A woman sat using Time Out

Using 'Time Out'

‘Time Out’ is a process of temporarily removing yourself physically from an anger-provoking situation in order to calm yourself before returning.

Abuse is not always physical. The bottom line is that abuse is when someone else is scared of you, your behaviour or actions, or is afraid of what you might do when you are angry. Feelings of anger or frustration need to be managed carefully so communication and relationships don’t get damaged. Anger is not usually a good response to problems, even if it seems helpful in the short term.


Using ‘Time Out’ effectively

Below is a five-step process for keeping others safe and to prevent you from being abusive while you are feeling angry. Before you use this, tell your partner it’s a new strategy so they know about it beforehand and can be prepared.

  1. Momentary delay – When you feel like you might become abusive, start by taking a pause. Take a moment to think about what you are doing so you don’t act on impulse.
  2. ‘Time Out’ – Once you have taken a moment to delay, remove yourself physically from the anger provoking situation. However, if you are in the middle of an argument, just don’t walk off. Tell them what you are going to do and when you will return.
  3. Do something – Once you have left, find a way to calm down. Do something physical (avoid driving) – walk, run, kick the footy, smack a tennis ball – anything to get that pent up energy out and cool down. DO NOT drink or use drugs. If you need to talk about what’s happening you can call MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78 or speak with a counsellor online.
  4. Return – Make the ‘Time Out’ long enough to calm yourself, but not too long – usually minutes rather than hours. Let the other person now how long you will be and stick to it. Talk to your partner beforehand about the non-violent ways you will try to communicate. Plan it so it’s more likely to happen. DO NOT use ‘Time Out’ as a method of punishing the other person. When you return the other person may still be angry. If the situation flares up again, repeat the ‘Time Out’ process.
  5. Problem solving – Once you return do not talk about the anger provoking situation immediately, unless it is absolutely urgent. Negotiate with the other person to talk about the issue in the next few days when you both have some perspective. Next time you are feeling angry, try one of these actions above.


Note: Just because you do these things does not mean the other person will behave well. This is about YOU not being abusive.


If you need to talk to someone, give one of our MensLine Australia counsellors a call on 1300 78 99 78 or access free video and online counselling.

MensLine Australia Changing for Good program

Changing for Good is a program to help men stop using violence in their family and relationships.

We work with men to help them recognise their abusive behaviours and end their use of violence. By providing ongoing support, specialist counselling and resources, our goal is to help men make and sustain changes in violent or abusive behaviours as well as attitudes that support violent behaviours. By working with men to end their use of violence, we help to increase the safety of women and children who have or are experiencing domestic or family violence. To find out more, visit Changing for Good.