5 Rules For Taking A Break In A Relationship – And Why They Work

The most important dos and don'ts of taking a break without risking burned bridges.

Reviewed by Ellen J.W. Gigliotti, LMFT Ellen J.W. Gigliotti Ellen J.W. GigliottiLMFT facebook_icontwitter_iconlinkedin_iconyoutube_iconinsta_icon
Written by , Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Sneha Tete Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Experience: 4 years
Edited by , BSc Shatabdi Bhattacharya BSc linkedin_icon Experience: 2.5 years
Fact-checked by , Integrated MA (English) Gazala Firdos Ansari Integrated MA (English) linkedin_icon Experience: 2 years

One of the best running gags on Friends was Ross yelling, “We were on a break,” every time his relationship with Rachel was brought up. No matter whose side you’re on, one thing we can all agree on – there have to be ground rules for taking a break in a relationship. Isn’t that why Ross cheated in the first place? They both had different ideas of what it meant to take a break. It is important to set the boundaries straight before taking a break from being with your partner. Sit down over a coffee and talk it out. If you aren’t sure what you should be discussing, here are five unspoken parameters for taking a break in a relationship that you and your partner should not leave unspoken.

What Exactly Is “Taking a Break”?

In general, taking a break means you and your significant other have decided to take some time off from your relationship and each other but haven’t officially broken up. Taking a temporary break enables both of you to reassess your feelings for each other, reflect on the state of your relationship, and decide to either resolve the issues or give up for good. Though the terms of a break may differ from one couple to another, the general rule is that the partners won’t communicate for a while, while at the same time working on the relationship and themselves.

When Should A Couple Decide To Take A Break?

Most couples decide to take a break from each other because they are facing difficulties, challenges, or doubts in the relationship. However, they don’t want to break up for good just yet. They still care about one another deeply but just can’t seem to stop arguing and fighting over everything. They may also start feeling unsure about their true feelings for their partner and whether they truly see a future with them. Taking some time off can help you get the space you require to re-evaluate your needs and decide on what’s the best course of action for you and your partner.

Mikayla van Dyk, a blogger, shares her experience of going on a break and how it turned out for her. She thinks that going on a break is not necessarily a bad thing for you or your relationship and says, “Sometimes it just means that you acknowledge that you and your partner have individual identities that need to be worked on (i).”

How Long Should A Relationship Break Be?

Just like every person, every relationship is also different and has its individual qualities and needs. The duration of a break in a relationship varies depending on the people involved, and the type of relationship they share. Usually, an effective break in a relationship may last for a few weeks or months. This duration provides ample time to evaluate the relationship, address personal needs, and understand the reasons behind choosing to potentially break up. However, some may opt for longer breaks to focus on personal growth and make improvements to return to the relationship and thrive in it. The key is to prioritize the needs of both individuals in the relationship and communicate to decide on a duration that suits both.

protip_icon Quick Tip
Psychologists say that separation can be very healing if the situation is complicated. Distance and taking time off allow you to reflect and help you gain clarity.

If you feel that you need to take a break in your relationship, here’s the right way to go about it. Make sure you follow these guidelines and five rules for taking a break:

1. Discuss Your Decision Of Taking A Break In Person

Couple sitting face-to-face and discussing about taking a break
Image: Shutterstock

Since taking a break involves both the people in that relationship, the conversation regarding this should involve both parties as well. It is the respectful thing to do. In case you are in a long-distance relationship, you can video call your partner instead of simply texting them your decision. Sitting face-to-face allows you to read each other’s body language and signals and lets you get a better understanding of whether the feelings are still there or not.

2. Have A Clear Idea Of Why You Need A Break

Woman taking some “me” time while thinking about taking a break
Image: Shutterstock

Take some “me” time to rest and do some serious soul-searching. Why do you need the break? Do you feel like your relationship is getting boring over time? Are you moving on to a new stage in your life? Are you moving away for work or college? The point is to realize whether or not your issue is a deal-breaker. There are some issues that just can’t be resolved – like your partner not wanting children while you want to have a family. If the issue is unresolvable, taking downtime is just delaying the inevitable. It is best to break up and prevent further heartache.

3. Set The Ground Rules

Couple sitting face-to-face and setting ground rules in order to take a break
Image: Shutterstock

Be as clear and assertive as possible. Inform them of the reason you want to take a break, whether you will stay in touch, and whether you will date others during this time apart. It often gets complicated if you live together – so discuss how you both will handle it. If you share things like a house, car, or a pet with your partner, you will probably not be able to take a true break. However, you both will need to find ways to separate from one another as much as possible for the duration of the break.

