Divorce Blog

Timeout: The Importance of Stepping Away

By Karen Stewart

Women With CoffeeA timeout is not just for kids; they can be very useful for adults too.

Giving your partner, friend or ex-wife a timeout may cause some issues (not recommended) however, giving yourself a timeout when you feel your emotions or stress levels are rising can be a very effective tool for calming down before you go and say or do something you might regret.

As we approach the festive season, emotions can start to run high between divorced parents. It can be difficult to agree on things like where the kids will be and on what days, when and where the “drop off” will be, what gifts to give the kids, bedtimes, how much time is going to be allowed for TV and electronics etc. Dealing with these types of issues when you’re ’emotionally charged’ is never productive. Granting yourself a timeout will give you the time and space you need to calm down and reflect on how you can handle the situation in a more productive way.

When you give yourself a time-out, here are some rules to follow:

  • Let the other person know that you need to give yourself a timeout and ask them to please respect that. It might help to let them know that you are doing this because you care about your relationship with them.
  • Mentally and physically separate yourself from the person(s) that is causing you stress or high emotion.
  • Take several deep breaths – inhale slowly for 5 seconds through your nose, hold it for 2 seconds and then exhale out your mouth for 5 seconds.
  • As you relax, think about the person(s) and get clear about what they mean to you. Do you love them, care for them, want them to be healthy and happy, respect them as a mother/father etc?
  • Put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand what they are trying to say and why it could be important for them. Truly look for their intention behind their words.
  • Think about how you can approach the situation now that you’ve calmed down. What questions can you ask for clarification so that you can further understand them? How can you address their concern or the situation in a way that could be a win/win for all?
  • Go back and start off addressing what they and your relationship means to you. Ask questions to help you further understand their thinking and the meaning behind this issue, concern or situation.

We often listen to speak and don’t listen to understand. When another person feels that you are truly wanting to understand why something is so important to them, they will often become less defensive and emotional. This can keep a charged situation from getting out of hand.