Just like we often teach children to take a time out to calm down, adults can benefit from taking a time out when they feel angry. Time outs can prevent arguments from escalating to the point where people say and do things they don’t mean. Time outs can stop the disagreement before things become abusive and stops people from trying to get even.
When two people are very angry, it is not a good time to try to resolve a conflict. Effective problem-solving cannot take place when people have a lot of emotions. It is difficult to think logically and rationally when feeling very emotional. It is important when either or both partners are feeling very emotional to stop trying to continue a discussion or resolve the conflict. A time out can help both people calm down and think more rationally about a solution.
If you and your partner have disagreements that become quite heated, develop a plan for time outs. Discuss a possible signal that you could use to notify the other person that you need a time. Then leave the situation. The other person needs to agree not to follow you and to take a break from the discussion.
While on a time out, determine steps you can take to help you calm down. This might include taking a walk or going outside. Take some time to decrease your anger. Then focus on your role in the conflict. Do not focus on your partner’s role. The other person should be examining their own role in the conflict as well.
After both of you have thought about your responsibility in the disagreement, return to discuss matters again. It may be helpful when initially developing the plan to determine what the time limit for the time out will be. If the time out lasts too long, it is likely that each partner might have time to start thinking about what the other partner has done wrong and stop focusing on their individual responsibilities. Once the time limit has been reached, take turns accepting responsibility for your part in the disagreement.
If you and your partner have difficulty taking a time out, it may be helpful to consider therapy. Some people have difficulty not getting in the last word. Other partners feel abandoned if their partner leaves the discussion to take a time out. Therapy can help people negotiate a helpful time out plan that can be productive to both partners.