Taking A Break In A Relationship: 19 No Bullsh*t Tips!

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Sometimes, we all just need a little time and space, but when it comes to relationship breaks, things are never that straightforward.

There are all kinds of reasons why two people who love each other might decide they need a break from their relationship, and a break isn’t always just a precursor to a full-on breakup.

If you’re considering taking a break in your relationship, here are some tips to make sure you get the most out of it.

1. Decide whether you need a break or to break up.

There’s a common perception that taking a break is just the first step on the road to breaking up.

Whilst that’s definitely not always true, the fact that some people do use a break as a kind of stepping stone toward a proper breakup gives breaks a bad reputation.

Plenty of people simply don’t believe that breaks can ever lead to a stronger and healthier relationship.

What’s more, we kid ourselves that our partner will suffer less when we actually end the relationship if a break has given them a chance to get used to the idea.

In reality, that’s just a fantasy that we indulge in to help with the guilt.

If you know deep down that you really want to break up, don’t bother suggesting a break. It’s just a stay of execution.

Your partner is likely to spend the break agonizing over your decision, whilst you know deep down that it’s already a foregone conclusion.

Difficult as it might be, and as much as you might want to just stick your head in the sand, if you want to end things… just do it.

The sooner it’s over, the sooner you can both get on with your lives and be happy again. 

2. Figure out the reasons for taking a break in your relationship.

It’s important to be completely honest with yourself about why you’re taking this break from your relationship. You won’t be able to resolve anything unless you can identify the root of the problem.

Is it a communication problem? Have you got money worries? Is there some kind of family trauma affecting you? Do you feel like the relationship is holding you back from other goals, like travelling or moving for a job?

If you can figure out what your exact reasons are for taking a break, it will be easier for you to explain how you’re feeling to your partner.

The clearer you can communicate your reasons, the more likely the relationship is to survive the break, if that’s what you decide you want when you’ve had time for yourself.

Just be sure that your reasons are reasonable

Perhaps you want to take a break to show your partner that if they don’t make changes to their behavior then things will end.

But consider whether you’ve truly been honest with them and given them a chance to mend their ways before you suggest something as potentially radical as a break.

Or maybe you want to take a break because there are some big things in life that you and your partner don’t agree on, like kids or marriage.

If you know deep down that neither of you will change your minds given time, it might be a breakup you need to consider, not a break.

As well as why, ask yourself “why now?”

Why do you want space from your partner at this moment?

What’s changed?

Taking a break in a relationship isn’t something you should decide upon in the heat of the moment after an argument. Take some time to cool down. You don’t want to regret speaking too soon.

3. Be willing to lose them.

Breaks are a risky business. Even if you have some time to reflect and decide that you really want to give your relationship another go, your partner might not feel the same way, even if they didn’t want to take a break to begin with.

With a break, there are no guarantees. If you can’t face the idea of life without your partner, you might want to avoid a break, instead working hard to fix your relationship in other ways, such as through counselling.

Listen to your gut, but don’t rush it into a decision. Give it a little time, and it will tell you whether or not you truly want this person in your life.

How many of the reasons you come up with to stay with this person are truly reasons, rather than justifications, like how tricky a breakup would be logistically?

4. Decide upon ground rules and how long will it last.

If you’re going to take a break from your relationship, it should be made clear whether or not seeing other people during the time you’re apart is on the table.

Everyone’s idea of what’s acceptable when they’re on a break is different (just look at Ross and Rachel), so it’s vital that you have that awkward conversation and figure out whether seeing other people during your time apart would be a deal breaker if you then decided to give it another go.

If you decide to open up the relationship, you’ll need to accept that there’s a possibility that either they or you could meet someone else during your time apart.

Even if they don’t meet anyone they fall for, you’d have to be okay with the idea of getting back together knowing they’ve had other partners.

Things such as how long the break will last also need to be made clear. Some people might be comfortable leaving it open-ended, but most prefer to have a set date on which you’ll reassess the situation, so you don’t end up living in limbo without knowing when it’s over.

If it’s longer than a few months, you should probably face facts: it’s a breakup, not a break. A few weeks or a couple of months with your thoughts should be enough for you to figure out where your head is at.

If you decide before the agreed time is up that you really want to be with them, don’t go running back immediately, as that wouldn’t be fair on them. Just because you’ve made your decision, doesn’t mean they don’t need more time alone.

