• September 20, 2019

Taking a break in a relationship: Everything you need to know

Taking a break could save your relationship, but it could also destroy it.

In this article, I’m going to describe 6 scenarios where taking a break is a good idea and 4 scenarios where it clearly isn’t.

After that, I’ll explain how to make the break successful (if you decide to go through with it).

We have a lot to go over so let’s get started.

6 reasons why taking a break is a good idea

1) If you can’t stop fighting

If the arguments, bickering, and conflict are never-ending with your partner, then it might be a good idea to take a break.

When arguments continue to fester, the unbearable tension it causes won’t be good for you or your partner’s emotional health.

An official break up might also occur after a big argument. That’s never a good way to end things.

Taking a break from each other gives you space to rebalance your perspective and understand what you really want in life, according to relationship expert Steve Ward:

“A break is often a welcomed reprieve from relationship and a useful inflection point…It provides a valuable space for introspection and focusing on assessing your feelings within the relationship.”

You might walk away and figure out that the good times outweigh the bad and that you should get back together.

Or might you decide that life really is better without your partner.

Whatever it is, a break gives you the space to figure it out.

2) You’re having doubts about the relationship

Relationships are a big commitment. Not only are you deciding to spend a lot of time with one person, but it also means you won’t be seeing anyone else.

And as time goes on, there are going to be major commitments like living together, marriage or having kids.

It goes without saying that it’s crucial to make the right decision on your commitments.

A break allows you to figure out if you’re better off with or without your partner, according to Steve Ward:

“Breaks are sometimes necessary to create space and allow someone to come to the realization that they are happier, more productive, and better off with someone than without them.”

And if you’re having doubts, then you need to take the time to consider your thoughts and feelings.

This is crucial not only for you but also for your partner.

The longer you hold it off and then decide it won’t work out, the more time you’re wasting for your partner.

So if you think that you’re not ready for the commitment of a serious relationship, taking a break can help you take a step back, clear your mind and figure out if they really are the right person for you.

Now if you think that your partner is right for you, but you’re not ready for a serious commitment, then you need to have an honest discussion with your partner about taking it slow.

3) They’ve cheated

Most of us believe that if our partner cheated we would immediately walk away. But that’s a lot easier said than done.

When you’ve built a strong emotional bond with someone, walking away over one mistake can be tough.

So if your partner has cheated on you, taking a break can help you clear your mind and figure out if it’s worth saving the relationship.

Relationship expert Amy Anderson offers some great advice if you’ve been cheated on:

“Always follow what your heart tells you…Do a weekend alone of soul-searching away from distractions and everyone’s opinions…Remember your core value system and try to get centered with a very clear head so you can derive the right answer you need for you…If you are happy staying with your partner who cheated, then that is what works for you… If you know you will always be suspicious or can’t move on from what really happened, you have your answer.”

Tell your partner to leave you alone for a while so you can gather your thoughts, and most importantly, figure out if you’ll ever be able to forgive your partner for cheating on you.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself if your partner has cheated on you:

1) Do they care that they’ve hurt you? Do you they even understand they’ve hurt you? And do they truly regret what they did?

2) Do you know the full extent of their cheating? Have they actually been honest with you about it?

3) Will you be able to move on? Or will the fact they’ve cheated always be in the back of our mind? Will you be able to trust them again?

4) Is it worth saving the relationship? Or is it better to move on?

4) You haven’t been happy with the relationship for a while

If you’re not enjoying the relationship, and you can’t stop thinking about what life would be like if you weren’t in it, then taking a break up will give you the opportunity to know what it’s like.

If you do decide to take this option, it’s important to be honest with your partner that you haven’t been happy for a while and you want to try something new.

It’s important to realize that if you’ve been unhappy with the relationship for a while that this may result in a full-scale break-up once you see what life is like on the other side.

Couples therapist Liz Higgins offers some advice on what to base the decision on:

“When taking a timeout, call it for yourself and not for your partner…This decision all comes down to knowing yourself.”

That’s something that you need to make sure your partner understands.

