Marriage Monday: Timeout
I know you may find this hard to believe, but sometimes couples have arguments. Sometimes couples get mad at one another’s behaviors and inform one another in varying tone and intensity. Spouses do not always see eye to eye and are going to have disagreements. I always chuckle a bit when I hear a couple say, “We don’t have arguments; we have discussions.” Call it what you will, every couple has to hash things out from time to time. I get to see arguments….er…I mean…discussions lived out first hand in my office quite often. The disagreements that couples have range from downright silly to highly significant. Sometimes I just pop popcorn, put my feet up, and enjoy the show. Disagreements are unavoidable. When you put two people, with their own problems, together in a house they are going to clash from time to time.
At times, disagreements consist of a short conversation, no one gets too emotional, and it ends as quickly as it began. Other times, disagreements turn into a major ordeal. I have seen an uncountable number of couples yell, scream, curse, and demean one another, simply because they were mad and they let their emotions run away with them. When this occurs, these arguments are like an emotional wrecking ball; there is so much to undue and repair when they are over.
One important part of learning to communicate is realizing when a “timeout” is needed. When a conversation starts to get intense, emotional, or heated, one or both partners need to call for a timeout and each go their separate ways. Notice I said, each partner needs to go their separate ways, not one partner leaves and the other charges after. Not one partner storms off and emotionally disengages. One person says, “Hey, we need to take a break” and they do just that.
When a couple starts to argue, or have an intensely emotional discussion, something starts to happen within their bodies. Their heart rate spikes (anywhere from 100 to 165 beats per minute), breathing quickens, blood pressure mounts, perspiration increases, and adrenaline is released, which kicks in the “fight or flight response.” The fight or flight response is what is activated within the body when danger is felt. This is productive when you are walking down the road and spot a snarling lion. It gives you the boost you need to run away or engage in combat. The problem is, your body doesn’t make the distinction between a snarling lion or a snarling spouse.
When these physical changes start to happen as the couple argues, they have disastrous effects on the conversation the couple is engaged in. Due to the physical changes, one’s ability to concentrate and take in information is drastically reduced. This means the couple is no longer physically able to hear what the other person is saying. Problem solving is also inhibited. Once a person’s body is in this physical state, there are generally two things that happen. They either fight or they leave the conversation by giving a cold shoulder. That is why it is called fight or flight. See what they did there?
This is why it is extremely important that couples take a timeout when conversations begin to escalate. A timeout keeps the couple from having to repair unnecessary damages later. It allows the couple to come back later and actually hear what the other person is saying.
It takes a full twenty minutes for the body to return to a calmed state. Timeouts should be at least twenty minutes before the couple returns to address the conflict. It should be noted that if you take a timeout, and seethe about the argument, your body will stay aroused. When taking a timeout, each partner must not continue to hash things out in their minds by carrying on a mental conversation. They should find a way to relax or distract themselves.
When it comes to taking timeouts, one mistake couples often make is that they never come back together and address the problem. They sweep it under the rug instead of meeting together to deal with the issue. Eventually, the rug gets really lumpy and they have some major cleaning to do.
It is normal to have disagreements. Sometimes these disagreements can get heated. We must implement taking timeouts to avoid saying things we don’t mean, and so we can hear one another. However, never let important things go; always come back and deal with the problem.
Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. James 1:19
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.