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Thursday, March 10, 2011

T3 - Predicting Fictional Breakups, Part Two

This week continues the series started last Thursday, based on the work of Dr. John Gottman. He came up with 6 signs of pending divorce/breakup. Signs 1 & 2 were discussed last week, and that was a harsh start-up to the argument and the four horsemen of criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

Sign #3: Flooding

After you've got defensiveness and criticism, usually you've got flooding following right on their heels. According to Gottman, flooding is when the partner's negativism is so overwhelming and sudden that it leaves the other person shell-shocked.  Stonewalling is one way to emotionally distance oneself from the negativity. You want to do anything you can to avoid replays, so you're hypervigilant against cues that your partner is about to "blow." You might second guess your every word, or feel like you're walking on tiptoe.

Sign #4: Body Language

There are physiological changes that happen in the body that coincide with flooding, such as an increased heart rate, the secretion of adrenalin, and an increase in blood pressure. Now Gottman had couples wired up to all sorts of machines to measure this kind of stuff, so that's how we have this data, but his research shows that these physical responses to flooding make it impossible to maintain the discussion at hand.

"Your ability to process information is reduced, meaning it's harder to pay attention to what yor partner is saying. Creative problem solving goes out the window" (Gottman, p. 37). Essentially you're left with the most basic reflexes to either fight (which is more of the four horsemen - criticism and contempt) or flee (which is stonewalling).

If one partner feels this type of severe emotional distress, their body is going into overdrive and perceiving the current situation as dangerous. Heart rate is a pretty good indicator. A man around 30 years old has a resting heart rate of 76 (a woman has one of 82). If either has an increase in heart rate over 100 beats per minute (even as high as 165) - this is easy to predict breakup.

Next week we'll cover the last 2 signs that predict breakup, so be sure to come back next Thursday!

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Shannon said...

I'm really relieved to find none of these symptoms in my relationship. Phew!

Michelle said...

Do you have more resources (books, websites, etc.) that I can read to learn more about flooding?

Thank you!

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.