5) Your relationship simply isn’t a priority

Healthy relationships take a lot of effort. You need to make time for each other and be there for one another.

This doesn’t mean you have to be 24/7 all about your relationship. Not at all. We all have careers and hobbies.

But if you can’t give the relationship the time it needs to grow, and your career and passions are taking precedence every single time over your relationship, then taking a break can help you get your life in order.

According to dating coach Ravid Yosef, “It takes work to keep the romance alive and the couple has to make a conscious decision to put this work in.”

It’s important that your partner understands the space you need in order to get your life back on track.

If they do, then you can come back better and stronger and the relationship will benefit.

6) You fear that you’re missing out on other areas of your life

A study defined FOMO as:

‘‘The uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out – that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you’.”

If you’re in your 20s or 30s and you fear that you’re not really experiencing the full spectrum of life, then it might be time to ask yourself whether you need a break from your partner.

Perhaps you’d like to trial dating new people. Or you just want to be free to explore the world. Whatever it is, you’re not going to be young for too much longer.

And you don’t want to have regrets when you decide to start a family and settle down.

But of course, you don’t want to make this decision lightly. It could be worth it to talk with your partner about how you feel you’re missing out on other areas of life. There might be a way for you to work through it so you can both experience new things together.

But if you feel a break from each other is the only way to discover different areas of life, then communicate clearly your expectations of what this entails for you and your partner.

3 reasons it isn’t a good idea to take a break:

It’s a terrible idea to go on a break with someone just to get the upper hand in a relationship or to win a fight.

The fact of the matter is that most “breaks” do eventually end up in a breakup.

So if you’ve broken up with your partner so you can have the power of your partner, or to win a petty argument, then it might not lead to what you really want.

It’s most likely that you’ve taken this course of action to manipulate your partner in an effort to gain control.

That’s not a nice way to treat anyone and it might cause damage to your relationship that can’t be undone.

It’s a much better idea to be totally honest with your partner and communicate your grievances.

Keep in mind that is fighting is normal, according to Therapist Dana Ward:

“Fighting is normal…While some couples may think fighting is the sign of a bad relationship, it is actually is very important. The key is fighting with a purpose.”

2) You want to sleep with someone you’re attracted to

This a common reason for taking a break, and it’s certainly not a good one.

If you think you can easily break up with your partner, sleep with someone else, then get back together with your partner, you’re sorely mistaken.

If you do this, it’s doubtful that the relationship will continue to be successful. Your partner will likely resent you for it, and this will fester into some feisty arguments.

While you may think that you have done nothing “technically wrong”, it’s still going to be hard for your partner to get over.

Therapist Dana Ward offers some great advice:

“You can and should appreciate all the beauty and dashing good looks all around you…Attractive and attraction is different. Find other people attractive, but stop short of allowing yourself to be attracted to them.”

Unfortunately, if you decide to be in a relationship then you’ve also decided not to sleep with other people. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

If you think that monogamy is going to be extremely difficult for you to adhere to, then you need to reconsider whether a relationship is right for you.

3) Your relationship problems can be solved by therapy or communication

If there’s resentment towards each other because of miscommunication, or if you’re simply not communicating how you feel with each other, then that can easily be worked through.

All you have to do is try communicating with your partner in a calm manner. Explain your point of view reasonably and try to really understand them.

Sometimes this is all it takes to fix pressing problems in a relationship.

After all, all relationship problems tend to occur from poor communication, according to Elaine Fantle Shimberg, author of Blending Families.

If you’re a bit further in the relationship, and you’re married, or have kids, then you might want to consider couple’s therapy before taking a break. Many relationships have been saved by going along to couple’s therapy.

It helps you communicate and air all your grievances while a professional helps you sort out the best course of action. If they believe that a break is the best action to take, then they’ll most likely recommend it.

How to take a break so that it actually works

A great example is on the TV show Friends when Ross and Rachel “took a break”. Ross immediately slept with another girl, and then the whole thing ended in disaster.

If they had set clear boundaries and guidelines about what the break entails, then it’s likely that Ross wouldn’t have slept with someone else, and they would have got back together.

