According to the marriage and relationship guru, Dr. John Gottman, taking a time-out is one of the most important antidotes to “Stonewalling”, one of the most destructive ways of handling marital conflicts. He called them the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, which is also what he uses to predict divorce.
However, what exactly do you do during the time-out? Most couples do nothing. As a matter of fact, there should be A LOT going on during your time-out. Actually, I should say that there is a lot going on before, during and after the time-out.
Before the time-out, set a Time for the next discussion when you come back.
When your request of time-out and the agreed returning time is set, it prevents you or your spouse from any impulsive responses and destructive conversations which might lead to regrets later. It is important to set a time to come back after the time-out because It provides a sense of security that you are not running away, so your partner does not need to chase after you, hunt you down to tell you why they are hurt or upset. Also, if your spouse knows that a possible solution is coming soon, they can calm down and put their minds at ease. Certainly, sometimes a time-out is necessary especially when you (yourself) are trying to avoid or escape.
Remember, use an “I-statement”, such as “I need to take a time-out.” Rather than “You need a time-out right now!”
During the Timeout
According to the Gottman Institute, it takes about 20 minutes for our physiological changes (parasympathetic nervous system) to regulate back to the “normal” state (sympathetic nervous system) where we can think clearly back to the conversation.
- Prayerful Journaling
“Flushing” your emotions on one page/ praying to let God know about your frustration or hurts. On another page, be your spouse’ advocate: list out their possible feelings with the benefit of the doubt.
- Choose to *forgive (please check my other posts about my what forgiveness is and how to forgive) your spouse before resuming the conversation
- Preparation time for a productive conversation (e.g. Ten Steps of Conflict Resolution- Step 1-5) for brainstorming solutions to the problems.
Resume the Discussion
Practice Active Listening and the skills of Assertiveness. Speak lovingly and respectfully with “I-statements”