A husband was asking me how his conversations with his wife could decelerate, once they begin to escalate. He described his conversations as driving 100 miles per hour and seeing the brake lights of traffic up ahead. He was asking, “How do we get our foot off the accelerator and onto the brake?”

This was a great question. Even the best of relationships need to know how to decelerate. It’s inevitable couples are going to escalate with one another, and this only takes 2 to 3 statements.

Couples need to recognize this early in the process. One partner needs to ask for a break, and the other partner needs to respect this request. The person who asks for the break needs to re-initiate the conversation when cooler heads prevail—typically 20 minutes to 24 hours. It’s easier to apply the brakes knowing there’s a commitment to resuming an unfinished conversation.