How to Take a Break in a Relationship

The do’s and don’t of pressing pause on your relationship
by Paired
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare
how to take a break in a relationship

All relationships have their ups and down — but when is a relationship break a good idea? Sometimes, people just need a little me-time. While nobody can tell you exactly how to take a break in a relationship, there are some guidelines that will protect each side and build trust.

There are arguments for and against taking a full relationship break. Having some time alone might renew your commitment and help resolve conflict in your relationship, but it could also lead to a final breakup.

In an ideal world, a break would help you both see what’s important and focus on building a stronger, long-lasting relationship. Let’s learn more about how to take a break from a relationship.

What does it mean to take a break from a relationship?

A relationship break is a short period of time during which a couple spends time alone, away from each other. 

During that time, each partner should focus on themselves and consider the long term. What does each want from a healthy relationship? There doesn’t have to be one single cause, and there are no defined rules for taking a break.

Do breaks in relationships work?

It depends. A relationship break with set boundaries, an agreed end date, and clear ground rules may give people the time they need to reflect on the relationship. Do they prefer being alone right now, or would they like to commit to their relationship?

Is having a break in a relationship healthy?

A break can help a relationship in the long run, but only if it’s done right. Talk openly about why you’re considering a break in the first place and what you want to get out of it.

Are you just in a rut, or is there a much larger deal-breaker that you need to focus on? Whatever the issue(s), open and honest communication is the only way a break can work. In the end, a well-planned break might save your relationship

“When breaks in relationships are effective it starts from a place of one or both partners honoring they need some time away from the tension to be able to focus on themselves,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a marriage and family therapist and In-House Relationship Expert at Paired.

“When someone can take accountability, that they have some things to work through, perhaps their own behaviors and past trauma need attending to right now, the key is in being honest that you are struggling in some way with the relationship and you need the space to work on the self part first.”

Let’s look at some dos and don’ts for how to take a break in a relationship.

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What to do during a break in a relationship

There are a few things you definitely should do before and during a relationship break.

1. Create clear ground rules

This one is critical. If you’ve spoken openly with your partner and agreed that taking a break is the best course, then create some ground rules. It’s only going to work if both sides are clear on the boundaries (looking at you, Ross and Rachel).

Again, there are no set guidelines here. What works for one couple might not work for another, so talk with your partner about your status during the break. Are you single and free to date other people, or are you still exclusive?

The key here is to avoid confusion over expectations. Try to be crystal clear about what is and isn’t acceptable during your time apart. Without these expectations, you risk misunderstandings, upset, and long-lasting relationship damage.

2. Agree on communication during your break

Next, you should agree on your levels of communication during the break. For many couples, a break means a break from everything, including communication. So, talk about whether or not you want to stay in touch, and how often.

If you’re planning to cut all communication, expect it to be weird at first. After all, this is your partner. You’ll probably be tempted at times to contact them, but stick to the rules you agreed on. You’ll want to use this time to focus on what you do and don’t want in the future.

For other couples, it works to have regular check-ins during the break. You might need space, but you’ll also have small chances to speak about responsibilities, plans, or how life is going. It’s essential that any regular check-ins remain that — try to stick to your original goals.

Finally, agree on how and when you might have communication. Will it be in person? Over the phone? On social media or chat apps? This may be your usual method if you’re in a long-distance relationship.

3. Use the time to learn about yourself

Spending time on your own can teach you a lot about yourself. Yes, you’ll think about your partner and your future relationship. But, in many cases, the goal of a relationship break is for each partner to really think about what they want.

Take this chance for some self-care. Do things that matter to you. Take up a new hobby, catch up with friends, and figure out what you enjoy doing. This is an excellent chance to prioritize your mental health and well-being.

Spending time by yourself will teach you a lot. You might see a new direction in life or you may realize that your partner is exactly what you want.

What not to do during a break in a relationship

1. Don’t take a break if what you really want is a breakup

This point may seem obvious, but it’s extremely important. Before taking a break from a relationship, ask yourself: do I want a break or a breakup?

If deep down you’re really looking to end things, then a relationship break will probably just drag out the process and make it harder for everyone involved. In this case, you might consider an honest conversation about how you’re feeling. You could also try couples’ therapy for relationship advice, or a family therapist if you have children.

2. Don’t take a break without a time frame

It’s also not a good idea to take a break without a clear time frame. Agree on a period of time that works for you both, ideally with a precise end date. You and your partner need to know exactly where you stand and how long the relationship break should last.

Without an end date, you risk delays and anxiety. What if one partner is ready to come back but one needs more time? With an agreed timescale, you’ll both know when the break is over.

3. Don’t break the ground rules

Finally, remember that the rules you agreed on exist for a reason. You don’t want anybody to get hurt. For your relationship to function and thrive after the break, both sides need to respect each other’s wishes during the break.

Think of it as a short timeout. Use that time to step back, relax, and think about what you want from the future.

How to deal with taking a break in a relationship

Taking a break in a relationship won’t magically fix every issue, but it can sometimes be useful to hit the pause button and reflect on the future. The important thing is to make sure it’s what both of you want. No one should feel forced, and nobody should get hurt.

If you decide to go ahead, there are no hard and fast rules on how to deal with a break in a relationship. However, there are some solid guidelines. You’ll want to protect each side and build trust for the future, so agree on a deadline, set ground rules, and respect each other’s clear boundaries. Your relationship could end up stronger than ever before.

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