Why "Taking A Break" Won't Fix Your Relationship

by Pamela J. Hobart
Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Probably for as long as there have been romantic human relationships, there has existed the phenomenon of "taking a break." This practice,of putting the relationship somewhat on hold for a period of time in order to figure things out, is looming large in the public consciousness thanks to some high-profile celebrity "marriage sabbaticals," according to the Daily Mail. But is "taking a break" or going on "marriage sabbatical" likely to save your relationship, or is it just a euphemism for "we refuse to rip the bandage off quickly?"

Well, you can find anecdotes for any piece of relationship advice working, so never say never I guess. But, importantly, notice the details of the successful marriage sabbaticals — we're talking about women spending a night or two per week away from the family home, not weeks or months on end. I'm sure this feels like a big change for couples who have spent most of every day and night together for years, but it's more like an adjustment back away from co-dependency than any kind of "sabbatical" per se.

As for me, I've never had "taking a break" do much for a relationship (other than lengthening the split while possibly lightening its blow). In fairness, though, I've never taken a break from a relationship in the specific, deliberate ways that experts recommend, assuming you must do it at all. However, if you're going to put all this time and energy into defining the terms of your provisional split, and then suffering through its prolonged discomfort: why are you investing so heavily into a relationship that's already floundering in the first place?

If you spend your 20s and 30s investing a year or more into every mediocre relationship (instead of mere months) then, although I hate to be an alarmist, you could find yourself an old, sad, lonely, washed-up serial monogamist before you know it. Cutting bait quickly on a sinking relationship does't mean you don't value love in your life, it means you do. You just have realized that you're going to have to get it somewhere else.

Though it may make sense for celebrity couples to "take a break" as they struggle to regain their footing (and possibly also raise children) while under heavy public scrutiny, that doesn't mean it's the right course for the rest of us. Love is tricky, but honestly your relationship shouldn't be that hard to maintain. If both of you are pretty ambivalent about continuing the relationship and feel positively about the sabbatical, then you should probably just break up now. And if the desire to take the break is one-sided, then it will end up being unfairly fun for one party and unfairly miserable for the other. In other words: all signs point to "just end it already."