As adults, we think of “time out” as the solution for an out-of-control child. We need to use this tactic for ourselves, also.
Conversation with one’s spouse can easily escalate into confrontation. Caught in the mercy of our emotions, we often neglect to realize that turning point. With a little awareness and diligence, you can stop a conversation from heating up and leading to a battle that might leave scars.
Failure to stop often brings me to a point of no return. Driven by my emotions, I become determined to win the battle. Some inner “demon” rears its ugly head to seek justice for every wrong done to me. When I allow that “demon” to take control, I lose all desire for rational behavior.
I realize this behavior stems from my failure to voice my concerns before I get angry. Those unattended emotions often spiral to the point of explosion, blaming Rick for everything. I’ve come a long way from this behavior, though, and have finally discovered the benefit of expressing myself to avoid the anger.
I recently heard someone say that “HALT” stands for hungry, angered, lonely and tired. Never engage in discussion when dealing with any of these feelings, especially with your spouse. It will more than likely turn into an argument. (I personally would add hormones to the “H” - probably the greatest negative effecter of women. Oh, and men, you have your own hormone issues that effect your mood too - testosterone!)
How do you HALT? You acknowledge that you are not in the best emotional state and refrain from engaging in a volatile subject. Don’t hesitate to tell your spouse that you are hungry or tired or whatever. Tell them you would prefer to hold off on the discussion until your mood is better.
What if you are in the middle of a conversation and things start going wrong? Learn to recognize that point. Like everything else, it takes practice, and you will probably make numerous mistakes. Pray about it. Ask God to help you learn to stop before an argument begins.
Take the initiative yourself to change the cycle of damaging communication you may have fallen into with your spouse. Discuss with your spouse ahead of time (when you are both calm and rational) about calling “time out” when things start getting heated. Surprising your spouse with a time out in the middle of an argument could easily offend them, only aggravating the situation.
You will quickly discover the benefit of stopping a conversation when it is heading the wrong way. In no time, you will break your old habits of communicating.
It’s okay to want to take a break from an argument. It doesn’t mean you’re avoiding anything, it just means you need time to think about it. Usually, one spouse wants to talk about things immediately, and the other needs to think first. Realize your differences and respect them.