6 JanSteps to an Effective Relationship Time-out by Michael Baglieri, Ph.D Conflict is natural in a relationship, in fact, done effectively it can have purposeful and positive influences on a couple’s emotional intimacy. So then why do so many couples struggle to reap these benefits? A big issue is that they don’t recognize when and how to stop the argument before it turns explosive or damaging. To be fair, it’s hard! About 70% of couples’ problems are perpetual, meaning they don’t get solved over time, they aren’t going anywhere, and they often involve unspoken underlying needs. You know the triggers for these fights well – the division of labor, the in-laws, those once beloved personality differences, to name a few. So, before the next conflict spirals into disaster try using the STOP technique to de-escalate and reset: S = Self check What is the level of your own distress? (0 = none → 10 = as intense as you can imagine) 5–6 = yellow light 7–8 = red light Time-outs are for your sake. T = Time-Out Nonverbal and verbal indication. Immediate stop in communication. Agree on an amount of time and circumstance for returning. O = Outlet BREATHE. Avoid activities that fuel your negative emotions. Clarify what one or two things are most upsetting. Consider one thing you can do to improve communication. P = Process Return at the agreed-upon time and circumstance. Resume communication, with focus on your goal for improvement. REMEMBER: TIMEOUT IS ONLY AS GOOD AS TIME-IN. Self-monitor and repeat if necessary.