Time out

Hilary Smith

Hilary Smith is a writer with Relationships Aotearoa and an experienced counsellor. www.relationshipsaotearoa.org.nz

Time out is a simple tool that you can use anytime. It can be particularly useful for couples. Use it if you have heated arguments where one or both of you get very angry. It helps you to stop when you, or the situation, are getting out of hand.

It might be useful when:

    * You’re getting worked up or angry
    * You feel like the conversation is getting out of hand.
    * When the way you, or someone else, acts is getting scary.
    * Your head is so full of ideas you don’t know what to say.

Time out works best when both of you have discussed this approach and agreed how you will use it.

What do you do?

Tell the other person you want time out. Say something like; "I’m beginning to feel angry/worked up/overwhelmed, and I want to take time out."

Say when you’ll come back to carry on the conversation `"I’ll be back in an hour and we can talk more then." It might take 30 minutes or an hour for the physical agitation to wear off.

Leave the situation.  Go to another room in the house or leave the house altogether. Stay away until you are calm.

Do something physical like walking, running, gardening, or housecleaning. Exercise will help to release the physical tension your feelings produce.

Stay sober while you’re taking time out. Using alcohol or drugs makes it harder to act reasonably when you start your conversation again.

Focus on constructive ways you can act when you start the conversation again. "I’m going to be civil", "I’m going to listen" "I’ll take a few deep breaths if I start feeling worked up".

Return when you said you would. If either of you are not up to talking about it yet, agree on a time when you will.

If you are having to use time out regularly, or if it’s too hard to start the conversations again, look in Contact Us to find a counsellor who can help you learn to manage your actions when you feel angry.

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  • Ladidi says
    Time out is a great idea. It is so easy to say things, in the heat of the moment, that can escalate into a full on argument. Which of course is never fun and can even mean the imminent end of a relationship. Count to ten, cool down and take time out. It does work : )
  • bigspenda says
    So true Its the silly things that build up and then you thow something from your partners past in her face and then you just forget what you were fighting about its even harder when you both work togeither .
  • nikkim says
    I was just thinking last night how I sooooo needed some "me" time. I'm tired and ratty - and unfortunately my partner has been getting it in the ear - maybe its time for some retail therapy!
  • julzmccormick says
    From my experience it's one of the hardest things to do when you're in a heated argument & it's only when you're later dealing with the consequences that you regret not walking away and calling time-out. You often get caught in the mindset that your fighting to make your relationship work for however long it takes to argue, when you're actually causing more damage with the things you say & do to your partner.
  • Claire1971 says
    There's a hackneyed old saying 'never go to sleep on an argument' - sound advice, usually. But don't go overboard in trying to resolve an argument before sundown if you feeling emotional, angry or hurt. Time out helps you to regain perspective, take a step outside the situation, and remove the sting. By the time the sun rises again, nine times out of ten, the original dispute will seem trivial, and even laughable, laying the foundations for the much nicer prospect of making-up.
  • vickym says
    Time out certainly works on my two children, more for me in that I can calm down and sort things out when I am in a better frame of mind. More often than not, the kids come out and say sorry with a big cuddle. Great article, I will go sit in the 'time out' chair when my hubby & I start arguing...see what he thinks about that!
  • T T says
    Time out can definitely come in handy at times. Sometimes there is too little 'me-time' in a relationship. Both parties can benefit from having a bit more personal space, even if it's only a temporary measure.
  • Joanna says
    This is great advice. I've always been one to learn things the hard way, and for the longest time I believed the lie that the one who walks away loses the argument, and I thought it was a sign of weakness to give up in an argument, so I would keep going and going until I felt I'd proved my point. However, I've come to realize that it takes a stronger person to be able to drop it and cool off before coming back to address it rationally like an adult if the moment is too heated to sort it out right away. It really does help.
  • Cinty says
    And what happens when you can't take time out.
    The first argument my husband and I ever had was very heated.
    I told him I wanted to go see my parents for the weekend and he wouldn't let me leave the house.
    I wasn't allowed the keys and I had to sit down and listen to him until he decided we were ready to make up.
  • Anna says
    time out is great - luckily my partner sometimes (about once a week) does night work... and i can watch my silly girlie shows and have a glass of wine and have my alone time.. its fantastic!!

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