Time-Out is a life skill tool that any one of the parties can call during a heated argument and the other person has to adhere, for the sake of the relationship, personal dignity and self respect.
The procedure of Time-Out work as follows:
We call Time-Out when we reach that point in the argument where we are about to lose control, either by saying things we should not, or worse, where we may just resort to violence.
If any person calls Time-Out, then the parties retreat, each to a different safe haven. This can be to the bedroom, the garden outside, bathroom etc. Just get away from each other.
Now you can continue the argument on a virtual platform with the partner, venting all your anger and releasing all the dirty name calling burning inside your guts, in a room or space where no-one but yourself can hear it. At first we focus on the other person: “You are a lousy, low down snake.” “You are a manipulating bitch.” Carry on until you have nothing left to say. The aim of this part of the exercise is just to vent and rid yourself of the anger – which is a destructive emotion.
Then we shift gears and we express our feelings: “I am angry, I am hurting, I feel betrayed, I am disappointed, I feel lost, I feel trapped…” Cry if needs be. Bury your face in the pillow. Just let it out. The aim of this part of the exercise is to get in touch with your feelings and express them. Tell yourself what you are feeling. This helps you to ground yourself and to get a hold of yourself.
When all is out of your system, now investigate your own point of view re the argument. Are you really 100% right? Are there matters where you can concede or compromise? Remember no-one can hear you and argue with you at this point. Just consider that you may not be 100% right.
Now re-evaluate the partner’s point of view. Even if it does not make sense, see if you can at least repeat their point of view, just to make sure that you actually heard it. But do make an effort to find some truth or justification or make sense from it. You don’t have to agree with it, just try to figure it out and consider it.
Ask yourself if the issue that you are arguing about is going to be important in 6 months’ time?
Is there perhaps a hidden subtext underlying this issue, that is more important and that you are both ignoring.
If the issue will not be important in 6 months’ time, go out and make up, even if you were right and the other party was wrong. Your marriage is more important than being right.
If there is a subtext, at least acknowledge that there may be a bigger problem which may require professional help and in the mean time, call a truce.
Go out and find a more friendly and amicable way to call a truce. Is it really worth a few days’ sulking?
Apologies can always help. Even if you are not apologising for your behaviour or whatever the perception is that you did wrong, at least be sorry that you hurt the other person’s feelings. This is after all the person that you love and that you want to be with.
Time-Out should not exceed an hour. If you cannot calm down within an hour at least go out and tell the partner that you are still upset and that you would prefer to talk about it the following day. Then go to bed and sleep.
Time-Out can only be called when both parties have at least had a chance to say something. A person cannot say: “I am angry because you came home late” and before the other person can even explain or defend, you call Time-Out. Time-Out is not a tool to silence the other person. It is a tool to control your own anger.
Self control and self discipline are easy words to use when we are calm. It is in the heat of the moment when it requires almost super human effort to apply it. This is what makes us mature adults. We take responsibility to vent our anger without destruction.