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.

By Harini NatarajanHarini Natarajan, Certified Emotional Intelligence Practitioner  • 

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.

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 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 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 and you wanting to have a family. If the issue is unresolvable, taking a break 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. 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 break 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.

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.

Is Taking A Break Right For Your Relationship?

If you are wondering if your relationship needs a break, it is important to sit down with your partner and communicate honestly and openly about it. You need to jointly determine this is the best thing for you both at this time. Don’t lose hope – taking a break doesn’t always mean parting ways forever. Many couples get back together once they have worked on themselves, their issues, and their relationship. Also, they realize what life without the other is really like. Absence often makes the heart grow fonder. And if it doesn’t, maybe you are better off alone! The idea of taking a break is to work towards a healthy relationship in which both partners feel loved, cherished, and fulfilled.

Key Takeaways

  • A couple may take a break from each other because they are facing issues or doubts in the relationship.
  • Taking a break gives you both the space required to re-evaluate your needs and expectations from the relationship.
  • Have the conversation about taking a break face-to-face and be clear about the issues that have led to this decision.
  • It is important for you both to set certain boundaries and ground rules before taking a break from your relationship.

Relationships can be exhausting, and you may feel the need to have some time alone to gain perspective on things. A break removes the unnecessary pressure that both partners may feel in the face of a conflict and save them from growing resentful toward each other. Therefore, you should consider taking some time apart, but with some ground rules to ensure that your eventual reconciliation is not jeopardized. For instance, both partners should be on the same page about the reason for taking a break and what is or is not an acceptable behavior during the phase.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do breaks in relationships work?

Breaks in relationships may help you understand yourself and the relationship better. It may help you evaluate the relationship and make a good decision about where you stand in the relationship and continuing it.

Are you single if you take a break?

A break in the relationship does not mean you have officially broken up with your partner. So, it does not mean you are single. However, it is best to discuss this with your partner before taking a break.

Can you talk during a break?

It is best to avoid contact with your partner during a break.

Does space always mean a breakup?

No. Taking space does not mean you have broken up.

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