4. Make The Break Count

Man spending some lone time in the nature to learn more about himself
Image: Shutterstock

While on the break, take some “me” time to learn more about yourself. How are you doing as a person out of the relationship? Pick up new hobbies or try old ones you haven’t been focusing on as frequently. Go and visit your family and friends, and sometimes, truly let yourself feel lonely. Plan a vacation or a fun holiday for much-needed relaxation. Read books or indulge in creativity for respite in your leisure time. You need to be comfortable being alone with yourself – because loneliness is not the reason to be a part of a relationship. Also, find out whether the problems in the relationship can be fixed by taking a break, or if the best thing to do is part ways and move on alone. If you feel you are happier alone than you were together, it is time to cut ties.

5. Don’t Set A Definitive Time Frame

Woman screaming to her man as she needs more time to decide while on a break
Image: Shutterstock

If you are trying to make sense of the relationship while you are on a break, it is unwise to set a time frame. This will lead to more anger and frustration as one partner may just bide the time and want to get back together the moment it ends while the other may not be sure about reconciling yet.  Also, they may get angry at the other for requesting more time to decide. The pause in the relationship is to find yourself, and this process cannot be rushed. If you are not ready, you shouldn’t jump back in just because the “three-month break” is over. Take your time, and make a decision that is best for your mental well-being.

protip_icon Quick Tip
The timeline of your break will depend on the reason. You can use checkpoints to touch base with each other or with your therapist to stay on track.

Infographic: Dos & Don’ts Of Taking A Relationship Break

In a time when speed dating seems to be the norm, a relationship break might be a rare blessing. While many couples seem to benefit from it, many eventually watch their relationship tip over the edge. Since there is no guarantee that taking a break is a good idea for everyone, there need to be some ground rules. Check out this infographic for some dos and don’ts of taking a relationship break.

dos and donts of taking a relationship break (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Frequently Asked Questions

Should we talk during a break?

It is not advisable to talk during a break. During this time, ponder on the relationship and its impact on your life. Avoiding or reducing communication during this time can give more ‘me’ time and avoid conflicts that may arise due to a mismatch of thoughts.

Do breaks lead to breakups?

A break might or might not lead to a breakup. The break period is the time for the individuals to reflect on the relationship and understand the problems they have been facing. It can also increase the much-wanted personal space that they have been craving. But, while analyzing a relationship during a break, it is possible to figure out a toxic relationship and decide to end it.

Who should text first after a break?

There is no hard and fast rule as to who should text first after a break. If you feel like you want to reach out then do so, don’t let your ego come in the way. However, if you feel like the other person doesn’t want to communicate then you can think it through.

Should I text him if we are on a break?

No, it is better to not text him while you are on break. You should utilize the time during a relationship break to ponder more on yourself and improve your life’s quality. Set your boundaries and curb the temptation to reach out unless a serious situation arises.

When does a girl say she needs a break?

A girl calls for a break in the relationship when she might want some alone time to assess the impact of the relationship on her life. The other reasons for a break may include stress, life challenges, the need for independence, or to focus on herself.

Should we set boundaries before taking a break in the relationship?

Yes, it is important to set boundaries before taking a break in the relationship. Even though the nature of the break may differ from one couple to another, setting boundaries before the break helps prevent misunderstandings or hurting the feelings of one another.

What are the benefits of taking a break in a relationship?

One of the top benefits of taking a break in a relationship is increased personal growth and space. You might have been in the relationship for too long and need some alone time to focus on your career, hobbies, or interests. It helps to reassess the relationship and understand where things went wrong. It can help solve conflicts, ease tension, increase longing, understand the depth of love, figure out a toxic relationship, and reinforce commitment.

Are breaks in relationships effective in solving problems?

A healthy and well-planned relationship break can effectively solve relationship problems and help reinforce the relationship in the long run. The couple gets the space and time to work on their personal issues and understand the factors harming the relationship. But the approach may backfire if not handled in a healthy and constructive manner.

What are some reasons why couples take a break in a relationship?

Reasons why some couples decide to take a break are if the relationship has been affecting them negatively, the realization of a need for personal space, commitment issues, or due to the stress of a long-distance relationship.

Key Takeaways

  • Sometimes, taking a break in a relationship is important to allow both the individuals to understand their feelings and resolve underlying issues.
  • It is recommended to take a break if you are constantly fighting with your partner but do not wish to officially break up.
  • You can decide the duration of your break by discussing it prior with your partner and resume when it is ideal for both.
  • Setting some ground rules and having a clear reason why you need to take a break are important considerations before taking a break.
rules for taking a break

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

Watch this video to learn about the rules of taking a break in a relationship. Don’t rush back into things, take your time and decide wisely.

Personal Experience: Source

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Ellen J.W. Gigliotti is a licensed marriage and family therapist with over 20 years of experience and the owner of a private practice therapy group in Pennsylvania, US. She is a former journalist and is currently finalizing her first book. She loves dogs, travel, and reading and is looking forward to launching her new podcast, Two to Talk: Steps and...read full bio

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