There comes a point in some relationships when you reach an impasse. You can’t move forward together, no matter how much you love each other. If you don’t want to break it off completely, you could take a relationship break instead. It is not always easy to know when to end a relationship and how to handle it.
Taking a Relationship Break
“We’re on a break,” say many on-again, off-again couples who just can’t seem to get their act together—literally. Staying happily committed is a moving target for some. Some couples continue to try no matter how many times they fail. But, can a relationship breakup cause long-term harm to a romantic relationship? Does pressing the pause button to weaken the bond that connects you, or is it possible to bounce back stronger than ever? Here’s what it means to take a break in a relationship, as well as when it works and when it doesn’t.
What does it mean to Take a Break from a Relationship?
The best-case scenario for a relationship break occurs when two committed partners mutually agree to pause their relationship for the benefit of one or both parties. The relationship break could be caused by forced or voluntary geographic distance, temporarily increased responsibilities at work or with a family that would make it difficult to maintain; the normal rhythm of the relationship; or the need for introspection and self-care.
Normally, this type of break does not result in a breakup. Assuming neither partner has inflicted serious emotional harm, the couple can rest on their solid foundation and feel confident that the relationship will resume as soon as reconnection is possible. Couples in situations like this feel secure because their trust is usually intact before the break occurs.
In less ideal situations, such as when partners are at odds with each other, taking a break can resemble an adult “timeout.” Hurt or frustrated partners retreat to their respective corners, hoping to examine their behavior and resolve to make changes to the relationship or simply move on from it. Emotional injuries are likely as a result of betrayal, toxic communication, or inconsistent efforts. These offenses may cause one partner to initiate the time apart against the wishes of the other.
When is a Relationship Break a Good Idea?
Peaks and valleys are common in most long-term relationships. I’d like to highlight two scenarios in which taking a break would be a good idea in order to avoid a breakup:
1. When your partner or the dynamics of your relationship show you that you need to mature.
Timing and maturity are critical factors in the success of some relationships. It is possible to start a relationship with someone who has long-term potential; if only one or both of you could evolve a little more in certain areas. You may feel a strong connection and enjoy spending time together, but some differences can act as roadblocks and cause you to doubt whether the relationship can last.
Significant age gaps, mismatched earning potential, cleaning habits, views on boundaries, and readiness for marriage or children are a few examples. Taking a break from a relationship can give you the time and space you need to assess your true compatibility or ability to compromise. Gaining financial stability, completing a time-consuming work assignment or academic program, or doing individual work in therapy are all reasons you might take a break in the hopes of returning to an even healthier, more satisfying relationship.
2. When your relationship is deteriorating and causing more harm than good.
It’s not uncommon for some couples to try to take a break just before they hit rock bottom. If your strong feelings for each other are consistently overshadowed by communication problems, trust issues, or unmet needs, you or your partner may suggest a timeout. This attempt to save the relationship may be futile if you are unable to successfully address the underlying issues and develop healthy tools for problem resolution.
When it’s not a Good Idea to Take a Break in a Relationship
There are times in a relationship when taking a break is risky. It’s critical to recognize when pressing the pause button may lead to a more serious breakup. These key factors can make taking a break from your relationship riskier:
1. When a relationship’s trust is broken or frail.
When trust is already at an all-time low, it is especially risky to take a break in your relationship. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go ahead with it. If you or your partner has broken the trust in some way, it is worthwhile to investigate the cause of the breach. Taking a break to assess whether the relationship is truly where you want to be before doing any further damage is a risk that may be worthwhile.
2. When either of you is vulnerable emotionally or sexually
Even when trust is intact, the relationship dynamics may cause partners to be more vulnerable to temptation from outside influences. If you try to take a break during a period when your emotional or sexual needs aren’t being met. It may then be more difficult to avoid distractions and concentrate on your current relationship goals.
3. When all you want is a breakup
Some people say they want to take a break when what they really want or need is to break up. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including: Sometimes you’re just afraid of pulling the trigger and really ending things, while other times you know you want to end your relationship but don’t want to feel like the bad guy. It may be tempting to try to ease out of the relationship by staging a break; however, this can exacerbate the pain by preventing your partner from moving on to find a better fit or simply heal more quickly. If you are aware that there is no chance of resuming the relationship after a break, agreeing to take one may make you the bad guy after all.
Rules for Taking a Relationship Break
The most important rules to follow if you’re on the verge of a break are:
1. Clearly define the break’s purpose, expectations, and goals.
Create a unified definition of the break. How long is it going to last? Do you want to be exclusive or date other people? How much, if any, contact should you keep? These and other questions must be addressed before proceeding. Setting clear boundaries and expectations can help to avoid misunderstandings that can harm a relationship.
2. Investigate the source of the break.
Involuntary breaks can occur due to timing and distance, but most breaks are caused by developing concerns and injuries that have occurred along the way. Take the time to understand the dynamics that led to the break and your role in creating them. Consider being honest about where you stand if you are encouraging a break as a way to soften the blow of an impending breakup or to explore a relationship with someone else. Your partner will appreciate you saving them from wasting valuable time in the hope of reconnecting.
