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:
- Twenty minutes
- One or two hours
- Half a day
- A whole day
When reconnecting after a time-out, you must take a twenty-four-hour moratorium on the subject that triggered the initial fight.