Couples often communicate until they reach a point of misunderstanding. At that point it becomes a "crap shoot" as to how they will work to get back to a place of understanding. I've written before about common mistakes men and women make when communicating. A misunderstanding about who was supposed to pick up dinner can morph into a heated argument about how your partner is always inconsiderate and doesn't even know how to make the toilet paper face the correct way!
When I work with couples I encourage them to take timeouts using very specific rules. The goal is to allow some time for cool down, prevent the misunderstanding from escalating to character attacks, and allow the couple to return to a place of healthy communication and understanding.
Rules for a Timeout
- Before you break you both must agree to the length of the timeout. That is, one person can't want two days and another want to reconvene in two minutes.
- During the timeout you must write down what it is YOU want to communicate to the other person. That is, focus not on whether they understood, but on the intent of your own message.
- Attempt to have the conversation again.
- Take another timeout if necessary.
- Attempt to have conversation at least twice before throwing in the towel.
- If you aren't able to come to some resolution, or amenable agreement, you may need to reach out for assistance from a neutral third-party.