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The Art of Taking a Time Out

A tool that all couples should learn to master is the "Time Out". Time outs aren't just for naughty school children but are an effective communication regulation tool that can save your relationship from painful, traumatizing, escalated conflict. In truth, if you are getting angry, highly keyed up, agitated etc. you need to understand that the conversation is not going anywhere good and if you continue down this path, you are likely to say something you don't mean or fall out of line with how you aspire to be with your partner. You also will absolutely not be heard in the way you need. Your partner will go into a defence mode. Then no one will be 'running the shop'.

Your feelings matter and what you are wanting to communicate deserves to be heard. If we want our most important needs and wants to be heard we need an able listener. We also need to communicate from the heart rather than shouting and screaming our point and getting 'one up' on each other. An effective time out can help bring you and your partner back to the calm, centred grounded self which is where fulfilling communication originates.

The Artful Time Out: Do's and Don'ts:

The Do’s

  • Do discuss before hand (when you both are calm) a reasonable and achievable ‘time out script’ that you both can use to call the time out.

  • Do include in your script a return time (return to conversation) and stick to it!

  • Do spend the time out period doing something calming, relaxing and mindful.

  • Do ask yourself ‘post argument questions’ such as 1) What am I really wanting to communicate to my partner? 2) If I couldn’t feel so angry right now, what would I feel instead? 3) Am I aware of the sacrifice my partner is having to make to see my point of view?

The Don’ts

  • Don’t just take off and leave the conversation without stating clearly your intention to have a time out. Use the script and be clear that your intention is to reset your nervous system to protect the relationship.

  • Don’t use the time out period to ruminate over your angry escalated thoughts. The purpose of the time out is to calm your system down, not to keep it fired up. This is the time you need to do your work to get grounded again.

  • Don’t avoid returning to the conversation to punish your partner. This will chip away at trust and will create further problems.

We understand that time outs are not easy but with coaching, patience and practice they can be a vital tool for dissolving conflict and nurturing your relationship. Vida Relationship's therapists are here to help with script building and learning calm down techniques so feel free to give us a call on (604) 307-1068. You will be amazed how something seemingly so simple can make such a difference!


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