How To Take A Timeout To Improve Your Relationship

Why this resource is helpful:

Quoted From:

"The purpose of a timeout is as an aid for increasing consistent, effective and collaborative conversation. When a person becomes flooded with emotion it can become increasingly difficult to have an objective conversation about relationship problems or challenges. "Fight or flight" reaction may occur anytime one feels flooded with any strong emotion making it virtually impossible to objectively address perceived problems or threats.
The timeout structure is a tool to consistently interrupt relationship dynamics and behaviors that interfere with collaborative conversations (i.e., yelling, name calling, interrupting, criticism, withdrawing, etc.) and provide a structured pause from the interaction so both members of a couple may de-stress, self-soothe, and allow for enough time to pass enabling a calmer followup conversation. It usually takes 20-30 minutes for this de-stressing process to exhaust the sympathetic nervous system"s fight or flight hormone, norepinephrine, from an individual"s bloodstream. It is important that both members of the couple agree to the following structure in its entirety to potentiate effective outcomes. If you can not agree to any part of the structure please make that clear.
1. Either member of a couple may call a "timeout" when she/he/they perceive the interaction is devolving into a hurtful or emotionally flooding argument. One person, partner "A", calls "timeout" or uses an agreed upon phrase (i.e.,"bupkis") to alert their partner, "B", to the timeout.
2. Upon hearing the timeout, partner B agrees to immediately stop talking, regardless of whether she/he/they is talking or not.
3. Both A and B agree to do their best to get physical space away from each other for the length of the timeout; i.e. going to different rooms in the house, leaving the house for a brief walk, etc.
4. Partner A, who initiated the timeout, agrees to be the time keeper and set a physical timer for 30 minutes so there is no guessing about when the timeout starts and ends.
5. During the timeout both A and B use the pause to de-stress by engaging in activities that aid relaxation, i.e., listening to soothing music, reading a calming book, exercising, etc. Do not use the time thinking about all the arguments you will make to your partner after the timeout.
6. When the timer indicates 30 minutes have passed, Partner A goes to B with three main concerns: 1. Do we still need to talk? (A and B might both agree they were just blowing off steam, apologize, and feel nothing more needs to be said.) If both agree to end the conversation then that"s the end. 2. If at least one of you still wants to talk then both agree to return to the conversation. 3. When to continue the conversation? Ideally the conversation will resume immediately following the timeout. Busy lives, however, may require getting out calendars immediately after the timeout and setting a later time and day to talk. If needed, set a date to set the date and time for the conversation (i.e., A states, "I"ll call you in two hours from the office so we can set a specific time to talk.", when time doesn"t permit scheduling immediately.)
7. Couples agree to not use timeouts to avoid or impede conversation, nor to "punish" each other.
It"s important to remember that the person who calls for the timeout is responsible for reestablishing initial contact after the timeout and for taking the primary initiative in guiding the couple toward scheduling the next opportunity to address the topic, whether immediately after the timeout or at a "soonest" next opportunity. Taking this responsibility is a good-faith demonstration that the topic will not get lost or forgotten. When first practicing timeouts, you may notice that when you reconnect to talk about the issue it may be necessary to quickly call for another timeout. With practice and confidence timeouts get called less frequently as partners trust that issues will not get dropped and individuals can learn to use the timeout to decrease reactivity."

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