Couples: How to Handle Your Anger – The Art of a Time-Out

Time-out! A phrase I’ve heard countless times with the couples I work with as they attempt to resolve conflict. 

Let’s face it, anger is a part of every relationship at some point.

It’s a normal emotion. I usually witness or hear from the couples I treat how anger greatly impacts them in a negative way. Yelling, name calling, use of profanity, stonewalling and threats to leave can be very detrimental to your relational bond. 

Anger can become troublesome in your relationship if it’s not handled in a healthy way and time-outs aren’t appropriately taken. It is important to understand the art of a time-out or else it can further escalate one or both partners.  

Let’s talk about the art of a time-out.

Make a structured time-out plan, BEFORE you call a time-out, to include these steps:

  1. Each partner identifies warning signs to take a time-out. This step is crucial in your ability to be able to walk away as you are becoming more angry. The more angry you get, the more difficult it will be to walk away. It is important to be aware of physiological symptoms that usually appear first. These may include rapid heart rate, sweaty hands or armpits, tightening jaw or pit in your stomach. When these warning signs are present along with raised voices, pacing, profanity or other negative behaviors, it’s most important to call a time-out.
  2. Decide on the length of your time-out. Most couples may only need 30 min to de-escalate but some couples need more. What’s most important is that you both agree to honor the time decided upon.
  3. Decide on the location of your time-out. Couples usually choose locations such as a bedroom, living room, deck, basement or front port.
  4. Decide where you will meet after your time-out is over. Commonly, couples choose the kitchen table or a spot that has positive energy for them.
  5. Practice de-escalation skills and self-care during your time-out. Avoid further escalating by focusing on what angered you. Calm down by doing a deep breathing exercise, listening to relaxing music or going for a walk. As you reflect back on the time-out, focus on the positive aspects of your partner and what was your role in the conflict.

Once you re-engage in a calm manner, you have demonstrated the use of a healthy time-out and can actually strengthen your relationship. I encourage couples who continue to have a difficult time resolving conflict to seek couples counseling. 

In the next part of this blog series, I will discuss 3 other ways couples can handle their anger!

Written by: Porsha Jones