please share in the comments section below…

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Signs Your Relationship is Failing: Listen Now

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Meet a Few Of Our Relationship Experts

The marriage counselors, couples therapists and premarital counselors of Growing Self have specialized training and years of experience in helping couples reconnect. We use only evidence based strategies that have been proven by research to help you restore your strong bond, and love your relationship again.

 

 

 

Natalie Krenz

Natalie Krenz

M.A., LMFT

Natalie is an experienced marriage counselor and couples therapist with a master's degree in marriage and family therapy, and years of experience in helping couples communicate more effectively, find new solutions to old problems, repair their strong bond, rebuild trust after affairs, successfully blend families, improve their sexual intimacy, and parent joyfully together. She is a couples therapist and parenting coach with a positive, solution focused style who specializes in helping you both make positive changes to your life, as well as to your relationship. Natalie licensed as a marriage counselor in Maryland, and works with couples around the world as a relationship coach online.

 

 

Meagan Terry

Meagan Terry

M.A., LMFT

Meagan Terry is a relationship specialist. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over nine years of experience in helping couples reconnect, and enjoy each other again. She specializes in Denver marriage counseling, Denver premarital counseling, and online relationship coaching.

Meagan uses effective, evidence based forms of marriage counseling including Emotionally-Focused Couples Therapy and The Gottman Method. In addition to working one-on-one with couples, she teaches our Lifetime of Love premarital and relationship class. Meagan is available to meet with you for marriage counseling or couples therapy in Denver, and for relationship coaching and premarital counseling online.

 

Anastacia Sams

Anastacia Sams

M.A., N.C.C., LMFT-C

I’m Anastacia Sams: a licensed therapist, life coach, and marriage counselor who is all about helping you create the very best life for yourself and for your relationships. I specialize in a type of evidence-based marriage counseling called Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, that helps you rebuild your secure, strong bond.

I’ve been told that my warm, gentle style immediately sets people at ease. Working with me, you’ll feel safe, cared for, and understood. And through that non-judgmental understanding, you will heal, grow, and — most importantly — understand yourself.”

Georgiana Spradling

Georgiana Spradling

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Dr. Georgiana is a certified coach as well as a licensed as a marriage and family therapist in California but she specializes in online relationship coaching. She divides her time between San Francisco and Buenos Aires. She is fluent in English, Spanish and French.

Parsa Shariati

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Hunter Tolman

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His gentle, but effective approach can help you open up with each other, and have healing conversations that repair your bond and allow you both to consistently show each other the love and respect you both deserve. Hunter's roots are in Utah, but he is currently based in Colorado. He can serve you as a couples therapist or marriage counselor in Fort Collins, CO and Broomfield, CO, and he provides online marriage counseling & relationship coaching to couples across the US and around the world.

How To Keep Your Relationship Healthy During Self-Isolation

How To Keep Your Relationship Healthy During Self-Isolation

How To Keep Your Relationship Healthy During Self-Isolation

Staying Sane, Together

[social_warfare]

We have found ourselves in an unparalleled situation that no one could have predicted. The world is facing a challenge more difficult than anyone could have expected: forced family time indefinitely — home quarantine 24/7. For couples out there, you may be looking for answers on how to keep your relationship healthy during self-isolation. Because let’s be honest, being together All The Time can feel a little overwhelming. 

As an online marriage counselor and relationship coach, I am now seeing my couple’s therapy couples in all different types of situations, being confronted with new and unforeseen challenges in how to manage their relationships in claustrophobic quarters. Have you experienced this too?

Figuring out new formulas to handle household responsibilities when parents are working at home, being together 24/7 in a confined space, managing the kids 24/7, are all issues that no self-help book or couples therapist has advised on previously. [Speaking of kids and quarantine, here's some helpful advice on how to survive! Tips to Survive Quarantine with Kids.]

Compounded by the increased stress and anxiety of financial issues and general uncertainty about the future, this quarantine has the potential to make or break our relationships.

I want to share with you 12 simple tips on how to keep your relationship healthy during self-isolation as we navigate through these very uncertain times. 

Embrace The Dialectic

One of my college professors wisely told me, “The closer you come to the truth, the closer you come to a paradox.” Almost every issue in life involves embracing the dialectic, which is examining how two contrasting ideas can simultaneously be truthful, and in the paradoxical truth, a greater understanding emerges. 

There are going to be times when you’ve never felt closer to your partner and when you absolutely detest them (this is normal!). In your relationship, you might get to connect and talk with each other in ways that you have never before but you might also get more annoyed and irritated than ever before! (If this is you, don't worry – we have all been there!)

Embracing that you can have opposite feelings at the same time will relieve relational stress and anxiety that may feel pressing or hard to navigate. We do not have to choose one or the other. Embrace that your partnership is not black and white, and it is from the grey where true compatibility, trust, and partnership emerge. 

