How To Actually "Take A Break" In A Relationship

by Marlena Ahearn

Taking a break, a pause, a beat, whatever, is an option for couples in tense relationships to step back and think. Most people assume that taking a break in a relationship is just the prelude to a breakup. Sure, some people who take breaks don’t necessarily end up back together, but a break might just be the perfect solution to cool-off, get in touch with yourself, and remind you both what you mean to each other. Chris Armstrong, a dating and relationships coach tells Bustle that taking a break in a relationship is about one of two things — either someone needs time to reflect internally on things like commitment or insecurity issues, or to reflect externally on whether this relationship is right.

It sounds scary. It’s a leap of faith that taking a break will lead to a stronger, happier relationship with the risk being the break will turn into a breakup. It’s important to realize however, that in healthy partnerships, there may be periods of silence. These pauses are necessary, especially if one or both partners decide they need to work on their personal issues, Monica Parikh, dating and relationships coach, tells Bustle.

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Here's how couples can successfully take a break in their relationship:

1. Don't Put A Time Stamp On It

Don’t tell your partner that you just need "a couple of days" when you're initiating a break — that gives them expectations for how exactly long this break will be. “The fact is, finding yourself and investigating who you really are is a complicated endeavor that cannot be forecasted in terms of how long it will take,” Armstrong tells Bustle.

2. Be Clear

It's important to clarify what 'taking a break' means to each partner. Clarify if you will have contact during the break, frequency of contact, and other issues like whether you see other people or still sleep together. Setting parameters and having a mutual understanding is important. It's also necessary for both people have the opportunity to express their feelings and work on those issues. "If you don't work out the issues with each other, they will still be sitting right there when you are done with your break," Pella Weisman, licensed psychotherapist and dating coach, tells Bustle.

3. Be Kind

Communicate why you want a break clearly and respectfully. If you are kind and explain why a break can be helpful, both people can feel a little more comfortable with the idea. "Each partner should work diligently towards their own health and betterment," Parikh says. "If they focus time and energy on their own lives and interests they will be able to come together as a much stronger and healthier team."

4. Take A Full Break

Don’t keep checking in with your partner. Take this time to really think about yourself and the relationship. “If you share things with this person (i.e. you live together, you have a dog, etc.), you will not be able to truly 'take a break' if you are still half invested because of these things. Remove the co-dependencies you have on each other to the greatest extent you can for the duration that you are on your break,” Armstrong says.

5. Ask Yourself Important Questions

Once you take the time you need to focus on your personal and external issues in a relationship, you'll hopefully start to find clarity. From this point, you can feel secure entering back into the relationship. Or, you may discover that it’s time for things to find a natural end.

The most important thing to do during your break is to ask yourself if this is someone you really are compatible with or do you want to be with them solely to prevent you from feeling lonely, Gary Brown, PhD, LMFT, licensed relationship counselor, tells Bustle. "You need to ask yourself if wanting to escape feeling lonely is a sufficient reason to be with anyone — especially if it's your primary reason for being in a relationship at all," he says.

Yes, breaks are scary but they are also opportunities for both partners to reassess how they feel individually. Whether your break leads to a stronger relationship or you both realize things aren't working, a break works to help you both reassess the relationship and get in touch with yourselves.

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