Time out

A couple once came in to see me, and early in our discussion the wife told me about her husband’s favorite coping mechanism. When the conflict reached a certain level he would simply shut down. He would turn around and leave the house without a word. He would get into his truck and drive off in anger. He would be gone for hours, sometimes staying away all night. His wife would get so frustrated, and nothing ever got resolved. I stored that information until God opened up the perfect opportunity.

A little later into our talk the wife was again sharing about how he walked out on her whenever the conversation got heated. The husband was demonstrating great frustration, and so I asked him, “Tell me, what are you feeling right know? I see a great deal of emotion.” He just shook his head. “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Whenever—” I got up mid-sentence and without a word stepped out of my office, closing the door behind me. I waited just outside my office for about two minutes then reentered the room and took my seat. The look on his face was intense. Every muscle in his face was pulled tight. The anger was evident. I caught a look at the wife out of the corner of my eye, and she was beaming. Paraphrased for the more sensitive readers, the husband said, “Next time, don’t even bother talking to me if you don’t want to know what I have to say!”

I paused for dramatic effect. “Now you know exactly how your wife feels every time you do the same to her.” He took it in for a second and then he got it. He understood exactly what he had been doing to his wife.

Even when it is necessary to take a time-out so that you don’t lose control and say something you shouldn’t, communication doesn’t end. Express what you are feeling: “You know, I can feel myself getting angry, and I don’t want to say something I’m going to regret. I love you, but I need to clear my head. Please give me about thirty minutes to take a walk around the block (and pray) and get myself together, and we will continue this conversation.” Partner, be gracious and allow your spouse the time they need. Don’t demand immediate resolution; you will be sorry for that decision if you do. On their return, continue the conversation and work toward a resolve.

How have your demands for “immediate resolution” to conflict been received in the past? Do you have a fear of conflict? From where does it stem? Do you think avoiding/escaping conflict benefits the relationship? What are some steps you might take to improve communication between you and your spouse?

©2014 Eric A. Disney, Marriage by Design

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Filed under Communication, Conflict Resolution, Emotions, Respect

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