“You in danger, girl.” These are the words spinning in my head as I read EBONY.com astrologer Samuel F. Reynolds’s horoscopes for this week. We’ve all turned the page towards a new lunar year (the year of the wood horse), and Mercury will begin its retrograde on February 6. 

What does that mean, for us? According to Sam:

When Mercury retrogrades, it’s often a confusing time for communication and transportation. Mercury completes its ‘year’ in 88 days, and then starts another year. From the Earth’s perspective, this fresh start looks like Mercury’s moving backwards, since we’re still moving forward with our year.

I’m usually fairly patient when it comes to issues with transportation and movement. I realize that the universe is doing its thing, so I acquiesce. That extra 15 minutes where I’m stuck in traffic may help me avoid a car accident or some other awful unforeseen circumstance—one really never knows. My challenges are the issues that arise because of miscommunication or poor communication, especially between my partner and I.

On why communication is so difficult during this period, astrologer Larry Schwimmer adds the following:

Mercury rules your intelligence, mind, memory, and all types of communication ranging from talking and texting to writing. It also affects your self-expression and communication style… During these three weeks called Mercury retrograde, your mental faculties are not functioning well; in fact they ‘go on vacation.’

So as we move towards Mercury’s retrograde, I thought it wise to remind myself to commit to communicating better, as to avoid the misunderstandings that can often lead to larger squabbles with my significant other. Here’s how I’ll do it:

Give It Time. As much as I’m an advocate for speaking my mind and expressing my feelings as I feel them, I’ve learned that doing so isn’t always the best practice when communicating with people I love and want to keep around for the long haul. We can never erase the things we say. We are made to forgive, but our humanness rarely allows us to forget.

And honey, I have a mouth on me.

So I try to wait at least 24 hours before I address things I’m upset about with my partner. Giving it time, allowing emotions to be overcome by reason, usually helps me realize that the thing I’m upset about really isn’t a big deal. And if my feelings about an issue persist, I’ve at least calmed down enough to speak thoughtfully and lovingly about them, which will help my partner be more open to hearing my concerns.

Remember His “Timing Preference.” According to relationships and compatibility coach Debi Dutilh, “If you really think about it, you probably know the best time your partner is most open to communication and when they are most unavailable.” Having a deep conversation about one’s hurt feelings is probably not best when both parties are returning home from a long day of work and stress.

I recall a good friend saying that she and her partner discuss their disagreements at night while lying in bed. Their bed, she said, took the tension away from their issues and allowed them space to be gentle and vulnerable. Gentleness and vulnerability are the goals, so we should figure out when those moments are most available.

Practice Active Listening. I’ll be honest: I’m a debater by nature, and because 80 percent of my day as an educator and writer involves mostly one-way communication (lecturing students or writing alone), I can make the mistake of being a one-way communicator. Dr. Phil sums it up best here:

A one-way communicator talks but never listens, and pays no attention to whether the listener appears to be ‘getting it.’ For her, it’s all about the telling, as in, ‘What I want you to do is go out there, get this work done, give these people this message, put those kids to bed, and come back in here.’ If that’s how you communicate, all you know is what you’ve said, and you haven’t got a clue about what the other person heard. Result: conflict.

Stay Focused on the Present. According to author and psychologist Dr. John Grohol, it’s our responsibility to focus on the issue at hand when we disagree with our lovers:

To be respectful of one another and the relationship, you should try and keep the discussion (or argument) focused to the topic at hand. While it’s easy to get in the cheap shots or bring up everything that an argument seems to call for, just don’t.

As the queen of “you said that ugly thing to me in October 2001,” this statement hits home. As my shifu reminds me often, even things that happened one minute ago are in the past and cannot be changed… so let them go. He’s right.

Godspeed on your journey through this Mercury retrograde, especially in love.

Josie Pickens is an educator, cultural critic and soldier of love. Follow her musings on Twitter @jonubian