I have spent a lot of years watching kids learn to play sports. As they grow into their ability to utilize their individual skills and operate as a team, there are many opportunities for a coach to step in and help them operate more efficiently. Sometimes players get distracted and aren’t functioning well in their role. They can get emotionally charged and become more aggressive than the game allows. Or the intended strategy isn’t working and the teamwork has fallen apart. A coach will call a time out.
Time out is an intentional tool used by most sports to help the players step back, evaluate what is and isn’t working and utilize a new plan. Teams have a planned strategy before they ever step on the court or field but they make room for flexibility to change tactics to ensure the win.
Relationships can benefit from utilizing a timeout as well. There are times when a discussion goes sideways and begins to escalate into battle of hurt feelings and defensive tactics. The discussion over an issue becomes a war. Call a timeout.
A timeout is different than withdrawal. Some individuals prefer to avoid conflict, so they withdraw either physically or emotionally with the goal to avoid the pain. A timeout is an agreed upon tactic that will lead to reconnection and communication to resolve the issue at hand. The goal during a timeout is to take responsibility for your own attitude and emotions that are negatively impacting the discussion.
Communicate the length of the timeout. It takes at least 20 minutes to calm down all the systems once emotions have been activated, but longer than 24 hours is most likely not necessary. Agree to part ways and agree when to return to the discussion.
Calm your mind. Use prayer, deep breathing, go for a walk, etc.
Choose to forgive. Instead of rehearsing your next zinger to prove your point, choose to release yourself from the knots of bitterness by forgiving the offender. When you choose to remain angry and bitter toward your spouse, it ties you to the offense and the offender. Choose to erase the wrong, walk in freedom and believe the best for your spouse.
Choose a different response. Remember that the battle is WON when your relationship is reconnected, and you resolve the issue. You win by working as a team. Fight for your marriage, not against your spouse. Find a way to communicate that you are on the same page as your partner and you want the same thing.
Key point: If you want to see change, then YOU have to change.
Sara has the education and the experience to help individuals and families. She is an ordained pastor, marriage and family therapist, wife and mom to 7 kids. She has the tools that work to prevent and/or repair family issues.