Perhaps you’ve been there. You and your spouse are “discussing” something when suddenly you realize things are getting heated and going south. If it goes much further, you’ll hit a point of no return and it won’t end well.
This is normal in marriage. It happens to everyone from time to time. But how you handle these times can either hurt or help your marriage. So it’s important to recognize when things are getting heated so you can handle them well.
What Are the Signs That Things Are Getting Heated?
When things heat up, it seems to hit us with little warning. It feels like we’ve gone from zero to sixty instantly. But, there are actually warning signs that things are heading south. Here are some signs that your “discussion” is getting heated:
- You’re getting tense.
- Your pulse is rising.
- You feel offended.
- You feel defensive.
- You’re getting angry.
- You’re raising your volume.
- You want to withdraw.
- You want to go into attack mode.
- You’re thinking or saying things you wouldn’t normally think or say.
- You no longer remember or care what started it, you just want it to end.
When you’re experiencing these things, your “discussion” is heating up and heading south.
Why Do Things Get Heated?
As I said, it’s normal for things to occasionally get heated between spouses. There are some really normal reasons for this. It can happen when the “discussion”…
- Comes at a time when you’re tired and spent.
- Happens at the end of a day full of difficulties.
- Touches something about which you’re especially sensitive.
- Addresses an area about which you’re especially passionate.
- Criticizes your personality differences.
- Keeps repeating and never gets solved.
Whatever the reason, there is something about this “discussion” that tends to move things from a spark to a wild fire.
What Can You Do When Things Get Heated?
So many marriages remain distant and frustrated because they don’t know how to handle these critical, heating up moments.
So I want to give you a simple approach that will help avert things before they reach the point of no return. Here it is…
If things are getting heated…take a time-out.
We do this with children, but it turns out that adults can benefit from a time-out also.
How Do You Do It?
Now I know that when things are getting heated, taking a time out can be easier said than done. So let me give you some rules for engagement for taking a time-out:
- Talk about a time-out before it’s needed. If you call a time-out before you’ve discussed this tactic with your spouse, it could come across as a way of shutting them down or getting around the issue. So when things are good between the two of you, bring up the idea of time-outs as a way of not getting into hurtful fights. (Who doesn’t want that?)
- Signal a time out. Agree upon some sort of signal to use when you need to call a time out. You can use the “T” sign used in sports or any other sign you want. (Make it something fun…no middle fingers!)
- Explain why you called the time-out. Let your spouse know that the time out is about you. Tell them that you are getting to a point where you’re afraid you will say or do something that would hurt them, and you don’t want to do that.
- Give them a reconnect time. This is important. Without giving your spouse a definite time when you will come back and address the issue, it will feel like you’re blowing them off to get them off your back.
- Keep your promise to reconnect. This is equally important. If you don’t keep your promise to finish the discussion at the set time, your spouse will not trust any further time-outs and will keep pressing you. Be true to your word and reconvene when promised.
- Repeat as needed. You will need to repeat this approach from time to time. But, the more you effectively use time-outs, the less you will need to use them.
The next time things are getting heated between you and your spouse, try taking a time-out. I promise you will get further with less damage using time-outs than continuing to let things heat up until someone gets singed.