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The techniques in this section are partially based on:

Couple Skills by Matthew Mckay, Patrick Fanning and Kim Paleg

[There is] a time to remain silent and a time to speak” (Koheles 3:7).

Rabbi Shimon the son of Elazar would say: Do not appease your friend at the height of his anger  (Avos 4:18)

Conflicts happen in every healthy relationship. During these conflicts, we may feel overwhelmed with emotion and find it hard to think clearly.

Sometimes anger gets the better of us, and we say things that we later wish we had not said.

If we are in a state of mind that tells us to fight, flight, or freeze, then we are not in the state of mind needed for listening, understanding, connecting and reconciling.

If we are not in the right state of mind for solving problems creatively, then no amount of talking will ever lead to a resolution.

A time-out is from the issue not the relationship. A time-out is about avoiding doing damage to the relationship. 


Take a break—a time-out—to create space to calm down, to get into a different state of mind to find solutions.

A time-out should be called when one (or both) of you are have become agitated and that puts both of you at risk of remaining in an escalating, pointless and destructive argument.

Shifting out of that fight-flight-or-freeze state of mind has to take priority over spending any more time talking about the issue.

You might think of it like how we are instructed to put on our own oxygen mask first before assisting anyone else in the event of an airplane disaster.

Putting on the oxygen mask is an interim step one must take before a person can effectively respond to an emergency. There is more to do. The oxygen mask does not solve anything by itself; it just keeps us from losing consciousness so that we can take care of ourselves in the crisis.

A time-out is an interim measure also. It is temporary and it doesn’t solve anything by itself. It just keeps us from getting to a point of saying or doing something that we would later regret and helps us to get into a frame of mind to respond appropriately to a crisis.

A time-out is an opportunity for both of you to think about personal responsibility.

  • What should I do next?
  • What was really happening?
  • How was I coming across to my partner?
  • What was I doing or saying that made it difficult for my partner to accept my message?
  • How was I part of the problem?
  • What do I need to change?
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