When a relationship is blossoming, it feels as though nothing can go wrong. Forever and ever doesn’t seem too distant a dream. But as reality hits you like a truck, you realize holding a relationship together isn’t a cakewalk, especially if the bickering never stops. But when the arguments seem never-ending, taking a break in a relationship may start to seem like a good idea.
If you’re ignoring the glaring reasons to take a break in a relationship, you’re basically writing its obituary. No, your problems won’t magically go away after a break but it’ll do you some good to step away from a stressful situation for a while. But how do you decide which problems are big enough to warrant taking a break from a relationship for your mental health? And how long should a break in a relationship last?
We’re here to address these questions for you with insights from emotional wellness and mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada (certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney), who specializes in counseling for extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief, and loss, to name a few.
What Is Meant By Taking A Break In A Relationship?
Taking a break in a relationship does not mean breaking up. It means the two of you are simply taking a break from each other for however long you think you need to. A break allows you to take a step back and think about the problems in your relationship. You can take your time and decide what you want to do about them.
The reasons to take a break in a relationship can vary from couple to couple. For some, a lack of trust and constant suspicion can be a reason to hit the pause button on their relationship. For others, it can be incessant fighting and bickering. There are no right or wrong reasons here. Even if you’ve been mulling over “Is taking a break from the relationship to work on myself a good idea?”, then know that too is just as valid a reason as any.
However, to make sure that this decision works in your favor and not make a bad situation worse, you and your partner must have absolute clarity on what this break means for your relationship. “Taking a break essentially means taking some time off from the relationship. It may or may not involve physical separation. This time is necessary to recoup from a bad phase or incident in any relationship,” explains Pooja.
If you don’t want to end up like Ross and Rachel, it’s equally important to define taking a break in relationship rules. You’ll hear all sorts of advice on how to go about taking a break in a relationship but the only real answer is going to come from communicating with your partner. Improving communication in a relationship will do half the work for you.
If you do decide to send a taking a break in a relationship message to your partner, make sure you mean it. Once it’s out in the air, it’ll cast considerable doubts over your relationship that you need to address immediately. Plus you don’t get many shots at this. Taking multiple breaks in a relationship can ruin the foundation of trust between you and your partner, and may turn it into a toxic on-again-off-again dynamic.
Figure out what your partner wants, how long they want to step away for, and even why you two think you need a break in the first place. Taking a break in a relationship with no contact is often the way people do it, but you should establish if you two want to remain in contact or not.
When taking a break in a relationship, you shouldn’t expect your problems to disappear when you get back together. Your relationship problems are here to stay unless you work through them. The benefits of taking a break in a relationship range from having a better frame of mind to deal with your issues to developing a completely new outlook toward them.
Related Reading: Millennials – Top 6 Relationship Problems And Solutions
Are there any alternatives to taking a break in a relationship?
According to a study, 6% – 18% of US couples who are still married have separated at some point in their marriage. What makes taking a break in a relationship good? It offers you the time and space to reflect on your issues from a distance and gives you a fresh perspective.
Two people should consider taking a break when they’re stuck in a Catch-22 situation where they don’t know how to navigate through their issues nor do they want to break it off. Although taking a break doesn’t entitle you to storm out and sleep with different people within the next two hours, the possibility of you or your partner losing interest in the relationship or getting involved with someone else cannot be ruled out.
If that thought scares you, perhaps you may want to explore the alternatives to taking a break in a relationship. That involves working on your relationship by staying and facing the reality. Here are some ways you can do that:
- Set some healthy relationship boundaries and stick to them. Respect your partner’s personal space
- Have a heart-to-heart with your partner. Lay all your issues out on the table. Talk about it in a rational way without losing your cool
- Self-reflection is important. Think about how you are contributing to your relationship problems and where you can take responsibility for your actions
- Focus on couples activities. Try to prioritize spending some quality time with your partner. In turn, it will help you rebuild the foundation of your relationship
- If at all, things are not working out as you imagined, consider breaking up
Is taking a break from A relationship to work on myself a good idea?
“I’ve been thinking of taking a break from a relationship to work on myself. Is it a good idea?” This question can give many a sleepless night. While it is natural to feel burdened by guilt and self-doubt when you want to put a relationship on hold to focus on yourself, the effectiveness of this move is undeniable.
There are times in life when it becomes a necessity to recognize who you are outside of a relationship. If you too are scared to be alone and briskly jump from one relationship to another, it hardly gives you any time to heal or to acknowledge your relationship insecurities. Before you lose the ‘me’ and entirely become an ‘us’, one last attempt to protect your individuality might be a good idea.
If that means taking a few months off and going backpacking in western Europe or joining art school to explore a passion you have been fostering for so long, so be it. In case you are wondering, “I am thinking of taking a break from my relationship to work on myself but I am not sure how to go about it”, here are a few suggestions on how to plan and execute this time apart:
- Set a timeline for how long this ‘break’ is going to last
- Clarify your terms with your partner – will you still stay committed to one another during the break?
