You and your significant other are in the thick of one of those miserably counterproductive arguments. Maybe you’re sick of bae leaving dishes in the sink for too long, or maybe they feel like you share too many private details of your relationship with your pals. Regardless of where the argument started, you know exactly where it’s going — to a place where you’re both talking in circles with no obvious resolution in sight. More than anything, you’d like to just walk away so you can curl up with a good book or movie and have a minute to yourself… but you’re pretty sure that’s not best practices for love, so you stay engaged in the conversation. And the talking in circles continues.

A disagreeing couple stands on a porch

We have good news for you, friends. There are healthy ways you can step back from a conversation like this — yes, you might even call it “ignoring your S.O.” for a hot second — so you can actually return and make progress in the relationship. “Emotionally withdrawing or ‘taking space’ in times of conflict, when an argument is escalating and partners are having trouble communicating with each other kindly and productively — with the intent of coming back together to address the conflict and express feelings — can be useful,” says Chicago-based marriage and family therapist Nicolle Osequeda. The key to success? Generally speaking, it’s a plan to pick things back up before too long. “I don’t think withdrawing with the intent of never circling back will support the couple’s understanding of each other’s needs. It feels like sweeping something under the rug,” Osequeda says.

If you’re wondering how this can really be true — after all, haven’t we been taught to prioritize communication and empathy with our partners? — your confusion is totally understandable. If you want to try this strategy in your own relationship, there’s a particular way to do it. Here are five tips from Osequeda on how to effectively “take space.” You’ll kind of be ignoring your partner for a little while… but it won’t feel quite so, well, mean.

An unhappy woman sits on the end of the bed

1. Make a plan. Osequeda suggests proactively developing a “taking space plan” at a moment when you and your S.O. are not at odds. There are a few things you should consider as part of this plan. What will stepping away from an argument look like in your relationship? At what point in an argument will you agree in advance that you each should take a break? Will you ask for permission? Should you establish a specific time at which to reconvene? Is it okay to leave the house, or would both parties be more comfortable if you simply go to a different room? Is it acceptable for one partner to suggest that the other takes some time to disengage? Answering these questions prior to a conflict will give you the escape hatch you need for the future — without making each other feel like the relationship is at risk.

2. Establish a little physical distance. Don’t just move to opposite ends of the couch and get lost in your respective Instagram feeds. According to Osequeda, establishing some real physical space from your partner is the most immediate way you can remove yourself from a conflict and effectively disengage. Find another space in your home, take a walk, or run an errand. Just be sure that you’ve set a time to reconvene as part of your taking space plan!

3. Practice empathy and compassion. Once you’ve established that physical distance, you’ll want to spend some time on an attitude adjustment that sheds a generous light on your special someone. “Look inward, and try to see the perspective of the other person,” recommends Osequeda. “Truly trying to empathize with their feelings and experience can allow you time to disengage and understand before responding or moving too quickly into trying to influence them or reach a compromise.”

4. Be mindful. Meditation and other mindful methods of self-care are trendy for a reason: They work! As you take space, practice deep breathing, meditation, or other grounding techniques. Strategies like this will help you remember that conflicts and disagreements can and will pass.

5. Self-soothe. “This is different for everyone,” Osequeda says. “I find solace in going for a walk and calling my sister to process what happened. Others prefer journaling or writing down what they are feeling. This is different than preparing your defense or noting [mentally] all the reasons that your partner is wrong.” Find an activity that helps you calm down psychologically and gives you perspective in the process. Do that until it’s time to meet up with your significant other again!

Do you ever find it helpful to disengage from your S.O. in a high-tension moment? Tweet us @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty)