Talk Breaks: A Way to Preserve a Romantic Relationship

We pause live TV to get a snack, use the bathroom, take a phone call... why shouldn't we pause conversations for relief?
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Nicole Lavonne Smith is a great friend of mine. In fact, our kids are great friends. One day, when I was over at her place, we were discussing how exhausting it is to fight with your spouse. She confessed to me that she and her fiancé use something called "talk breaks." This is a cue in the conversation for both parties to stop talking and take a breather. I found this idea to be a genius one. Nicole sat down with me and told me more about these breaks.

1. What are Talk Breaks?
A talk break is a sure-fire way to avoid confrontation and heightened frustration. It's a way to take a quick break from your significant other sans silent treatment. When you're listening to your partner rant and that voice begins to feel like it's boring into your temple, take a talk break. We pause live TV to get a snack, use the bathroom, take a phone call... why shouldn't we pause conversations for relief?

2. How are Talk Breaks best used?
Talk breaks are best implemented right before a discussion gets really heated. When you call a talk break, you want to do it quickly and definitively. This way, a bit of humor is injected into the moment. When you're in discussions about things that irk you -- dirty dishes piling up, someone eating all the ice cream, leaving all the lights and appliances on -- it's a perfect time for a talk break. Following a talk break, the conversation doesn't pick up where it left off. It's been made clear that the point was heard and that the person calling for the talk break doesn't want or need to keep going with the topic. Sometimes, being heard is all you want. And you know you were heard, or the talk break wouldn't have been called in the first place. Talk breaks also help us acknowledge when we're taking things too far, and once you come to this realization, hopefully you'll be able to laugh at yourself (even if only internally). Anytime you can do this, you can consider yourself the conversation winner!

3. What happens if someone is in mid-sentence? Can you use a Talk Break?
Talk breaks are not for heated moments or intense conversations. They should be used to keep things light. A conversation about my clock ticking and wanting another kid before my body shuts down, that's not a great time for a talk break. But the pause after the convo about the ticking clock (especially when it's not the first time you're discussing this) could make sense for a talk break. When you're with other couples or individuals who may not know the inner workings of your relationship, that's not an ideal time. The last thing you want is for an outsider to take your talk break more seriously than you do.

4. How do Talk Breaks help a marriage?
Talk breaks take the edge off of the conversation and the surrounding vibe, unlike being interrupted or shut down while you're trying to make a point. It reminds you that sometimes, things just aren't as serious as you're making them, and that it helps to have a sense of humor. Get in, make your point, get out. Don't harp!

Nicole Lavonne Smith lives in Brooklyn with her son and fiancé. She is an educator who advocates for inclusive, culturally relevant education. Nicole holds a Masters in Urban Planning from New York University and a BS in Psychology from Howard University. An avid writer, Nicole crafts fiction and non-fiction short stories, children's books, and cultural commentary, and is energized by her passion for traveling, culture, discount fashion and delicious food.

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