7 Key Steps In Taking A Break In A Relationship

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 a break in the relationship, 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?

Tips For 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.

couple unhappy sitting on sofa taking a break in a relationship

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.

Related: 21 Expert Tips for Reconnecting With Your Sweetie After a Relationship Break

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.

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 breakup.

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.

What Does Taking a Break Mean in a Relationship?

Taking a break in a relationship means taking time away from one another to reflect, re-evaluate, and decide if they want to continue the relationship or go their separate ways. 

It's important to note that taking a break does not mean a break-up; it's simply a pause in the relationship to evaluate how each partner is feeling.

A break in a relationship can mean different things to each partner. This include:

  • Taking time away from one another, either for a short or longer stretch.
  • Spending less time together and focusing more on individual interests and exploring other activities.
  • Talking less often or even taking a complete break from all communication with one another.
  • Not getting together physically while the break is in place.
  • Reflecting on what each person wants out of the relationship and if they can see a future together.
  • Taking some time alone to work through any unresolved issues without the pressure of your partner's presence.

Is It Healthy to Take a Break in a Relationship?

A break can be healthy if both partners agree to it and it is done with a clear understanding of the purpose and expectations. It can allow both partners to take some space and focus on their individual needs while also allowing them to miss one another.

However, it's essential to establish clear boundaries during the break to avoid misunderstandings or hurt feelings. 

Also, having an end date in mind is crucial to prevent the break from dragging on indefinitely, which can create more confusion and uncertainty. 

Here are some reasons why taking a break can be healthy:

  • Provides space for individual growth: When partners take a break, they can focus on their needs and goals, leading to personal growth and development. This can ultimately benefit the relationship when they come back together.
  • It can help improve mental health: Sometimes, relationships can become overwhelming and cause stress, anxiety, and even depression. Taking a break can give both partners the time to work on their mental health.
  • Can help find clarity: Taking time away from one another can help partners understand how they feel about each other and the relationship. This can be a helpful tool for identifying what needs to be worked on, issues that are real deal-breakers, and whether or not the relationship is worth salvaging.
  • Allows each partner to take ownership of their feelings: A break can help them take ownership of their own emotions and understand why they feel a certain way, thus creating more self-awareness, which is necessary for healthy relationships.
  • It allows for unresolved issues to be addressed: Sometimes, the need to keep the peace in the relationship can overshadow any underlying issues. Being apart can make it easier to confront difficult topics and work towards resolving them.
  • Reduces tension and conflict: A break can reduce tension and conflict by allowing each partner to step back and take some time to reflect on their emotions and actions. It can also provide a cooling-off period to prevent arguments from escalating and causing more damage.
  • Can strengthen the relationship: If both partners are committed, taking a break can give them real perspective on what they would lose if it ended. This could lead to newfound appreciation and understanding, which can ultimately make the relationship even stronger.

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.

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 you 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 . . . “

Related: Relationship Compatibility Test: Are Your Personalities A Love Match?

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 a break from the relationship will help you realize you’re ready to make it a higher priority. Or maybe not.

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.

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.

Final Thoughts

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.