3. Put the time to good use by making improvements or deciding it’s time to move on.
You can improve your chances of re-establishing a healthy relationship if you devise some structured methods for dealing with the issues that caused the breakup. Attending therapy alone or with a partner, reading books, watching videos, and listening to podcasts are all ways to learn more about your specific concerns. If there are too many outside influences, taking time away to reconnect with your inner voice, wants, and needs can be therapeutic and beneficial in reaching your relationship goals.
How Long Should a Relationship Break Last?
Relationships can end for as little as a few days or as long as a few months, depending on what you and your partner agree on. Discuss what feels best for you and your partner when deciding how long you should take for the break. You can always agree on a shorter period, set a date to reconnect, and talk about whether one or both of you would like more time. When determining how much time to devote:
- Decide on a time frame that works for both of you.
- Explain your reasoning for a specific amount of time.
We often believe that when we fall in love, the relationship will last forever. We always hope that this is the one, that things will be different this time, that nothing can ever break you up.
Except that those things do happen from time to time, and you do end up breaking up. If we only consider the divorce rate, research indicates that it is around 50%. (although measuring divorce rates is more; complex than comparing marriages to divorces in a single year). Because they are not as closely monitored, rates on casual and common law partnerships that dissolve are much more difficult to obtain.
Relationships break up for a variety of reasons. Conflict is a common reason, but there are other factors that can lead to the end of a relationship with someone you still care about. When this occurs, you must learn how to break up with someone you care about.
What Causes Relationship Breakups and How Do They Happen?
Most of us enter into relationships with the hope of never having to end them. Marriage, in particular, is based on the premise that it will last “until death does us part.”
Personality differences, a lack of time spent together, infidelity, a lack of positive interactions between the couple, low sexual satisfaction, and low overall relationship satisfaction are all common causes of breakups.
Tips on How to Break up Relationship Gracefully
We say “right” way, but there is no “best” or “right” way to break up. Every relationship is unique, as are the people who inhabit them. It is up to you to consider your partner’s personality, needs, and feelings as you read through this article and decide how to end things.
1. Recognize that nothing is ever easy.
Recognize that there is no painless way to end a relationship. We’d all like to be able to end relationships without causing hurt or pain. However, no matter how broken the relationship is, officially ending it will be painful for both parties. You can prepare for the aftermath once you accept that there will be a pain.
2. Do it in person
If you’ve ever been dumped via text or email (or even ghosted), you know how it feels to be treated so casually that the other person didn’t even bother to tell you in person. Why should you do the same to someone else? Your partner is deserving of a face-to-face conversation. Although an intimate setting is preferable, if you are concerned that your partner will react violently, a public place is preferable.
3. Be Honest, But Don’t Go Into Excessive Detail
People, in general, want to know why they are being dumped. While “you’re terrible in bed” or “you lack ambition” may appear to be an honest response, it does not protect your partner’s self-esteem or dignity.
Use a reflexive sentence like “I don’t feel we’re sexually compatible anymore” or “I don’t think our long-term goals align anymore” to express your feelings. Don’t go through the motions of what the other person did wrong or use cliches like “it’s not you, it’s me.”
4. Refrain from giving in to arguments or protests.
If the breakup comes as a surprise to the other person, they may try to argue, protest, or give reasons why you should stay together and try again. Nothing can save or revive a relationship if it is on the verge of ending. Giving up will only postpone the inevitable.
5. Demonstrate Sympathy
Express your sorrow over the breakup and share some fond memories of your time together. Being dumped hurts a lot. You can soften the blow by recalling some of the good times you had together.
“You taught me so much about cooking, and I am a better cook now, thanks to you,” or something along those lines. Despite the end of the relationship, you want the other person to feel like they had a positive impact on your life.
6. Avoid blaming or shaming others.
Avoid making the other person the “bad guy.” Nobody is flawless. You, too, have flaws, and portraying your ex-partner as a villain is counterproductive (aside from obvious instances of violence, but that’s not the type of relationship we’re discussing here). They may have done some bad things, such as cheating, but they are also human. It is preferable to resolve your feelings about what they did (if anything wrong was done) rather than who they are.
7. Allow Yourself Enough Time to Grieve
Even if you are the one who decides to end the relationship, you will experience heartbreak, sadness, and pain. This is one of the most difficult aspects of deciding how to break up with someone you care about. You still care about them, but you need to remind yourself why the relationship isn’t working.
8. Discuss It with Someone
This may seem self-evident, but make sure you do it. Before making a decision in a particularly serious relationship, consult with a trusted friend or family member. Then, take any advice they give you seriously. We are frequently poor observers of our own relationships; however, our friends can see how it affects us better than we can.
9. Recognize that the breakup is a sign of incompatibility, and that you’re both better off as a result.
Something that irritates me is when people who have recently ended a relationship lament that “he/she and I were perfect together.” You obviously weren’t. You’d still be together if that wasn’t the case. For some reason, when it comes to judging someone’s compatibility, people conveniently ignore the fact that they are no longer together. Oh, even though we had been at odds for the previous six months, that first trip we took to Florida was magical. We were perfect for each other.
