I've always been firmly in the camp that taking a break from your relationship is a bad, bad idea. If you ask me, you're better off communicating your problems and asking for what you need in your relationship than temporarily, halfheartedly calling it quits. However, I also totally understand the need for space — sometimes you simply need some time away from your partner to do some honest self-reflection about the relationship.
"In theory, breaks sound like a great idea," Jonathan Bennett, dating/relationship coach and owner of The Popular Man, tells Bustle. "They’re a chance to reset the relationship, get some space, and honestly evaluate how each person feels. However, in practice, breaks rarely work and usually turn into breakups. In most cases, 'taking a break' is a way for a less assertive person to break up without having to deal with the mess and drama of a more assertive and direct approach."
You should never string your partner along by suggesting a break when, deep down, you know you really want to just break up and move on. But if you genuinely just want a little time apart to think about the relationship or work on yourself, there are ways to successfully take a break from your relationship without dooming it to eventual failure. The key? Openly communicating and setting clear boundaries — like how much (if any) contact you want during the break — so both partners are on the same page and know what to expect.
"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.
But alas, even the most well-intentioned breaks don't always go according to plan. If you're worried about whether your break could turn into a permanent breakup, here are five signs to watch out for.
1One Of You Is Dating Around During The Break
Don't get me wrong: the stipulations of your break are totally up to you and your partner, and if you're both truly, honestly comfortable with the idea of dating or sleeping with other people while apart, then do so! But if you specifically chose to go on a break just to "see what else is out there," that might not bode well for the future of your relationship — especially if only one of you is interested in dating around.
"If one or both partners chooses a break for the purpose of dating other people, it’s never a good sign for the future of the relationship," Bennett says. "People in strong relationships don’t feel the need to 'test the waters' by dating someone else."
2You're Not On The Same Page
For a break to be successful, both partners need to be on the same page. This starts with discussing and agreeing to boundaries — for example, is sex with others strictly off-limits? — but it's also important to check in with yourself and make sure that you're actually OK with the break, and not just continuing to go along with it in the hopes of winning your partner back at the end.
"Both partners have to truly want a break," Bennett says. "In most cases, one partner wants a break and the other partner only reluctantly goes along. Even if both partners agree to a break and the ground rules, it doesn’t mean they will feel the same way after being apart for a few days. If one partner embraces the break and enjoys it and the other one gets sad and mopey and wants to get back together, then a future breakup is likely."
3One Of You Is Moving On (And Not Just Romantically)
Breaks are supposed to be a time to work on yourself and figure out what you need and want in a relationship, but if you notice that your partner is doing a massive overhaul of their life, it could be a sign that, when the break is over, there won't be room for you in it.
"If one partner uses the break to move on with his or her life, then there’s a good chance that person intends to break up eventually," Bennett says. "This could be applying for new jobs, looking for new apartments, or getting back on Tinder. If your partner seems to be setting the stage for a breakup by moving on in various ways, then the break up is coming...it’s just a matter of when."
4Your Partner Refuses To Communicate
The point of a break is to get some space so you can reevaluate your relationship without distraction — but once you do realize what your relationship is lacking, you have to actually communicate that to your partner if you want to eventually resolve things and officially get back together.
"The difference between a break and a breakup is if you actually discuss the possibility of [taking] a certain amount of time of apart and then discussing where you both are at," Stef Safran, owner of Chicago-based matchmaking company Stef and the City, tells Bustle. "If your partner refuses to communicate and discuss the issues that brought you on a break in the first place, that isn't a good sign."
5You Feel You Aren't Being Heard
In a healthy relationship (even while on a break) both partners should feel able to express their feelings, opinions, and desires without fear of judgment. If you reach out to your partner to express a concern or ask for something you need in the relationship, only to be met with indifference (or worse, silence), that might mean it's not the right relationship for you long-term.
"Really think through the issues you are having: are they workable issues, or are they very real issues that make the relationship more 'work' than fun?" Safran asks. "Relationships require tune-ups from time to time. If you are with someone who won't deal with issues now, you need to decide if this is the right relationship for you to be in."
Taking a break from your relationship can be a great way to give both partners some much-needed time to grow as individuals before rejoining forces as a couple. There's no shame in admitting that things need work; in fact, it's much healthier to be upfront about what is and is not working in your relationship, and to attempt to work through those issues together. Although not every couple can survive a break, as long as you both genuinely want to make things work and can openly communicate during the break, there's no reason that you shouldn't have a happily ever after.