Since this is CornerStone Cape Breton's first post in the new blog, I thought we would talk about a tool that is essential for everyone. Being able to take a break from a situation when it is becoming too intense to properly manage is critical for having a healthy relationship.
These techniques have some different names depending on who is presenting it. It can be called a 'time out', a 'cool down' or even 'taking space'. Regardless of what it is known as these tools all look to accomplish the same goal - you keep control of yourself and keep control of your emotions. We are responsible for our feelings and responsible for keeping them in check. So these tools are essential when we feel like our emotions may become unmanageable. When we are in control, we make healthy non-abusive choices that support healthy relations.
Time-Out/Cool Down/Taking Space
1. Examine your symptoms Look for those body signs that tell you when you are feeling upset. Are you clenching your fists? Can you feel your heart racing? Hot under the collar perhaps? It is essential that everyone knows the signs to look for when they are starting to move towards anger.
2. When we feel these things, we need to take action! Let your partner know that you need some time away, tell them when you'll be back, and remove yourself from the situation.
3. Use the time away appropriately. It is time to cool yourself down, to think positive, helpful thoughts and to create possible solutions. Yes, it may be difficult, but you can do it! You have chosen to live a non-abusive life, and by taking some space, you are already walking that path. Don't drink. Don't use drugs. Don't focus on the negative, talk yourself up or try to figure out how you can get your way. Remember that your goal is to find solutions that work for everyone. Bear in mind that your relationship is important to you. Words matter so we all need to choose our words carefully.
4. Once you have cooled off, it might be time to go back and talk about the issue further - present some of your ideas and solutions. Before you do that, however, check with your partner to make sure they are ready to continue the conversation. Both people need to be willing to engage in these discussions. Just because you are calm doesn't mean they are ready to go back to the conversation.
Remember if you told your partner you would be back at a certain time connect with them at that point. If you are not willing to talk about it and need more time to cool down, that's okay, but let them know.
It takes some time to calm down. Give yourself at least an hour to be away from the situation. It may take longer to feel better and if it does that is okay. You are taking the time to keep yourself healthy, and that's worth the investment. Depending on the situation you might feel calm before the hour is up. In cases like this, it may be smart to take the full hour anyway. It is better to spend more time to take care of yourself than less.
Tell your partner about this tool before you use it. You want your partner to understand why you are leaving. Clear communication is important for that understanding. If your partner knows you are working on keeping yourself cool so you can find solutions then they know you are committed to having a healthy relationship.
What are my Options?
Moving forward, you have several options. It is important to understand each of them, so that you can pick the approach appropriate for the situation.
1. Drop the topic: Sometimes we need to agree to disagree and leave an issue alone. There are some things people might feel like they just can't agree on. If these problems are not a deal-breaker, it may be fine to leave it. If both people agree, that they can agree to disagree, the issue is resolved.
2. Hit Pause: Some issues are important to one if not both partners. These topics might get heated whenever they come up. In cases like this, agree to take some time and think about the feelings and some solutions before coming back to it again. Rested refreshed eyes and some new approaches may make a big difference.
Remember to come back to the issue! If you don't, it will find a way to creep back up on its own and cause more tension. We all need a break from time to time, but we can't avoid important issues and not address them.
3. Talk it out: Lastly, if you and your partner are cool enough to talk it out do so. Try to find a solution that works for both of you. This likely means that both of you will have to compromise from what you initially wanted but will end up with an answer everyone can life with and one that keeps the relationship healthy and functional. Remember that if things heat back up, you can take some more time away from it. Staying in control and staying responsible is a top priority.
What happens if your partner blocks the way?
If your partner decides to block your exit and refuses to let you leave. Remind them about the conversation you had and how time outs are a tool for you to manage your feelings. If they still refuse to move and contains you, you could suggest that she take some space. Stress that the topic is important. If you both take some space and come back to the issue with cooler heads, you may find a solution.
Under no circumstances do you put your hands on your partner or use any type of force to move them out of the way. This is assault.
If they refuse to move you are left with three options:
1. If possible, move to a different room and lock the door. Inform your partner that you are going to remain, in that room, until everyone is calm and you can go for a proper time out.
2. Call for aid. Either dial 911 and be clear with the operator that you are calling to avoid any violent behaviour or phone a friend or family member who can help talk to your partner.
3. Stay where you're at, sit, and practice positive self-talk. Keep calm. Tell yourself things like, I want to be respectful and non-abusive, violence is not an option, or is this going to be important next month. You can also practice mindfulness and grounding exercises.
These are not ideal situations. However, these options keep everyone safe and non-violent. Protecting yourself and the person you love is essential to maintain a healthy relationship.
Taking time to keep you emotions in check is a valuable tool to have in your arsenal. When used properly it can make a big difference in a discussion. This is just one of many tools that exist to help us keep our feelings manageable. Remember that learning new tools takes commitment. Having a healthy, safe and supportive relationship is worth that commitment.