10 Commandments of Time Outs
  1. Use time outs as a circuit breaker
    – A time out is a rip stop; it is the cord you pull to stop a runaway train, a brake, the thing you use to HALT an interaction that either has crossed over into, or is quickly crossing over into, haywire. Time outs have one job and one job only – to stop abruptly a psychologically violent or unconstructive interaction between you and your partner.
  2. Take your time out from the “I”
    – Calling for a time out has everything to do with me and NOTHING to do with you. Calling for a time out means that I don’t like how I am feeling, what I am doing or about to do. Whether or not you think you have a problem with how you’re behaving or how “it’s” going between us is strictly your business.
  3. Take distance responsibly
    – Time outs are obviously a form of distance taking, and like all forms of distance taking there are two ways to do it – provocatively or responsibly. Responsible distance taking has two pieces to it: 1) An explanation and 2) A promise of return. “This is why I am seeking distance and this is when I intend on coming back.” Provocative distance taking, by contrast, has neither – you just take the distance without any explanation or taking care of your partner’s anxieties about your leaving. I also speak of provocative distance taking as incompetent distance taking since it tends to get you chased.
  4. Use the phrase (time out) or the gesture (the “T” sign) as an abbreviation.
    – I’ve often said that there are times when, if you open your mouth to speak, demons will fly out. You may not be able to control that. What is always under your control is the ability to turn heel and leave.
    – The phrase “time out” or the T sign as a gesture are abbreviations for the following phrase: “Honey, no matter how you may be feeling or assessing things, I don’t like how I’m doing and I don’t trust what I am about to do. So, I’m taking some time to regain my composure and I will be back to you when I do.”
  5. Don’t let yourself get stopped
    – Time outs are unilateral. They are your last-ditch effort to avoid immature words or actions. Unlike virtually every other Couple’s tool, time outs a non-negotiable declaration – “I’m leaving.” You’re not asking permission and you cannot allow yourself to be stopped. Don’t call a time out and stand there to keep talking! Leave. Leave the room and go into another – a bedroom for example – and close the door.
    – If your partner won’t leave you alone, then leave the house – with or without the kids, your call. Go down the block for a cup of coffee. If your partner physically blocks you from leaving call the police, have them come to assist you. I have rarely met a couple where the police had to be called more than once.
  6. Use check-ins at prescribed intervals
    – Since you’re Not using a time out to punish your partner but rather to calm things down, it is critical that you check in with your partner from time to time in order to take the emotional temperature between you.
    – The intervals I suggest are: – an hour
    – three hours
    – a half day
    – a whole day
    – an overnight– Check-ins can be done in person although cooler media might be advised. You can check on by phone or even by texting.
  7. Remember your goal
    –Time outs are about one thing – stopping in its tracks emotionally violent, immature, destructive behavior. Stopping such behavior in your relationship is a goal that supersedes all other goals. You may need to work on better communication, more sharing or negotiation, but none of thar will happen until you succeed in wrestling the beast of nasty transactions to the ground. Whatever point you want to make, whatever the content of the issue, nothing matters more than ending these sorts of transactions – so keep your priorities straight – nothing takes precedence over a time out.
  8. Return in good faith
    – When are you ready to end a time out. When you and your partner are both reseated enough in your adult selves to have a positive interaction again. That means you too. Don’t return with a grudge or a chip on your shoulder – you’ll just start up again. Come back when you are truly ready to make peace.
  9. Use a twenty-four-hour moratorium on triggering topics
    – A mistake a lot of couples make when they re-engage is to try to “process” what just happened. Bad idea. When you come back from a time out just make nice to each other. Give your partner a hug and a cup of tea. Do NOT try to sort through whatever the topic was that triggered the time out for twenty four hours.
  10. Know when to get help and use it.
    – If you find that a certain topic – kids, sex, money – ALWAYS triggers a nasty transaction, take that as a signal that you need some outside support in order to have that conversation constructively. Go to a minister or a mental health professional for help. If you find that heated, unhelpful transactions occur with enough regularity that you are frequently resorting to time outs, take that as a signal that you and your partner need some ongoing Couple’s work.
Time Outs


The best defense against verbal abuse is a formal time-out.

When either partner calls a time-out – by saying the words, “time-out,” by using the “T“ hand signal, or by using any agreed upon sign – the interaction comes to an immediate stop. The spoken or gestured signal is understood by both partners to be an abbreviation of the following words:

“Dear partner. For whatever reason, right or wrong, I am about to lose it. If I stay here and keep this up with you I am liable to do or say something stupid that I know I’m going to regret. Therefore I am taking a break to get a grip on myself and calm down. I will check back in with you responsibly.”

The default interval for a time-out is 20 minutes. You can specify something else if you like. But if no time is specified, 20 minutes is when you need to check in. Checking in does not necessarily mean getting back together. You can check in – either in person or by telephone – and tell your partner that you need more time. With each extension, the time-out interval gets longer. The recommended length between check-ins is:

When reconnecting after a time-out, you must take a twenty-four-hour moratorium on the subject that triggered the initial fight.

Seven Tips to Great Sex

written by Dr. Dan Pollets (originally published in August 2008)

Great Sex In a Nutshell….

Great sex starts with the awareness of sensation and allowing oneself to sink into the “mindful experience of physical and emotional intimacy.” It is about being present in and focused on the moment of sexual encounter.

