Guidelines for Constructive Discussions About the Affair
Recognize when feelings are becoming deregulated. When our feelings begin to become overwhelmed, we can make situations more difficult, which often leads to unproductive dialogue. Some symptoms which may signal when a time out is needed, include:
- Your speech is increasingly getting louder
- You’re having thoughts that may be unhelpful (catastrophizing situations or mind reading).
- You’re destructing property (throwing items)
- You no longer can listen effectively to what your partner is trying to communicate.
- You’re cursing or using harmful words
- Your muscles are becoming increasingly intense
Consider recognizing your feelings and expressing them to your partner without
Both partners have the right to call a time out – exercise this option, when you know that the conversation is getting ‘out of hand.’
Speak to your partner about what will happen next when a discussion becomes unhealthy:
- Who will call the time out? Who will leave the room?
- How long will the time out be?
- When will you two meet back to re-engage in the discussion.
Use a time out to think clearly and ease your running thoughts:
- Use a relaxation technique (ask your therapist)
- Go for a walk (let your partner know when you’ll be back)
- Journal or write a letter. Take your phone out or a pen and paper out and start writing how you feel about the situation.
- Organize your thoughts so they become less overwhelming
- Decide how you will interact with your partner, when they come back.
During a time out, refrain from:
- Replaying the argument in your head over and over again.
- Blaming your partner
- Doing things that could be hurtful (drinking, drugs).
After the time out is over, try speaking about the issue again. If you feel that the discussion is continuing to get heated, take another time out and consider another time to discuss it again (e.g. next day).
Holzworth-Monroe, A., Marshall, A.D., Meehan, J.C., & Rehman, U. (2003). Physical aggression. In D.K Snyder & M.A Whisman (Eds.) Treating difficult couples: Helping clients with coexisting mental and relationship disorders (pp 201-230). New York: Guilford Press.