By Darren J. Gillespie, LCSW
One of the top signs of a marriage nearing divorce is flooding according to John Gottman (One of the top marriage gurus of our time). What is flooding you may ask. Flooding means that your spouse’s negativity is so overwhelming, and so sudden, that it leaves you shell-shocked. Basically, the explosion from the spouse is out of proportion to the issue at hand and the result is highly damaging to the relationship.
Can you think of a time recently when you yourself blew up in this way or your partner completely lost it with you? Why do things ever get to this point? I believe it is because we may have been following too closely the old adage of: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” The idea is to let the small, unimportant, annoyances go. Here is the issue with this line of thinking. If a small thing bothers me, then it bothers me. If I ignore it, it does not evaporate, it goes somewhere. Think of it this way. Imagine you have a place inside of you that is like a balloon and each small annoyance is like a puff of air going into the balloon. At first, it is no big deal, but eventually it begins to expand and reach its full capacity. Then one day a small and simple puff is blown and an explosion happens. The force is very unexpected to both parties and the damage is often severe. How could this be avoided?
I have seen in mine and my client’s lives that emotional blow ups can be diminished by purposely “sweating the small stuff”. I suggest trying the following: Express your feelings sooner and earlier on about anything that bothers you in your relationship. This does not mean you need to be mean about it – just say what you are feeling inside and in a calm way. Here are a few examples: “I am feeling nervous when I think about doing that.” or “I would really rather not watch Vampire Diaries tonight.” or “I am not feeling hungry for that tonight.” Your choice of Netflix for the evening may not be a big deal, but it would count as a puff in the hidden balloon if you would like to have a turn sometimes and feel even the smallest amount of resentment about it.
To rap this up, I suggest you experiment with this idea. Do sweat the small stuff. Do it in a calm and natural way. Express your feelings about everything as it comes up. I can promise a reduction in the kind of flooding that Gottman claims is connected to divorce. You will also feel less tension within yourself as well. Give it a try.