Now despite this negative portrayal of what can happen when a couple takes a break, it can actually be quite successful.

As long as both partners are clear on what a break means and what the guidelines are, then it can be a healthy way to deal with issues.

Why?

Because it’s all about rebalancing and giving yourself space to clarify your perspective on the relationship and whether it’s working. You can reflect on the negative patterns that were developing in the relationship and why they were festering.

Once you’ve gained clarity on what the issues were and how they can be fixed, you’ll have a better idea of if it’s worth continuing the relationship.

That being said, there are right and wrong ways to implement a break…

Here’s how to make sure you implement the break successfully:

1) The first thing you need to do is to set the rules for the break.

Are you going to sleep with other people?
Are you going to keep in contact?
If you’re not going to keep in contact, how long will it be before you see each other? A week? 2 weeks? Figure out the time period that works best for both of you.
How are you going to keep in contact? Messaging app? Phone? Facebook?

What’s most important here is to make sure that both of your needs are met. For example, if one of you is an anxious-avoidant attachment style, you’ll probably need more physical contact than a person that is an avoidant attachment style.

Setting the parameters is critical, according to relationship expert April Masani, especially over whether you will sleep with other people.

“The problem is that when the couple finds out that one or both of them has dated and slept with someone else during the break, the relationship ends because it feels like there’s been cheating and betrayal.”

This is why it’s crucial that you’re both on the same page.

2) The advice is to stay in contact

If you truly want to stay together, then the general advice from experts is that it’s crucial that you have some sort of contact during the break.

Otherwise, you’ll be pushing each other away and you might simply drift apart.

According to relationship expert April Masini, a break without any communication “typically… lead to breakups…but on rare occasions, both people miss each other so much, the black out lets them see that they don’t want a break, they want to work through their problems.”

So contact, in this case, doesn’t have to be physical contact but can include messaging apps and phone calls.

As we mentioned above, if one of you is a more anxious attachment type, you might need a certain number of phone calls a week. It’s important that this need is clearly communicated and that the other partner respects it.

3) How long should a break go on for?

This is a difficult question to answer because it’s going to vary from couple to couple. It depends how long you’ve been together and how much space you need.

According to relationship experts, from one week to a month is enough time to determine whether you should stay together. Anything longer and it might be too much time apart.

It may also be beneficial to to just try a week or two weeks and see if that can recharge the batteries and fuel the relationship fire that you desperately need.

In general though, the longer it goes on, the more chance it might be that the break doesn’t work.

There’s a certain point where you might drift apart where you can’t go back.

4) Sleeping with other people

This is something that you need to be very clear about. You must both be on the same page, otherwise, there could be significant resentment brewing that’s impossible to recover from.

Usually, seeing other people will only work if both partners are open sexually and have experimented a lot in the past.

If one person wants to see other people, and the other one doesn’t, then it’s important to be clear about what their motivations are. It’s important that they realize the pain they may be causing.

According to relationship coach, Julia Bilotta, “This is the time to be reflecting on your own relationship…If you’re interested in dating other people, then maybe the real message is that the person you’re with isn’t the one you want.”

Be honest with what they truly want, because if they so desperately want to see other people, then why do they want to continue the relationship?

It’s important that you get down to the bottom of what their motivations truly are.

5) It’s crucially important to have an honest conversation before taking a break

This can’t be emphasized enough. Both of you need to understand the reasons for the break, and that you both still love each other.

If one partner is feeling resentful because they don’t understand why they’re on a break, or they don’t think that they’re loved anymore, it can cause the break to drift into a full-scale breakup.

In Conclusion

It’s crucial to realize that if you decide to take a break, it’s really designed to help you reflect on how you feel when you’re not with your partner.

It’s important to have honest conversations with your partner and your therapist (or friend) so you can truly heal.

It’s also important to understand that a temporary break can result in a proper breakup.

However, this is usually the case when one partner uses the break as a way to get out of the relationship.

This is why it’s important to have honest conversations about whether the relationship has a future and what the break is really meant for.

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