- What about communication? Will you keep in touch over the phone or will you follow the no-contact rule rather religiously?
- Be honest with yourself. Are you 100% sure of this idea? Which aspects of your life are you willing to work on?
9 Signs You Need To Take A Break In Your Relationship
From how long should a break in a relationship last to how to execute taking a break in a relationship when you live together, there can be myriad little details to iron out when you’re at the cusp of such an important – and ominous – decision. However, before getting into the details, the first order of business should be to ascertain whether your circumstances warrant taking a break.
Don’t go about saying you want a break if your partner watches your favorite show without you. However, if you see serious signs you need to take a break in a relationship, it may be time to stop looking the other way. And what are those signs? So, keep reading to find out when taking a break in a relationship is a good idea:
1. A fight is always on the horizon
Doesn’t matter what you say, a fight always seems to emerge out of thin air. You’re left wondering what you even did wrong, but by that time, it’ll be too late. The screaming match has already begun. You shouldn’t feel like you’re always treading on thin ice or that you have to think twice before saying anything. You two have no idea how to reconnect after a fight, so you hope the silent treatment will do the trick.
It may seem like you can recall way more bad memories of your relationship than good ones. When you reach that stage, it’s important to take a break in a relationship for mental health. The relationship won’t mean a thing if, in the process of saving it, you lose your peace of mind.
2. If you two are on-again, off-again
When your friends reply with an “again?!!” to the news of you breaking up with your partner, you know you don’t really have the strongest relationship. The fights are always imminent, and when a few of them go especially bad, you know you’re blocking each other on social media. Only to send each other a follow request again after a week since you’ve convinced yourself you can’t live without your partner.
Being caught in that vicious cycle of an on-again-off-again relationship will leave you mentally exhausted. Taking a step back and figuring out what you want before you’re ‘on again’ will help your relationship and your mental health. The benefits of taking a break in a relationship far outweigh the risks in such volatile dynamics.
“When there is an established pattern of intense intimacy, conflict, break away, and then reconciliation, one needs to rethink the relationship and why it is falling into this toxic pattern. Taking a break at this juncture can offer each partner time and space to rework priorities and probably narrow down underlying areas of conflict and find their possible resolutions,” says Pooja.
3. You can’t envision a ‘happily ever after’ with your partner
One of the most basic rules for taking a break in a relationship is re-shifting focus on your own needs. If you have a niggling feeling that something is amiss in your relationship or can’t see a real future with the way things currently are in your relationship, you should realize there’s something considerably wrong. A realization like that can eat away at you. Eventually, you’ll need to communicate your thoughts with your partner.
Sexual tension can sometimes keep people in toxic relationships (i.e karmic relationships), despite knowing there’s no real future there. They’ll be willing to overlook the bad things just because the good things feel like they’re worth the pain. But when you realize you can’t go on like this, you know you need to take a break.
4. You just can’t look past that dealbreaker
A few months into your relationship, you realized your partner’s political views could not be further away from yours. Or maybe you found out they’re into a few things you just can’t look past. Perhaps there’s a fight that keeps recurring because of it, and you two can’t seem to find a solution.
You may even force yourself to turn a blind eye to it, but it always comes back to instigate another fight that you know will not end well. It’s time you two take a step back and really think about what you want to do next. Who knows it might actually strengthen your bond and you come back unscathed as one of the relationship break success stories.
“This can be hugely personal for each. For instance, some might consider flirting with others a strict no-no when committed, while there can be others who are okay with even sexting with others as long as it doesn’t actually get physical. Whatever is the threshold or rules set by both partners in a relationship, if they are being overstepped to such an extent that you can’t accept it at all, it would be a great indicator for taking some time off each other for introspection and reconciliation if any,” says Pooja.
Related Reading: 12 Ways To Fix A Toxic Relationship
5. A few days without communication seem to sail by
When is taking a break in a relationship good? When not talking to your partner feels easier than trying to get through to them. Right after your inevitable ugly fights, you two will most probably give each other the silent treatment. If the days when you’re not talking to each other feel a lot better than when you do, it’s as clear a sign as any that a break will do you good.
If every message your partner sends you makes you want to lock your phone again and keep it away, you know things aren’t going too well. You won’t look forward to solving any fights and you might even have thought about breaking up a lot of times. One of the benefits of taking a break in a relationship that has turned so unpleasant that your partner’s presence begins to put you off is that it gives you the space and time to think about what it is that you really want.
Do you feel that the relationship is doing you more harm than good? Is there more angst than joy in your bond? If so, is it even worth fighting for? Taking a break will help you address these – or similar – questions pragmatically, and get a fresh perspective on your relationship.
