Timeout – A relationship tool that prevents damage

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timeout - a tool for conflict resolution

Timeout – A relationship tool that prevents damage

Conflict in a relatationship is in inevitable.  Sometimes it can get heated and emotional and people will say and do things that they regret that cause damage to the relationship.  Timeout is a tool that can act as a circuit breaker and prevent damage from occuring.

Many times partners report arguing over small things and the energy of the argument is way out of proportion to the issue in question.  Timeout is a way to discharge this energy so you can attempt to resolve the issue in a constructive manner.

When to use timeout

Any time that you are in conflict and the emtional temperature of either partner gets over a 4 on a 1-10 scale (where 1 is totally calm and 10 is totally enraged).  When the emotional temperature exceeds this point people become irrational and nothing is going to get resolved.  What is more likely to happen is name calling, verbal put downs, threats to leave the relationship and even physical violence.  None of these is going to bring you closer together or resolve the original issue.

Even if you are not the one who is overemoting, you can get Flooded, shut down and become unresponsive to your partner which can further escalate things.

How does timeout work?

When one of you notices that the emotional temperature of the conversation has exceeded 4 (1-10), you say “I am taking a timeout, I am going to xxxx and I will be back in xxx amount of time”.   What is important is that you tell your partner that you are taking a timeout, where you are going and when you will be back.  The amount of time should be relatively short (e.g. 1 hour).  What you don’t do is slam the door, walk out without saying anything or leave for hours/days at a time.

During this timeout period, both partners should make an effort to release the excess emotion they are feeling in some way (e.g. talk to a friend, take a hot bath, yell into a pillow, journal, etc.).

At the end of the timeout period you get back with your partner and see if you can resolve the original issue.  If you can great, if not take another timeout.  If you still can’t resolve it after the second timeout, take it to a third party (e.g. a friend, a counselor).

It is important that you attempt to resolve the issue after the timeout and not forget about it.  Timeout is not a way to run away from the issue, simply to make it possible to resolve it in a constructive manner.

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