Meltdown Divas & Flatliners: When Opposites Attract
By: Jill Mazza
There is a classic relationship dynamic common among many women in my personal and professional circles. It’s a Meltdown Diva paired with a Flatliner. Opposites DO attract. This dyad is challenging – and potentially one of life’s most enriching experiences – if the couple is willing to look into the relationship mirror, learn from, and grow with each other. Tough stuff.
Feeling overwhelmed, uncertain, and insecure are perfect ingredients for mini or major emotional meltdowns. Meltdowns are linked to how safe and supported we feel and to how much our identity is threatened. Meltdown Divas are characterized as reactive, dramatic, hot-headed, and irrational. Maybe so. Divas also feel deeply, have a profound need to be heard, and tend to over-communicate when feeling vulnerable.
What’s wrong with the occasional meltdown? Nothing. We’re all human. It’s when meltdowns become a pattern of unproductive behavior in our lives and relationships that we need to make changes. Too many meltdowns can create tension, frustration, disillusion, and fear in a partner and even cost us a relationship.
While Meltdown Divas are charged with over-communicating, Flatliners are faulted for under-communicating. Flatliners are often described as closed-off, disengaged, hard to read, emotionally unavailable, and having low energy. This may be the case. It may also be that Flatliners are more comfortable expressing themselves without words, are less emotionally sensitive than others, or are excessively sensitive, insecure, and shy.
What’s wrong with living in Flatliner Land? Nothing. It’s when a flatline communication style negatively affects clarity, shared understanding, and commitment in relationships that we need to check behavior. Too much flatlining can create confusion, frustration, fear, and resentment in a partner possibly causing irreparable damage.
Just as Meltdown Divas can be too emotionally intense and push people away, Flatliners may not express themselves often or deeply enough for partners to continue investing time and energy in the relationship. Both Divas and Flatliners can end up isolating themselves – intentionally or not.
From time to time, Divas may need to ‘turn down’ emotional expressiveness or risk triggering their partners’ withdrawal or shut down. Likewise, Flatliners may need to ‘turn up’ emotional expressiveness or risk triggering their partners’ explosive frustration. Relationship dynamics are co-created. Tiny shifts in behavior can make big differences overtime.
The intensity – or lack thereof – in our daily interactions can be daunting. Maintaining balance is demanding. Loosening – not lowering – expectations of our partners and ourselves in terms of how things look, sound, and feel helps us to increase self-awareness and gain valuable insights. Becoming more of our best selves everyday – in relationships – is one of the purest forms of self-expression.
Relationships are mirrors. What we see is not always pleasant. The growing pains associated with individual self-development in the context of healthy relationships are both high risk and high reward. When we are in the right relationships, the risk is worth it. No pain, no gain.
Jill Mazza is an ICF Credentialed Coach and corporate trainer helping clients to communicate with increased control, clarity, and confidence on the job and in personal relationships. Contact: email@example.com.