6. The expectations don’t match
“Good relationships are not just about looking at each other lovingly but looking together at the same goals in the same direction. If this is missing, there will be an obvious mismatch of expectations from self, from the partner, and the relationship, leading to conflicts. Partners need to step away for a bit to understand this bitterness and see this situation under a microscope individually,” says Pooja.
Perhaps, you were looking for something casual, but then, your partner shows up with a dozen roses, along with tickets to a concert that is 6 months away. Forget taking a break, you’d want to run away when that happens. An expectation mismatch doesn’t have to be that extreme.
One person could think you’ll be talking over the phone all the time but the other presumes a ‘textlationship’ will do just fine. Take a step back to figure out this mismatch of expectations in your relationship. It will probably be a good idea to directly communicate the kind of involvement you are looking for right now with your partner rather than taking multiple breaks in a relationship.
7. If jealousy, insecurity, trust issues get too much to handle
Considering taking a break in a relationship when you live together can be considered a big deal. After all, you will be disrupting your lives and stepping out of your comfort zone. Often, couples let issues fester because moving away and being on their own feels far more daunting.
However, if issues such as jealousy, insecurity, and lack of trust have grown to an extent that you feel overwhelmed all the time, then taking a break in a relationship is valid, irrespective of how long you’ve been together or how serious you’re about each other. Constantly being questioned about what you’re doing, where you’re going, and who you’re going with will leave you suffocated.
When partners project their insecurities on the person they’re with, it will undoubtedly cause problems. Overcoming insecurity in a relationship isn’t impossible, but it definitely requires work. If it starts to feel like you’re sacrificing your mental health to stay in your relationship with a controlling partner, you need to immediately figure out what it is you want next.
8. You feel like you’re being wronged
A common trait of a toxic relationship is that one partner has no regard for what the other one has to say. If that’s the case, you’ll start feeling like your opinion doesn’t matter and what you want or expect is often overlooked. It can feel belittling and will simply leave you unhappy.
Relationships are meant to make you happier and enrich your life. If yours fails to meet this simple criterion, you should consider taking a break in a relationship. Don’t drag your feet on this decision. Sometimes, you’ve got to put yourself first, and feeling unvalued in your relationship is a good reason to do so.
Don’t feel guilty about taking a break from a relationship for your mental health. Have a candid conversation with your partner, let them know how you feel without leveling any accusations, and ask for some time off. Use this time to assess whether you want to give the relationship another chance or turn this break into a breakup.
Related Reading: Is Your Jealous Boyfriend Being Possessive And Controlling?
9. You lie to avoid fights
Or, you just don’t say certain things because you know it will most definitely result in a fight. You might lie about who you’re spending time with even if you’re doing nothing wrong. “This is indicative of an abusive or unhealthy relationship. If a person can’t be honest with their partner, it means that they fear them, have lost trust in them, or have simply fallen out of love with them. In all three cases, taking a break can give both the partners time and space to rethink what went wrong and rectify it,” says Pooja.
Everyone lies about a few things in a relationship like if they watched an extra episode of a show you were watching together, or if they’ve ever booty-called an ex. But in healthy relationships, you should be able to tell your partner anything without being scared of the response. Lying in a relationship to make life easier for both of you will only result in worse problems down the line.
- Taking a break in a relationship means you are temporarily staying away from each other to focus on yourself or to get a fresh perspective on your relationship problems
- If you are always fighting and stuck in an on-again-off-again circle, taking a break might be a good idea
- Consider a break if you don’t see a future with your partner or you both manage fine without talking to each other for days on end
- If you both deliberately sidestep your problems, taking a step back to reflect on the same can be helpful
- Set clear boundaries and strict terms and conditions before getting into this arrangement
Taking a break in a relationship should not be seen as the end of the road. If the rules for taking a break in a relationship have been well-defined and both partners are on the same page about what this temporary pause means, it can be a good way to reboot a connection and start afresh.
Of course, you have to be willing to put in the necessary work to work through your individual issues during this time, introspect and decide what you want from the relationship. In some cases, a break may help two partners see that they’re better off apart than together. In this case, even though the outcome may not be a happily-ever-after, the break will still have served its purpose.
When you follow the taking a break in relationship rules and effectively utilize your break, they can work. Stepping away from a relationship that’s harming you can give you peace of mind and evaluate what would make you happier. Even when you decide in your break that your relationship shouldn’t continue, the break can still be considered successful since it helped you decide how you can be happier.
Breaks in relationships usually last anywhere between a week or a month and can even extend if both partners feel it’s necessary. However, if your break lasts an unusually long amount of time like 3-4 months, it’s more likely that’s a break-up than a break. It’s important to establish how long you two want the break to last. Extending the break because you need more time to assess things is completely normal as well.
Yes, couples can get back together after a break, when a break is done right. A break provides couples time to think about how to tackle the problems they’re facing. So, some couples may even end up forming stronger bonds than they previously had. If you decide to work on the relationship after a break, you’ll be able to do so better since now you have a better perspective on what the problems are and how to find a common ground.