Cultivating a good sex life requires mindfully practicing intimacy as an ongoing relational experience.

If you and your partner are committed to cherishing your relationship, communicate well, share on a thinking and feeling level, and are able to repair disharmony with love, sincerity, skill and moderation, then finding the “gear” of sexual expression will follow naturally, and the distance between the kitchen and bedroom will be markedly shortened.

1. The Organ Needed for Great Sex is Between Your Ears

Sexual arousal and physical readiness emanate from your head. So prepare your mind.

Try thinking of the time between sexual activities as “fore-fore play.” Behave day-to-day in ways that your partner truly appreciates. Create in your relationship the “flow” that reminds you of what you value and find attractive, and even sexy, in your partner. Of course there must be some foundation of physical attraction and sexual chemistry to build on, but it takes more than this to enjoy good sex over the life of the relationship.

Practice mindfully attending to each other’s needs in order to produce a positive flow that leads to meaningful and ultimately satisfying sexual contact.

2. Necessity is the Mother of Invention, but Generosity Gilds the Lily

Good communication is the sine qua non of good sex. Make your needs known and provide feedback to your partner in the form of verbal and non-verbal communication.

Great sex is like a dance where you learn to move in synchronization with your partner. To enhance the dance of love, learn what buttons to push and how to evolve your touch to engender increasing arousal in your partner. It is difficult to know if your administrations are hitting the target unless you get some feedback. So you might want to grunt or moan a little bit to signal your pleasure. Now adding this soundtrack may be a stretch for some, but if you want to be touched in ways that lead to increasing levels of pleasure and arousal, you have to teach your partner what feels good.

Create the smooth and wonderful dance of sexual intimacy by providing positive feedback to the sweet touch of your partner. Express your love and appreciation freely and often. Do what your partner likes, not what you want to do. Be the lover who is more concerned about your partner’s needs than your own.

3. Innovation is the Spice of Life

Exploration and innovation can add novelty to a satisfying sexual relationship. Confront the attitudes and inhibitions that might limit newness and variety in your sexual behavior. Talk about your fantasies, and if mutually agreed upon, act them out. Try altering the positions you typically rely on. Have sex on the living room couch, in front of a roaring fire, or on the beach (avoid sand in crotch). Plan a romantic weekend away from the kids and take time to explore each other’s bodies in a sensuous and erotic manner.

Nurture a safe and intimate relationship centered on the open disclosure of what you think, feel and desire. If you are able to share your feelings and enrich your sexual relationship with variety, you can stay interested and stimulated throughout your lives together.

4. Mindfulness, Presence and Sweet Surrender

Many patients seeking treatment for sexual dysfunction are unable to relax and allow their bodies to do what comes naturally, i.e., getting sexually aroused. They are consumed with thoughts about performance and whether their partner is enjoying the experience. They become observers who are no longer present in the moment of intimacy and find themselves dissociated from the sensations and pleasure that are intrinsic to the experience.

If you are thinking about your work, housework, kids, parents, or your body’s shortcomings, you are not present and mindful of what is happening in the moment and thus unable to “let go and let God.” Thinking, worrying and being a spectator create the stress response and vasoconstriction that is anathema to the optimal physiology of heightened arousal.

It’s not about thinking. Show up in the moment of sexual encounter with all your senses. Allow your awareness to rest in the sensations that you and your partner create. Surrender to each touch, sensation, smell, movement, sound and taste while you are making love. Stay focused on your partner and your experience of giving and receiving. If you begin to drift into thought, bring your awareness back to the moment and don’t judge yourself for wandering.

5. Hone Your Instrument. Practice Good Health.

Sex is essentially a physical act and the natural outcome of intimacy. You need your body to accomplish it, and the better shape you’re in, the more fun you can have. Libido stays stronger as you age if you stay in good health. If you don’t maintain the body, rust accumulates, and in the words of Paul Simon, “the tools of love wear down.” If you become overweight and out of shape: 1) you will reduce your attractiveness to your partner; 2) your libido will diminish; and 3) the physical act of sex will become more difficult simply from a bio-mechanical standpoint. So exercise and practice healthy nutrition.

6. Good Sex is a Dish Best Served Up Cold

Sex alone will not mend relational issues or a fractured trust. Avoid having sex in the heat of the moment of hurt, conflict, emotional pain, or preoccupation.

“Make-up sex” will only be successful if there has been an effort to repair the relationship so you can enjoy intimacy free of lingering anger and resentments.

7. Make Time for Contact

Making time for intimacy in our fast-paced lives may take some planning. Arranging dates might make more sense than trusting that somehow you will both magically appear all naked and primed for a great sexual experience. Don’t get hung up with who initiates sex; planning can be a mature, functional adult responsibility that both partners assume and look forward to with anticipation.

So put the champagne on ice, remember Victoria’s secret, and when you arrive for the date – bring all the spontaneity, creativity, novelty sensitivity and generosity you can muster!


Dr. Pollets describes himself as “an enthusiastic practitioner” of Relational Life Therapy® (RLT). He is a faculty member of the Relational Life Institute, and an ASSECT certified sex therapist.

Essential Tip #4: Stay Moderate

Everyone gets to be a little nuts in relationships but you have to take turns. When your partner goes off the deep end every once in a while, don’t jump off with them. Make it your business to stay sane and moderate even if they’re not. And don’t be high and mighty about it – your turn will come.