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  • Take A Time Out For Your Relationship

    Attn: Couples who have intense arguments.

    Here’s the best tool to stop nasty conflict in its tracks.

    Do you two get into arguments that leave each other hurt, bewildered, and angry? To name a few of the painful emotions that accompany such conflict.

    Or do you two throw out the “D word” (divorce). when the rationale part of yourselves doesn’t really mean that?

    Luckily, there’s a solution and it’s called a time out.

    I know you may be thinking that sounds pretty cliché, or we’ve tried that. I want you to put those objections aside and try out this new formula.

    One of the problems of calling a time out is that there’s usually no agreement on when you two will come back together.  

    For example, does a time out mean you will take space from each other for three hours, a day, or a week? All those times are two long without any interaction after a big argument.

    The reason being, if we have no idea when our partner will return, our mind has negative thoughts about what’s happening with our partner and the relationship.

    When we don’t know what our partner is up to or thinking, we don’t assume they’re taking space to write us love letters – especially after a fight.  

    So, it’s important to specify a time you two both agree on to return after a time out.

    I recommend that after one partner calls a time out, the time you two take is twenty minutes. You can specify another time frame if you’d like, but twenty minutes usually works best.

    Here’s an example of how a time out works in action.

    You two are interacting and becoming triggered. One or both of you are getting into your adaptive child state of mind – “I’m right, you’re wrong, and you can go screw yourself.” If you two continue the interaction in those states of mind, everything you say or do you’ll have to apologize for later.

    One person notices that the interaction is going off the rails, then that partner calls a “time out.” You can use those words, or any other agreed upon signal or hand gesture. When one or both of you call a time out, the interaction comes to an immediate stop.

    What message is implied when calling a time out is:

    “I can’t be relational in this moment. The part of me that only cares about self-preservation and being right is running the show. Because I cherish our relationship, I know it’s best to stop and come back when the best parts of ourselves can interact and be rationale. Oh, and by the way, I love you.”

    When the twenty minutes is up, here’s what you do next.

    Whomever called the time out, check in. That can be via text or phone and simply ask, “Is it OK for me to come back?” The person who is home can say, “Yes you can come back,” or, “No I need more time, give me another twenty minutes or an hour”

    Say you called the time out and you need more time. When the twenty minutes is up, you check in and say, “I need another twenty minutes” or more time if you need that. I recommend if you need more time, keep additional time to an hour max.

    So, the intervals are, twenty minutes, then an hour.

    After you two have agreed to come back, don’t resume the argument. Agree that you two will wait at least a day to resume discussing whatever triggered the conflict. The reason being is that it’s too fresh to have a productive conversation about it.

    When the time out is over and you two are in the same place, you don’t have to read each other love poems (you won’t be able to do that anyway), but you need to be respectful. I recommend keeping the communication essential and cordial.

    Then when you two can be vulnerable, that’s when you can talk about what triggered the argument. An example on that is in the blog Repairing Distress (through vulnerability), it will give you a framework to get back into connection.

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