In the heat of an argument or when emotions run high, taking a break can be a game-changer for maintaining healthy communication and preventing escalation. In this guide, we’ll explore six key steps to effectively take a break when emotions are flooding a conversation.


1. Develop a phrase or signal to request a break:

Create a clear and agreed-upon phrase or signal with your partner that indicates the need for a break. Some couples opt for a lighthearted approach by choosing a funny word or phrase to diffuse tension. For example, you might decide that saying “pineapple” or making a silly hand gesture signifies the request for a break. This not only lightens the mood but also ensures a distinct and recognizable signal for both partners. Having a designated and perhaps amusing signal can add a touch of humor to diffusing intense moments.


2. Respect the request from your partner even if you don’t need it yourself:

Understanding that people process emotions differently is crucial. If your partner requests a break, even if you don’t feel the need for one, respect their decision. Acknowledge that breaks are not a sign of weakness but rather a strategy for maintaining open and constructive communication.


3. Calm down and do something soothing that does not rehearse the fight:

During the break, engage in activities that help calm your emotions. Avoid activities that may fuel resentment or rehearse the argument. For instance, instead of scrolling through messages or social media, which might reignite negative emotions, opt for activities like taking a short walk, practicing deep breathing exercises, or completing a pending task you haven’t had time for. Choose activities that promote relaxation and divert your attention away from the conflict, steering clear of anything that might perpetuate the tension.


4. Break must be at least 30 minutes long:

Establish a minimum duration for the break, ensuring that it is sufficient for both individuals to regain composure. A 30-minute break allows for a significant shift in emotional state and provides the necessary time for reflection.


5. Agree to reconvene when calm to discuss:

Keep in mind that breaks must not be used to avoid discussion, the purpose of the break is to de-escalate the situation, not to avoid addressing the underlying issues. Agree with your partner to reconvene after the designated break period to discuss the matter calmly. Acknowledge that breaks are a strategy to facilitate more constructive conversations, not an excuse to avoid communication.


6. The person who calls the break reinitiates the conversation:

To maintain a sense of responsibility and accountability, establish the practice that the person who initiated the break takes the lead in reinitiating the conversation. This ensures that both partners are actively engaged in the process of resolving conflicts.



Incorporating these six steps into your communication strategy can transform the way you handle heated moments. Taking breaks becomes a proactive and collaborative tool, fostering a healthier and more constructive approach to conflict resolution in relationships.

Disclaimer: All blog posts are intended for educational purposes and cannot replace direct consultation with a professional provider. Please feel free to check our provider page for more information on our team of talented clinicians who can help you and your partner practice healthy communication.