While we all have perceptual biases that cause us to remember things better than they were! It’s critical to remind oneself that the breakup was for a reason. And it’s not uncommon for that reason to be a very good one. And to those of you who are still clinging to that special someone months or years later: stop. They would have realized by now if they were the right person for you. You’re being delusory. Continue your journey.
10. Make an investment in yourself
The longer you are in a romantic relationship, the more your sense of identity becomes entwined with theirs. Being in such an intimate space with someone for an extended period of time creates a third, overlapping psychological entity that includes both you and them.
And when that entity dies unexpectedly, it not only causes pain but also leaves a temporary void in who you are. This is why investing in rebuilding your personal identity is the best and most important post-breakup advice on the planet. Rekindle your old interests. Concentrate twice as hard on work. Begin that new project that you’ve been putting off for months. Most importantly, spend time with your friends. Your friends will not only reassure and comfort you at the moment, but they will also assist you in reinforcing your own personal identity. Friendship is the most effective antidote to heartbreak.
How to Reconnect Following a Relationship Breakup
Getting back together after a breakup is a very common occurrence: According to one study, nearly half of couples admitted to reuniting with their partner after they had broken up. However, despite the fact that it is done frequently, rebuilding a relationship after a breakup is not an easy task.
These crucial lessons can truly make or break a relationship:
1. Do not put off asking for assistance.
Almost every couple I see tells me that their problems began six months to six years ago. They’re almost ready to walk out the door by the time they see me. It’s similar to going to the dentist for the first time in your life. It’s not impossible to assist in resolving concerns, but it would be much easier if they came in earlier, before all the commotion, when things were smaller, to get assistance.
2. Express your apologies more frequently.
So many of us overlook the importance of a meaningful, heartfelt apology. Maybe we thought we said it, but we didn’t say it in a way that our sweetheart could hear. Saying “I’m sorry” and truly meaning it can be a critical step in long-term relationship maintenance.
3. Being right isn’t as important as being in love.
Many of the couples I see have clashed over an issue and have been in a standoff for far too long. Being right isn’t important in the end. What matters is your vision for the future.
4. Make contact with your emotions.
This strange phenomenon occurs in sessions where one partner simply does not feel heard. Their sweetheart can repeat the exact words they’ve said to them over and over, but they still don’t understand what their partner is saying. The issue isn’t whether or not their sweetheart has heard what they’ve said. The question is whether their sweetheart understands (and empathizes with) how they are feeling. When your partner says they don’t feel heard, try connecting with their emotion rather than their story to help deepen your connection.
5. Master the art of self-validation.
There is often a desperate search in a relationship to find our worth in the eyes of the other person. The truth is that finding worthiness (“I am enough”) on our own is far more valuable than chasing it down in our partner.
6. Keep an open mind about your partner and ask questions before making assumptions.
One of the most difficult challenges in long-term relationships is maintaining our curiosity about our loved ones. We start out strong, asking questions all night and remaining enthralled by each other; but as time passes, we forget to ask. Maintaining your curiosity allows you to continue learning about your partner as they grow.
7. Define your boundaries.
Many of the people I work with struggle with this one. I’m not suggesting you cut your partner out of your life, ignore them, or stonewall in disagreements. However, every relationship necessitates some level of privacy. It is critical that you have your own set of friends, interests, hobbies, emails, therapy appointments, and so on. It is critical that you can disagree respectfully and say no to one another, and that your boundaries are respected.
8. Small loving actions taken on a daily basis add up to far more than large romantic gestures.
Too many people I talk to rely on once-a-year anniversary vacations, once-a-week date nights, Valentine’s Day, or other holidays to express their love. I’m not saying you shouldn’t surprise your partner with an elaborate thoughtful gift or date, but I am saying that small actions—thoughtful text messages, intentional sharing of housework, caring conversations, and meaningful supportive day-to-day actions—will add up and build trust in a more sustainable way over time.
9. Above all, be considerate.
It can be difficult to remember this when things get tough, but above all, be kind to your partner. Instead of becoming vicious, threatening, or spiteful when things become heated, take a 10-minute break from the conversation. Remember that you care about this person, and even if you are hurt, your intention is to remain connected and kind.
Finally, taking a relationship break does not have to mean the end of your relationship. If you can agree on specific goals and expectations ahead of time, you can heal any wounds that have caused damage. Make sure the changes are more than just superficial, or you may find yourself in “timeout.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Do breaks in relationships work?
Many relationships can recover from a break and come back stronger than ever, but this is not always the case. Taking a break will not solve underlying issues in your relationship unless you put in a serious effort during your time apart.
Why taking a break in a relationship is bad?
As appealing as a temporary break in your relationship may appear, it can be the most damaging thing that has ever happened to your bond with your partner. Taking breaks may cause the trust to be harmed, miscommunication to occur, and, in the long run, may result in a permanent breakup.
Is having a break in a relationship healthy?
According to Lisa Brateman, LCSW, a psychotherapist and relationship specialist in New York City, getting some distance can help you gain perspective on your relationship. “Taking a break can promote self-awareness when you’re removed from the toxic situation and what’s not going right,” she says.