Quite often it is possible to lose your temper with a loved one.  Those closest to you also know how to push your buttons.  In order, to communicate effectively and maintain peace in the home, a time out may be needed. The time out should not be used to:

  • Avoid a topic of conversation 
  • Punish your spouse for hurting your feelings 
  • Prepare an argument for later use

There are four components to successfully utilizing a time out.  First you will need to understand and identify when you will need to take one.  Second, establish time out rules with your spouse.  Third, when arguments arise: USE THE TIME OUT to calm down.  Finally, re-engage with your spouse concerning the issue that led to the time out. The first two steps should be completed as preparation for a time out.  These are best accomplished when you are in a good mood and ready to reflect on yourself and your relationship.  Preparing the time out is important for using steps three and four.

The first step requires a bit of self- analyzing.  Think back to the last time you were angry.  How did your body feel?  Did you get hot?  Was your stomach in knots?  Were your palms sweaty?  Begin to recognize the physical manifestations of your anger.  Recognizing the warning signs can stop heated arguments before they even begin.  Next, what kind of thoughts do you have?  Are you so focused on what your partner said that you could not hear what he/she is saying currently?  Or are you just trying to think of your own response? Third, begin to identify what feelings are present in conjunction with the anger.  Hurt, disappointment, and victimized are a few possibilities.  Finally, it is important to recognize your behaviors.  Are your arms crossed?  Do you clinch your fists? 

Once personal reflection is accomplished, it is important to sit down with your spouse to lay down some ground rules. 

Establish a mutually understood signal that alerts your partner when a time out is needed. Use language that does not make your partner feel abandoned.  Determine how you both can call time outs in a way that is neutral.  For example, “I am getting angry.  Can we stop this conversation and come back together in an hour?” Discuss how the partner who signaled the time out can be acknowledged.

Using the time out in a healthy way is key to reuniting with your spouse.  Take this time to relax.  Ask yourself these three questions:

  • What are relaxing activities that I enjoy?
  • Where can I go that is peaceful and stress free?
  • How can I make my environment stress free?

The time out is not for thinking on how to refute your spouse or getting back at him/her.  This time is strictly for cooling off.  Utilize the self-care activities to expedite the process.  It takes practice to walk away from a fight and actively calm down but it can be accomplished.  Once both parties are calm and ready to talk, then it is time to come together in a quiet space where that can occur.  When you do come back together, do so with love and respect.