If you’re thinking of taking a break in a relationship, you’re probably dreading the conversation that has to happen first.
Maybe you’ve reached a crossroads in your relationship, and you feel an overwhelming need for a break.
But you’re afraid that in asking for one you’ll lose someone who still matters to you.
On the other hand, what if, in order to save the relationship and make it better, you need time apart?
Does taking a break in a relationship work?
And if so, how can you be sure it’s the right step for you?
7 Signs That Taking a Break is Needed
If a relationship break is what you need, chances are good that one or more of the following signs will sound familiar.
1. Every conversation turns into a fight.
You can’t even have a normal, lighthearted conversation anymore without it turning into an argument over something. No topic is safe. Just being around each other is stressful.
And you’re tired of it. Who wouldn’t be?
Maybe you’ve tried talking to each other in a calm setting. Maybe you’ve even tried couples counseling. But the tension between has only gotten worse.
Part of you still believes the relationship is worth saving, though. And taking a break might just give you both the space you need to decide whether it is or not.
2. One of you has been unfaithful.
If one of you has cheated on the other, the trust between you has been broken. And that’s not something you can easily rebuild.
In this case, it’s more challenging to take a break that doesn’t eventually end in a complete separation, but it is possible. And with a temporary break, the cheater gets to experience life without the one they betrayed.
That experience might lead them to renew their commitment and do whatever it takes to restore and strengthen the relationship. Or it might lead you both in opposite directions.
3. You’re having doubts about your compatibility.
You’re not so sure anymore why you thought this person was such a good match for you. Lately it seems you don’t have any common ground — or not enough to make your time together enjoyable.
Maybe you’re too different. Or maybe one of you has changed, leaving the other behind.
In any case, taking a break can give you both the time and distance you need to consider whether you’re better off together or apart.
4. You haven’t been happy together for a long time.
You can’t pinpoint the moment when you stopped feeling happy in your relationship, but slowly — over time — it’s been chipping away at you.
And you don’t know how to make it better. You just know it hurts to think about it. So, you try not to. But when someone who loves you asks you, “What’s wrong?” (because they can see it), you fall apart (or you almost do).
And then you finally admit you want something more than what your relationship has become. It’s time to sit down with your S.O. and have a real talk about where you are and where you both want to be.
5. Other things in your life are more important to you than this relationship.
You’re looking at your relationship, and the question that comes to mind is “Why is this demanding so much of me? They expect me to prioritize our time together over the things I’m passionate about . . . “
And that’s when it hits you: you don’t see this relationship as something you’re passionate about. Maybe you were in the beginning, but something has changed.
This doesn’t make you a terrible person. But it’s time to be honest about what you want and whether it’s compatible with what your significant other wants. Maybe break from the relationship will help you realize you’re ready to make it higher priority. Or maybe not.
6. You feel as though you’re drowning in the relationship.
Whether you’ve spent ten months or ten years in this relationship, you feel as though you’re dying a slow death by asphyxiation.
You’re tired of looking at yourself and feeling like a pale shadow of the person you were before this relationship swallowed you whole. Yet you’re not convinced the other person is entirely at fault.
Maybe taking a break from the relationship will help you rediscover yourself, so you can finally grow into the person you want to be.
7. You fear that you’re missing out on other important aspects of your life.
This relationship has cost you in ways you’re only now beginning to realize. And you feel as though if it goes on as it’s been going, the cost will become permanent. And you’ll miss out on aspects of your life that have taken a back seat to making your S.O. happy.
Maybe a break from your relationship will help you both find a more balanced approach, so neither of you will miss out on things that are important to you.
7 Effective Ways of Taking a Break in a Relationship
Maybe you’re closer to deciding that a relationship break is just what you both need. But the overall success of this approach depends on how you do it. Use the following tips on how to take a break in a relationship without burning it to the ground.
1. Have an honest and open conversation before the break.
Before you both decide on taking a break in the relationship, make time for an open and honest conversation about everything that you feel needs attention.
It’s important that you both remain calm and respectful as you take turns talking and listening. No one’s saying this part is easy. It can be difficult to keep your voice calm when you feel criticized or rejected.
But in order for the relationship to survive this conversation (let alone a break), it’s critical that you both try to empathize with each other.
The more you see the situation from your loved one’s perspective, the more likely this break (if you take one) will benefit you both.
2. Set clear ground rules for the break.
Decide on some clear rules for the two of you before you make this break official. Nail down the following details:
- If there are children involved, with whom will they live?
- Will either of you date (or flirt)?
- How often will you check in on each other?
- Will you celebrate any birthdays, graduations, holidays, etc. during the break?
The more you both know what to expect, the smoother this will go. Don’t make assumptions about what the other person is okay with, or you’re likely to find out otherwise.
3. Decide how long the break should be.
It’s a good idea to decide ahead of time how long this break will be. Talk about it. One of you might have a much smaller break in mind, so it’s best to be open about what you’re thinking.
Arrange to meet at the end of this break to discuss whether to get back together, prolong the break, or go your separate ways. And if you’re already leaning toward option #3, be honest about that.
And be prepared to give your S.O. the duration of the break to convince you otherwise.
4. Stay in contact with each other.
It’s important to stay in contact during the break. This isn’t a break-up, after all, and you’re not enemies. You still care about each other.
So, keep in touch. Find a way to keep the conversation going, whether you do this over the phone or by taking turns writing in a shared notebook. Use the time apart to be open and honest without resorting to assumptions or judgment.
Related: 9 Ways To Get Over Unrequited Love
Let them know you’re there if they need you. You don’t have to be on-call 24-7, but no one likes to be ghosted.
5. Make it clear you want the best possible outcome for both.
If you both want this break to lead to the best outcome for both of you, you’re more likely to reach the end of it still trusting each other — or trusting each other more than you did at the start of it.
Ultimately, you want healing for you both.
Don’t look at it as a way to finally get to do those things your S.O. didn’t want to do with you. And if you find out your S.O. is using the break as a blank check, no one will blame you if you upgrade the break to a break-up.
6. Communicate the rules of the break with others who need to know.
Your S.O. isn’t the only one who needs to know about the break in your relationship or about its terms and conditions.
Family members on both sides are bound to wonder what’s going on — especially if one of you moves out. There’s nothing wrong with bringing them into the loop.
Do your best to get the point across that the relationship isn’t over — you’re just trying an unorthodox approach to healing the relationship. Or you’re giving each other the space to decide whether staying together is what you both really want.
7. Use the time apart to challenge yourself.
Use this time as a chance to deepen your self-knowledge. The better you know yourself, the more likely you are to empathize with others.
So, make time for meditation and for books (and audiobooks) that can broaden your perspective. Make time to enjoy nature, music, art, your hobbies, and whatever helps you feel more like yourself. Spend time with people who love you as you are and who aren’t afraid to be honest with you.
Get to know yourself better – your strengths and your weaknesses. That way, when it comes time to meet your S.O. at the end of your break, you’ll be better able to see the bigger picture and to appreciate the best things about them, whether you stay together or not.
A relationship break isn’t something to enter into lightly, and it can be traumatic for both of you. It sounds drastic. And it can feel an awful lot like a precursor to a real break-up.
But the motives behind it should be different. You’re not giving up; you’re giving yourselves a chance to re-evaluate the relationship and decide whether you’re better off together or apart.
That said, if you’re about to suggest a break to your S.O., be gentle. Make it clear that you’re hoping the relationship will improve — not in spite of but because of the break.
If you both understand the purpose of the relationship break, it’s more likely to have a positive outcome.
May your courage and empathy help you both to make the most of this challenge. And may it bring more blessings than pain.