If you have been in a romantic relationship and have made it past the “goo goo eyes, this person is perfect, fuzzy wuzzy, mushy gushy, lovestruck” phase, chances are you have had an argument of some kind. Many couples see disagreements and arguments as a sign that their relationship is failing; however, arguments are a normal part of any relationship. With two different people living in close community with one another, you are bound to have differences on some or many issues. Disagreements, when handled in an effective way, can actually help us grow to love our spouse or partner in a deeper and more meaningful way. So, how can couples learn to argue effectively, in a way that strengthens their relationship rather than in a way that tears it apart?
The “Take a Break” technique is a strategy that couples can use when they are in an argument or disagreement that is becoming heated or emotionally charged. The truth is that when our emotions begin to take over, we lose our ability to think and listen rationally. The goal of the “Take a Break” approach to arguing is to help us calm down and quiet these emotions so that we can effectively communicate with and listen to our partner. So, how does the “Take a Break” technique work? Here is a breakdown of the steps:
- Pay Attention to Yourself-Each of us behaves differently when we begin to become emotionally overwhelmed. Some people begin to think the same thoughts each time this flood of emotions begins to happen. Others of us begin to bottle up and maybe feel a hot or cold sensation. Some people engage in physical body movements such as eye rolling or pacing. The next few times you begin to feel emotionally overwhelmed in an argument with your partner, pay attention to your body and how you are feeling. Once you have learned how you behave when you become emotionally charged,, this thought, feeling, or behavior will become your cue.
- Verbalize Your Need for a Break-Once you begin to sense that you are becoming emotionally overwhelmed, it is time to communicate this to your partner. Use a phrase such as “I have reached the point where I can no longer listen well, but I know that this is important to you/us. I need to take a break before we can continue to discuss this.”
- Everyone Stops-Once a partner has stated the words “I need to take a break,” both parties should stop talking. This is the signal to end the conversation for now.
- Set a Time Boundary-After everyone stops talking, it is then up to the partner requesting the break to communicate how much time he or she needs before reengaging in the conversation. For example, one may state that he or she needs 15 minutes or 2 hours or even a whole day to cool off, calm down, and be ready to continue.
- Separate from Each Other-This is a time for each individual to take some time to calm down. The goal of this time is not to think through and perfect your arguments but a time for you to calm down, soothe yourself, and relax. This may mean that you need to go exercise, journal, or hit some golf balls. Make this a time to decompress before coming back to your partner to continue the conversation.
- Initiate the Conversation Again-After the allotted time is up, the requesting partner needs to initiate the conversation. Coming to your spouse and saying, “2 hours have passed, and now I am ready to continue the conversation. Can we talk now?” is a good way to start the conversation back up. If you need more time, then request more time from your partner before reentering the conversation.
The “Take a Break Technique” has been highly effective in helping couples argue and disagree in a healthy way. If you and your spouse or partner are disagreeing to the point that you cannot make it through a technique like this, then it may be time to reach out for couples counseling. The therapists at Waters Edge Counseling work with couples on a daily basis to help them communicate better, work through their issues, and restore their relationships. We would love to help you, too. Please give us a call at 912-319-5552. We are here to help!