So you’re having a “healthy” argument with your boyfriend – but all of a sudden things are getting super-heated. You’re getting angrier, your voice is getting that screechy quality, and you’re saying the same things over and over again hoping it’ll finally sink into his thick skull! You’ve been there right? Well, if you’re ever there again, walk away.
That’s according to relationship psychologist Dr. John Gottman. Gottman says when a fight reaches that type of fevered pitch, you experience an increase in heart rate and a surge of stress hormones. He calls it “flooding”. Flooding a physiological response to the stress of an argument that sends your body into fight-or-flight mode. Basically, the emotional side of your brain has taken over, squelching the logical side, and you are no longer able to have a productive conversation. That’s when you start saying things you don’t mean, just to hurt the other person, and you bring up things from years ago that aren’t relevant. To avoid that, recognize when you’re “flooding” and take a time out. And guys, I hope you’re listening because according to Dr. Gottman, “flooding” is actually more typical in men.
So if you have fights that escalate quickly, establish a cease-fire code. Make it a rule that either party can call a time-out – and you’ll agree to table the argument, no questions asked, and step back until you’ve both calmed down. But here’s one rule: When you walk away from the fight, don’t walk away for good. The problem for most couples isn’t that their fights are too long – it’s that they’re too short. They walk away from the fight because they’re worked up, but then they just drop it because bringing it up again is uncomfortable, so things never get resolved. Get over it. Get uncomfortable. Make a commitment that you’ll discuss the issue again when you both have clearer heads.