Receive Clarity Around Your Relationship

This surreal state of uncertainty is the perfect opportunity to discover your ‘truth’. 

Here’s were clarity around your relationship steps in – either you know that this relationship was not meant to work and this is the straw on the camel’s back, you now have the clarity to make the right decision for both of you. Or, more optimistically, the clarity you discover is around how much you really love your partner and how you are ready to jump in and give them your complete love and dedication. 

This is an opportunity for clarity, whatever that might mean for you. 

Gain Perspective And Create Your “Future”

How will you as a couple look back at this in 5 years, 10 years, and even 20 years?  My daughter’s teacher told her that this will be her generation’s 9/11. What will you tell your children and grandchildren about this time? As uncertain and rapidly changing this might seem, we are living history right now.

What do you want your memories to be? Did you learn how to live differently? Did it teach you something about what is really important and what your values truly are? 

Hold onto that after this pandemic is over and let it change your life. This quarantine can be what you make it — maybe you started your novel or cleaned your whole house top to bottom, or maybe it was a time to relax and reflect. 

Keep A Balance

Don’t bury your head in the sand, or become overly focused and obsessed with the crisis. There is a balance between knowing what is going on in the world and ruminating about it.

Everyone needs to focus on creating a balance. Life will go on and you will still need to function; so find plenty of time to balance your work, your relationships, and your life.

Limit your social media and time spent watching the news for the sake of your own sanity. This could be a good time to start new habits around the news, social media, and managing your own anxiety. [Here's more on creating balance through Intentional Living – How to not Panic in the PANIC.]

Dealing With Crisis Shows Us Who We Are

How we handle challenges that life throws at us shows us who we are and shows us who our partner is. 

What are you learning about yourself and your partner during this time? How can you use this to cooperate better with your partner in the future?

Using this time to gain insight into your partnership will ultimately help set your relationship up for success as you move forward.

Slow Down And Tune In

If there is ever going to be a better opportunity to get off of the proverbial ‘rat race’, this is it. What do you want to do that you are usually too busy for? Who do you want to be that you’ve never given yourself an opportunity to be? This is your moment to jump in and work towards your best self

As a couple, this is an excellent opportunity to become the couple that you loved, that brought out the best in both of you. 

Show Your Vulnerability

This is a time to expand who you are in the daily rituals and expectations of everyday life. Show your partner that you want to connect. Show your partner that you are worried or that you are scared or that you are hopeful. This is a great opportunity to show more of who you are. Remember to laugh, make love, and dream. [For more on creating rituals together, read: Keys to a Successful Marriage During Quarantine.]

The “so-that” Principle

Everything we do in life is the “so-that.” The so-that principle says, “I do ___ so-that I can/feel/know/do/have/etc.” What is your so-that? What will this do for you in the road ahead? Is this making me happier? Or richer? Are you leading your life to be rich or successful, fulfilled, loved, or happy? What is your so-that? 

Look For The Spiritual Meaning

What existential questions is this time bringing up for you, your partner, and your relationship? I hope it brings up the fact that how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. How do you want to be spending your days and ultimately, your life together? 

Recognize The Fragility Of Life

When ask what people miss after a loved one passes away, the thing most commonly said is that they miss the little things. The everyday moments. The small annoyances. The daily habits. Choose to not let those moments go. 

Take stock of your time together, find gratitude in the little things – recognize the fragility of life and the brief moments the feel fleeting but important. Honor these moments.

Be Open To Sharing Your Feelings

Unfortunately, we do not get to choose which feelings to feel. We choose to feel all of our feelings or we try to feel none of them.

You can try to control your life so that you only feel the feelings you want, but it does not work that way. If you want to live life on life’s terms, you need to choose to be open to feeling them all. 

In a time like this, there will be moments of joy and moments of panic. Choose not to shut yourself down to that experience. You will regret it. Be open to sharing this experience as partners working through this time together as you work towards keeping your relationship healthy during self-isolation.

Warmly,
Brenda Fahn, M.A., LMFT

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Brenda Fahn, M.A., LMFT helps people strengthen their marriages, their families, and themselves. She can help you enjoy your relationships with your partner and children, heal from difficult experiences, and cultivate meaning, joy, and love in your life.

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What Every Couple Needs to Know About Emotional Flooding

What Every Couple Needs to Know About Emotional Flooding

What Every Couple Needs to Know About Emotional Flooding

The Escalator Goes Up…

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When I first started working with couples who sought to improve their communication and relationship satisfaction, I noticed a pattern in their descriptions of conflict. It centered around escalations in arguments. They would describe a situation where the more verbal and communicative partner wanted to “get to the bottom” of a disagreement, and the other more pragmatic, “laid back” personality retreated in direct proportion to the escalating frustration of their partner. 

