We are Taking a Timeout: Now What?
You have implemented a time out to stop an escalating argument. Great! You guys have agreed to come back and address the issue in 3 hours. Awesome! You have separated and are now in different parts of the house. Now what? Some may think the hard part is over. You saw 2 trains about to collide, but you put on the breaks and walked away. While you should give yourself a pat on the back for taking a different course of action that could benefit your relationship, you still have some work to do. So what exactly should you be doing while in time out?
Before anything else can be done during a timeout you must take yourself out of fight mode. When in a heated argument, our bodies are reacting and continue to react long after the argument has stopped. You still feel unsafe and have a difficult time thinking clearly. Because of this, it is imperative that individuals get themselves into a calmer state. This means different things to different people. Are you a person that loves music and it helps you when you are having a difficult time? Maybe you are an outdoor person and going for a walk helps to clear you mind. Whether it's watching TV or deep breathing, whatever your self-soothing techniques are, this is the time to bring them out.
Identify the problem
There is always a point in the conversation where effective communication turns into a battle with words. It is important to figure out how this transition happened. During your timeout think about what exchange led you down the wrong path. Also think about whether you or your partner was triggered. One of you may have just stepped on a land mine and didn't realize that the other is reacting to some old feelings. Also, take this time to clarify what you wanted to communicate initially. What did you need or want from your partner? What was the point you were trying to make that got derailed? If that point was not necessary for your initial argument, leave it alone. If it is necessary to communicate your thoughts and feelings, try to find a different way to express your point.
Let go of the need to retaliate
Often, during timeouts couples spend their time thinking about what they should have said or ruminating on a wrong or hurtful point their partner made. If this is your focus, you are wasting your time and energy. You cannot spend this time focusing on a plan to attack back and expect your partner to react in a healthy manner. Retaliation is not the way to move forward in the disagreement or promote growth in your relationship. Instead, think of how you will communicate where you were out of line for anything hurtful you said. If other topics were brought up and you feel they need to be addressed, save that for a different day.
For further inquiries:
Check out Eboni Harris, Licensed Relationship Therapist, at eboniharris.com
Phone: (832) 384- 4445