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“Feeling Flooded” In Your Relationship? Here’s How To Save Each Other…

Have you ever tried simply talking to your partner…

Only to have it end up in a big argument?

Maybe you just wanted to give a suggestion. Or talk about your finances. Or whose turn it is to watch the kids.

Most of the time, it’s because your partner was “feeling flooded” in the moment.

Flooding, according to my friend and couples therapist, Dr. Sarah Rattray, PhD, is when one person in a relationship feels overwhelmed with emotion and shock usually after receiving an unexpected comment, opinion, or suggestion from their partner.

Most of the time, we’re at a balanced state. Not too negative. Not too positive.

But sometimes, when we hear something that catches us off guard, we sometimes don’t handle the rush of emotions in an efficient manner.

Hence, the flooding of emotions.

This, more often than not, leads to arguments, bickering, and fights.

How do you prevent this from ever happening to your relationship while still leaving your communication open and safe to share feelings, opinions, and suggestions?

Dr. Sarah Rattray wrote a wonderful article all about how she suggests lovers “fix the flooding” in their relationships. Here it for you.


Margaret and Lorenzo made love one night, and Margaret realized, again, that she wanted him to touch her breasts in a different way.  


She waited until the next morning in the remaining glow of the night before, and said to him “Hey sweetie, last night was really great, but I wanted to tell you something that keep meaning to tell you.  After a while, when I’m getting turned on, could you touch my breasts more firmly? I’d really love that!”


She expected that Lorenzo would welcome this information, but instead he replied “What, you don’t like how I touch you?  So I’m doing it all wrong?” and suddenly they found themselves in the middle of a fight.

What happened?!

You want to talk with your partner in a way that you will feel heard, they will understand you, and together you feel closer.

The crucial information in this article, and four clear easy steps, help you not let conversations turn into fights.  You will learn how to have calm communication instead of conflict.

Here’s what happened: Lorenzo was surprised by Margaret’s unexpected request, and in his body this surprise registered as a threat to his safety.  

Humans and all animals are always on the alert, in the deep part of our brains, for signs of threats to our safety, and we are all wired to respond instantly to any imagined threat so that we can quickly protect ourselves.

Between you and your partner, although there is usually no actual physical threat, your bodies have only one response to all threats – to turn on your emergency “Fight or Flight” response.  That switch brings you out of your calm, peaceful “Rest and Digest” state.

“Fight or Flight” is the surge of hormones that floods through your body instantly to prepare you to fight or to run away, or sometimes to freeze.  If you’ve ever almost been hit by a car in traffic, or ever seen the lights of a police car pulling you over, or been startled by a frightening animal, you know exactly how this feels.  

One word for the feeling when the Fight or Flight response turns on is:  Flooding, or feeling Flooded.

So here’s the thing.  You want to have a great, calm, connected conversation with your partner, and you don’t want to fight.  

In order to communicate calmly you have to take these four clear steps:

  1. Learn to recognize when your unique “Flooded” feeling begins in your body as early as possible, before a big fight develops
  2. Stop talking and take a break
  3. Calm Down and Relax during that break until you’re no longer flooded, and then
  4. Talk later when you’re all the way relaxed again
  1. Learn to recognize your unique “Flooded” feelings

Sit quietly and think back to the last time you remember getting into a fight with your partner, or anyone else.  How did your body feel?

  • Which muscles felt tense?
  • Did you feel hot or cold anywhere?
  • Did you feel your heart beat faster or harder?
  • Did you notice any feelings in your stomach, chest, throat, or face?

Continue taking note of your unique symptoms that you’re Flooded as time goes on.  

Anytime you start to feel like you’re getting into a fight, or soon after you realize you were headed into a fight or got into a fight, take a few moments to note how your body felt.

Remember these feelings!  They are your own personal early-warning signals that you’re getting Flooded.

  1.  Stop talking and take a break

As soon as you recognizing your signals that you’re getting Flooded, stop talking, excuse yourself, and take a break.

And I mean – right away!  Don’t try to fix it or explain it or repeat yourself or have the last word.

Just stop.  Say: “Honey, I need to take a break.”

If you’re able to say more words, you could say “Honey, I feel myself getting flooded.  I’m going to go take a break and calm down. I’ll talk to you more later.”

  1.  Calm Down and Relax

I’m going to share with you a few relaxation ideas and one great tool to help you calm down.  For a more complete and helpful description of flooding, taking a break, and tips for a good talk, please check out my

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The key to calming down when you’re flooded is to realize that it’s your body that has to calm down first, and then your mind will follow.  You’re just not able to calm your mind all on its own… and you also have to step in and not let your mind dwell on the conversation that just turned into a fight.

To focus on calming down your body you can use your preferred method of deep relaxation if you have one, or try out one or more new relaxation ideas.  Whichever you choose, tell yourself to take deep breaths, and say to yourself phrases such as “I’m calming down;” “I’m relaxing;” “I’m breathing slowly;” “I’m letting it go.”  

Here are some relaxation ideas for you to try:

  • meditation
  • deep breathing
  • soothing yoga
  • progressive muscle relaxation
  • taking a hot bath or shower, or,
  • Coloring: I’d like to offer you a different kind of tool that is simple and effective – I call them
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Studies show that coloring is an excellent and effective way to quickly and enjoyably calm the body and distract the mind.  These Calming Cards are small so that you can color them in about 15-20 minutes. This is the ideal amount of time to relax enough so that your body isn’t primed to jump back into an argument.

On one side of each wallet-size Calming Card is a graphic you can color in, with any pen or pencil, or your favorite coloring set.  On the reverse side are helpful reminder instructions on what to do.

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⇐ Dr. Sarah Rattray’s Calming Cards

Then print them and cut them out, and keep some in your wallet and some at your bedside or desk drawer.  

  1. Talk later when you’re all the way relaxed again

When you’re all the way relaxed again – usually it takes 15-20 minutes, not just a few minutes – check with your partner and see if they feel relaxed too.  Ask if they’re ready to talk again. If you’re both not quite ready, set aside a time to talk when you’ll both start out feeling calm and relaxed.

Now that you have the tools to relax, here’s what to do next time you realize you feel flooded:

  • Stop talking (no really – STOP!)
  • Excuse yourself
  • Allow your body and mind to settle and calm while you quietly color in the card; Remind yourself to breathe deeply, and let any thoughts of the fight drift away
  • After about 20 minutes you’re ready to return to your partner and ask for a do-over!

Once Lorenzo learned what to do, the next time Margaret said something that he heard as a criticism, he was aware that his face felt hot, he was clenching his jaw, and that he wanted to give her a piece of his mind.  He recognized these feelings from times in the past when he had felt flooded right before they ended up having a fight.

Instead, he said:

“Hey sweetie, I just realized I’m flooded.  I need to go calm down – I’m going to grab one of those Calming Cards.  Do you want one too? I’ll be back in a bit after I can get myself relaxed,” and he left the room without getting into a fight.  

Margaret realized she was flooded too, and she let her mind wander peacefully and her body relax while she colored her card.  

Later, they tried again, and had a much better conversation… and making love next time was more satisfying and exciting for both of them.

Learn a lot more about how to stop fights and have great conversations in my FREE video series

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To download your own copy of my Calming Cards,

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When your body has sensed danger and turned on the Fight or Flight response, calm communication just isn’t possible anymore.

You’ve learned that you need to pay attention to your signals that you’ve gotten flooded, so that you can stop talking, take a break, relax and calm down, and then return to your partner when you’re both ready for connected conversation.  

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