Hitting a rough patch in your relationship is…well…rough. You might be fighting all the time. You might be pointing fingers and placing blame over conflicts big and small. Maybe you and your partner have different values or maybe one of you wants kids and the other doesn’t. Either way, you’re starting to think about taking a break in a relationship.
If this sounds like you, then you’re not alone. We work with many couples who have had moments like this. They’ve wondered if they should stick it out or break up. They’ve questioned whether they were ready to take the next step in their relationship.
Having these challenges are, for many couples, just part of their journey. And taking a break in a relationship can be exactly what they need to move forward together (or apart). If you’re considering a break from your partner, this post is for you.
Couples Learn founder and therapist Dr. Sarah Schewitz recently shared her insight into relationship breaks with Cosmopolitan magazine. Now, we’re breaking this subject down even further.
Keep reading to learn more about how to know if you should take a break in a relationship and how to make it work if you do.
Reasons to Take a Break In a Relationship
Thinking about a break with your partner can feel really scary and overwhelming – especially if you’ve been together for a long time or have built a family together. But taking a break really can be beneficial.
If you have been fighting a lot, a break can help you get some space from the ups and downs of conflict. This can help you reflect more accurately on the pros and cons of the relationship and look at the problem from a less emotional place.
For some (especially those with an avoidant attachment style), getting some space from your partner can help you feel more regulated and reconnect to the loving feelings you have for your partner. In other words, absence really can make the heart grow fonder.
Taking a break can also help you see firsthand what life would be like if you and your partner split up. You may see just how much you miss your partner, or you may see that you are better off without them. Either way, taking a break in a relationship gives you the space to figure that out.
Is it Healthy to Take a Break In a Relationship?
Taking a break can be one of the healthiest things you could do for your relationship. Especially if you are fighting all the time or struggling with codependency, it might actually be healthier to figure out the future of your relationship while you are apart.
Taking a break can give both partners space to work on themselves and heal their past traumas in individual therapy without getting reactivated and triggered all the time.
Breaks become unhealthy when they are done out of anger or as punishment. Stonewalling, or icing your partner out, is a very unhealthy behavior in relationships and is not the same thing as taking a break.
Is Taking a Break the Same As Breaking Up?
Taking a break is also not the same thing as breaking up. While some couples who decide to take a break do eventually break up permanently, it does not have to end that way.
It all depends on how the couple – and the individuals involved – approach the situation. With clear expectations and communication, a break can be exactly what it sounds like: a break.
How to Take a Break In a Relationship
If you’re considering taking a break in a relationship, there’s a lot to think about. Keep reading for our best advice on how to go about starting a temporary break.
When to Take a Break In a Relationship
When to take a break is a very personal decision. You might want to wait until a time when you and your partner will have the time and space to seek therapy, focus on self-care and make the most of your time apart.
If your lives are very intertwined, you might also need to look ahead to vacations, weddings and other events planned far in advance. While you certainly do not need to plan a relationship break around life events, it’s worth taking these items into consideration if your relationship hasn’t reached a state of crisis..
How to Ask for a Break In a Relationship
If you’re considering taking a break in a relationship then it’s likely your partner at least has some idea that things aren’t exactly going well. But no matter how much you and your partner have discussed your issues as a couple, going on a break requires a clear and direct conversation.
It might be painful or awkward, but a break must start with a clear line of communication if you have any chance of coming back together at the end.
Communicate with your partner why you want to take a break and what you hope a break will do for your relationship. Be kind, but be honest. And be honest with yourself, too. Ask yourself if you truly want to take a temporary break, or if you’re just trying to soften the blow of an actual break-up.
How to Set Rules for Taking a Break In a Relationship
One of the most important things to discuss when taking a break in a relationship is your ground rules for the time apart.
This is another time when open and honest communication is key. If you want the chance to get back together at the end of the break, you need to figure out in advance what you both are comfortable with (and what you are not) and have clear boundaries.
Some questions to answer to help you create those boundaries include:
- What is the purpose of this break? What are we hoping to discover about ourselves or the relationship by taking a break?
- How long will the break be?
- How often will we communicate during the break, if at all?
- Are we allowed to date other people during this break? If so, what are the boundaries around this? (e.g. just chatting on apps, going out on actual dates, boundaries around physical touch on dates, will you tell each other, etc.)
Once you and your partner agree on boundaries, prepare to stick to them and communicate honestly about these boundaries during and after your break.
What to Do During a Break in a Relationship
Even couples who feel strongly about taking a break in a relationship often find the break itself very challenging. After all, you probably spend a lot of time with your partner. Knowing what to do instead can be difficult.
The best way to spend your time apart is to focus on yourself and figuring out what you want from your relationship and your future.
Take lots of time for self-care or to reconnect with the friends or hobbies that may have taken a backseat to your relationship. Make sure to also think about your plans for the future, particularly if differing values or goals were part of the catalyst for your break.
Consider getting individual therapy, too. A therapist can help you work through relationship issues, heal past traumas that might be affecting your relationship and improve your communication skills. A therapist can also help you explore what you want for your future and help you decide whether getting back together with your partner is part of that vision.
How to Get Back Together After a Break
Before you start exploring how to end your break and get back together, it’s important that you and your partner are both confident you want to get back together.
If you’re both on the same page, then honest communication will once again be your best tool. Discuss the issues that lead you to the break in the first place and come up with a plan for how you’ll manage those challenges going forward.
If you were disagreeing about marriage, kids or other major life plans, discuss those too. Make sure you’re able to come to an agreement that works for both of you before you decide to get back together.
Remember to stick to the boundaries set around your break as well. If you agreed before the break that you would not be discussing what you did with your time, then don’t discuss it. Respect the boundary set and aim to rebuild trust with your partner.
Are Successful Relationships After Break Up Possible?
Yes, they are absolutely possible! But they do require understanding, patience, communication and trust.
Many relationships have withstood breaks. A break can help both partners reflect on the importance of the relationship in their life and can lead to a reinvigorated commitment to the relationship.
While not every relationship will work out, taking a break in a relationship can absolutely improve your partnership.
Things Not to Do After a Break
If you’re hoping that taking a break will lead to getting back together, then it’s important to avoid a few key things.
Most importantly, don’t break your ground rules or go against the boundaries you and your partner agreed upon. Typically you’ll also want to avoid discussing any dates or other romantic encounters either of you experienced while on the break (unless you determined beforehand that you would talk about them).
Additionally, it’s really important not to hold the break against one another, assuming that no boundaries were crossed. If you and your partner decided that you could go on dates with other people while on a break, for example, then it will be key not to use dates against one another during conflict going forward.
Work to rebuild trust with your partner by communicating often and honestly.
Get Support To Come Back Together
If you’re thinking about taking a break in a relationship (or you already have), don’t overlook the value of couples therapy as part of this process.
Whether you need support when coming back together after a break or want help outlining the rules of the break itself, a couples therapist can help you navigate these challenging times for your relationship.
Contact Couples Learn today to get started and learn more about our online couples therapy services.