Some DON’Ts

  • Leaving angrily without an explanation, without saying where you are going, why you are leaving, or when you will be back, will only give your partner cause to think you are avoiding the issue, and to resent your withdrawal.
  • If possible, try to avoid saying in an angry tone of voice things like, “I can’t talk to you,” and walk off in a huff. This is more fuel on the fire. You may eventually cool down, but because you made it sound like it was your partner that was the problem, instead of explaining that you needed to change your own state of mind, then your spouse is likely to feel abandoned and anxious, and to ruminate and fume about your “avoidance” and about your last words instead of using the time for his or her own self-soothing.

Remember to call the time-out for yourself. It is seldom helpful to tell the other person “You need a time-out!”

  • Sometimes a time-out doesn’t really work because we feel so hurt and angry that we use the time away to nurse all the negative things we felt about our partner to begin with, especially if our partner left in a huff and we feel we have justification to stay angry.
  • By using the time more constructively, however, by reflecting on how we co-created the problem with our partner and what we might do differently when we return, we can make a choice to get unstuck from the anger we feel.

  • It is best not to let too much time pass before returning, apologizing, and acknowledging your partner’s feelings, to let the other person off the hook sooner rather than later. Even if you are unable to reconnect for a while due to time constraints, it can still be a good idea to return quickly to apologize for the earlier hostilities and plan a definite time to finish working out your differences later on.
  • When partners merely avoid each other, there is no resolution. Avoidance can go on for days or indefinitely, with no clear commitment to return, to clear the air or to resolve the issue. During the “ceasefire,” partners place little emphasis on taking personal responsibility. Chronic avoidance leads to resentment and bitterness and a long list of unresolved issues.

This one is really important, as following your spouse when he or she attempts to use a time-out, will likely contribute to an escalation of the fighting and make both of you less inclined to think that a time-out will work at all. Let your partner go and trust your partner’s word that he or she will calm down, think things through and come back.

  • When your partner calls for time-out, respect their need for time and space, and acknowledge the time-out.  You can return the timeout signal or simply say “OK,  time-out.”
  • Under no condition  should there be any further discussion. No explanations, no last rebuttals,  no finishing a thought. Everything stops.

Don’t try to resolve your differences when either of you are overtired, or under excessive stress. Contrary to popular belief, sometimes the best thing we can do is to go to bed angry (as long as we re-visit the issue in a timely manner, and not carry the grudge with us throughout the next day). The next morning often brings with it a different perspective and a softened heart.

  • It’s not appropriate to invoke a timeout merely because a subject has been raised that you prefer not to talk about.  Remember the quality of time-out doesn’t mean an end to the discussion. It merely means that you postpone the discussion until a time where you are both less angry, and can think more clearly and lovingly.

  • Try not to call a timeout right after you’ve said something attacking.
  • If possible, call the timeout after your partner’s last remark. In this way, your partner won’t feel tempted to make parting shots.
  •  If you feel the need to say something conciliatory prior to calling the time-out, tell your partner that you’re aware the both of you are in a lot of pain and the pain is making you both upset. Say, “We need a timeout, and we can finish this when we both feel cooler.”
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