Many couples are unaware that this escalation is even taking place. The psychologist John Gottman, who several decades ago pioneered groundbreaking couples research, shares a wealth of knowledge that now informs our understanding. 

What is really happening when one half of the couple retreats in the face of escalating emotion? The term for this is “flooding”: it’s a nervous system that’s kicked into overdrive. Gottman defines emotional flooding as “a sensation of feeling psychologically and physically overwhelmed during conflict, making it virtually impossible to have a productive, problem-solving conversation.”

Where’s the Danger?

This biological reactivity was at one time adaptive and necessary for our very survival. But that was millions of years ago when our main concern centered around escaping the jaws of a hungry saber-toothed tiger. The stress reactions that enable us to fight or flee, in our modern world, can wreak havoc on our sense of well-being. Familiar and repetitive disagreements morph into something else entirely. 

A Disappearing Act

Most couples wouldn’t imagine that chemistry has anything to do with their partner’s disappearance, but it really does. And knowing this can help to defuse the escalation. Stress hormones are racing, and without a predator to escape from, the brain is essentially confused by the lack of “real” danger. It quickly appoints a new target as the perceived threat: the emotional attack. 

Throw in a few cognitive distortions (“He never cares what I’m feeling, he’s just punishing me by running away, again!” and “She is always on my back about something, I can’t get a word in edgewise, and I can’t think straight”)…and the die is cast. 

For the one left behind doing the yelling, it feels like deliberate abandonment, meant to punish. For the one who walked away or shut down and refused to engage, a retreat to a quieter safer space seems like the only choice to make. 

It comes as a surprise to the person who was on the attack that, far from being a deliberate punishment, the retreater cannot hear any more. They feel overwhelmed, and both partners’ sympathetic nervous systems have essentially shorted out. In order to reverse the emotional flooding, a time-out is essential.

Perception Becomes Reality 

It has been said that perception becomes reality. In the case of emotional flooding, this is clearly the case. If you believe your partner’s behaviors are purposeful acts meant to upset you or shut you down, your own reactions are going to be driven by those convictions. But what if your partner may not be able to handle another round of argument because their heart is pounding, their pulse is elevated, and they’re not processing the conversation anymore? 

If we take a moment to suspend the doubt about the other’s intention, to open up a space for the possibility that what we think we are seeing may not be accurate…then what other ways might we be able to engage during times of conflict?

A flood does not need to become a tsunami; you can learn to equip yourself with the tools to avert that disaster every single time.

Tips for Breaking the Emotional Flooding Cycle

As a Couples Counselor and Marriage Therapist I work with my clients through these cycles of emotional flooding. I want to share with you tips for breaking this cycle and moving forward into a healthier, happier relationship and life.

  • At a time when you and your partner are calm and communicating easily, make a plan for how you will call a time-out in the future when conflict is becoming heated. Decide how long the break will last. Then stick to the plan. As with all relationship growth, commitment and trust are essential ingredients.
  • Challenge and question the catastrophic narrative that is taking over your mind. Focus on self-awareness in the moment; become a friendly person who is sitting next to you, observing all your reactions and behaviors. What would you say to the you that is sitting next to you? Offer your best advice on how to calm down.
  • Create your own defusing routine. Mine is to count backwards by 7’s from 100; yours can be whatever mildly challenging cognitive task will distract you from focusing on your emotions.
  • Do some mindful breathing or a short meditation to break the flooding response. Make a commitment to try self-soothing…whether you are the retreater or the pursuer of conflict. 
  • Turn your attention to your five senses: what do you see, hear, smell, taste, touch? These are neutral (as opposed to positive or negative) focal points, and will allow your sympathetic nervous system some time to recover.
  • As you become increasingly aware of the cycle, stop as soon as you notice your elevated heart rate or blood pressure. If an apology is called for, offer it. Start again. Remember that all couples have conflict, and you don’t have to do it perfectly to make it better.

A Last Note About the Time-Out

A final thought about time-outs during conflict: the time spent away from your partner should not be spent planning your next responses, or fuming over what has transpired. A true time-out is meant to quiet the nervous system and return you to a place of peace, where you are ready to re-engage with your loved one. 

You will find once you understand the dynamics of emotional flooding, you will be far less likely to end up in that heightened emotional standoff in the first place. This will make it much easier to reconnect with your loved one after a disagreement. You can use your new anti-flooding superpower to create a more secure bond and know more about what your partner needs from you.

Wishing you all the best, 

Lisa Jordan M.A., LCPC

 

[social_warfare]

Lisa Jordan M.A., LCPC, is an empathic counselor and coach who helps individuals and couples create healthy communication and connection, with greater confidence and self-knowledge. She can help you move beyond difficulties, to create meaning and life satisfaction.

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