Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – email@example.com
Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page
There are times in a relationship when things can get out of control; one or other party may get angry or violent, or you may start to hurl unkind insults or harder objects at each other, or the kids can witness arguments between you. To avoid these situations, it can be useful to have a “time out” plan – and I normally work with the following 5-step approach.
- Understand the signs. What are the signs that you are becoming angry or scared? What are the feelings you get that suggest you need a time out?
- Agree on a code word. This is so that you both understand that a time out is needed without having to go into lengthy explanations. When one of you uses the code word, it is important that your partner respects your decision that a time out is needed.
- Go to different places to cool off. How long that takes varies, but I normally suggest an hour, with the option for either partner to extend that if they need to.
- Check it is OK to end the time out. After the agreed time, make sure that your partner is ready to end the time out. Texting is a great way to do this.
- Agree what will happen when you get back together. Is it OK to try to resume the conversation? Do you leave it until the next day? Do you shelve it until you are next at counselling? Whatever you choose, it is important that you return to the conversation at some point, as the time out is there to avoid things escalating, not to avoid an important conversation.
A time out plan is useful – but they don’t always work perfectly first time. Common things that go wrong are:-
- The time out is called too late, when one or both of you have already become too angry to stop the argument
- One of you uses the time out simply to avoid a difficult conversation, not because their feelings are going to become out of control
- One of you decides to end the timeout before the other is ready
- The opposite of the point above, one of you decides to extend the timeout without informing your partner you need to do so
- You never return to the conversation, so it festers
- When you return to the conversation, you become angry again
As you can see, there’s quite a lot that can go wrong, so it’s important to talk about what worked and what didn’t, and to tune your plan accordingly. It is also important to remember that a time out is a positive thing. Each successful time out called is a pointless argument avoided, so don’t feel that it’s a weakness to call a time out.
Counselling can help here, of course; it tends to take the anger out of situations so that it’s easier to establish your time out plan. It can also be easier to have those difficult conversations in counselling rather than at home, and through counselling you can learn to communicate in more constructive ways so that in the future, you won’t need to use the time out plan at all.