5. Don’t talk too much with your partner during the break.

It’s up to you and your partner whether you want to keep in touch during the break or cut-off contact. But we recommend limiting communication.

If you are going to constantly get in touch during the break, it’s not really time away from each other. To really get some space from each other, you need to take a break from communicating too.

By all means, get in touch whenever the circumstances call for it. If there’s an emergency or something that you must discuss with each other, talk. But, communicate only when you truly must.

Don’t talk as much as you normally would, or you won’t feel like you’re getting time away from your partner. As long as you can trust each other and respect the terms you came up with, there’s no need to keep each other updated about your days.

Use this opportunity for what it is meant – experiencing a life away from your partner. Doing so will help you reflect on your feelings and gain the clarity that you need to decide how to proceed.

6. Discuss the practicalities of a break.

If you’re not yet living with your partner, it’s fairly easy to take a break from a practical standpoint.

But what if your relationship has gone further than that? What if you rent a place together or even jointly own somewhere? Who is going to be the one to move out and where will they live?

Will the person who moves out still pay for the place you currently share?

What about the dog? Or the cat? Or even the kids? If you have children together, how are you going to explain it to them and how will it work in terms of seeing them?

The more intertwined your lives are, the more you’re going to have to think about how a break is actually going to work.

7. Decide how you are going to spend your time during the break.

Don’t spend the time you’re apart from your partner moping around at home, indulging your misery in large tubs of ice cream.

Ice cream has its place, but you need to make the most of this time to do things for yourself and to figure out whether you really miss your partner’s presence in your life.

Focus on you. Go out with your friends. Take a spontaneous holiday. Try that evening class you’ve been meaning to go to for as long as you can remember.

Rediscover who you are as a person, independently of your partner. Remind yourself that, wonderful as they might be, they should never be your sole source of happiness.

It’s easier said than done, but be honest with yourself about your feelings, however uncomfortable they might make you feel. Then, when the time comes for you both to reassess things, be honest with your partner.

8. Be honest with each other.

Taking a break is not something you suggest to your partner in the heat of the moment when you’re angry at them. It’s something that you need to calmly discuss.

Be honest with each other about why you need a break and talk about your wants and needs.

You should also be honest about what you are going to do during the break and what you expect to happen after it. Don’t use the break as an excuse to sleep with other people without telling your partner about it. As already mentioned, if you’re going to see other people, it’s something that you should both agree on.

Before going on a break, communicate about your problems and your intentions. Work out the details and stay fair to each other. If one of you is allowed to do something, the other one is too.

9. Make yourself happy while on a break.

Focus on yourself during the break. What are your wants and needs? How can you make yourself happy? As long as it doesn’t harm your partner (or anyone else), go after what you want.

Spend some time on self-improvement and become the person that you want to be. Set your goals and chase after your dreams until they’re your reality.

With your partner away from you, you’re going to have a lot of free time on your hands. Spend some of it on your hobbies and hang out with your friends. However, don’t forget to invest a bit of time into a better future.

If you can’t make yourself happy right now, think about what you could do now to get there eventually. When you’re a happier person with a more fulfilling life, you’ll be a better partner, whether it’s to your current partner or someone else in the future.

Find what you enjoy doing and do it as often as possible. Just because your relationship is on a break doesn’t mean that your life is.

Instead of obsessing over the relationship, focus on creating the life that you want to live. You shouldn’t rely on your partner for your happiness anyway. Become more independent, positive, and confident, and invest time into becoming who you want to be.

10. Spend a lot of alone time during the break.

It’s fine to go out and spend time with friends. However, during the break, you should spend more time alone than with anyone else.

After a breakup, it’s normal to heal by talking things out with your friends, meeting new people, going out, and even dating. But you did not break up with your partner; you’re just on a break. This means that you should spend some time alone with your thoughts to figure out what you want.

Reflect on what’s happening in your relationship and think about which outcome you’re hoping for. You’re spending time away from your partner so that you can come back to them with a decision. So, make sure to think about what that decision is going to be.

This is not something that you can toss a coin to decide. So, take time and use this space to make up your mind about your relationship. Distance and time often bring clarity, so dedicate enough time to self-reflection.

11. Stick to the boundaries that you’ve agreed on.

If you have properly discussed the break, you’ve set some ground rules. So, make sure to respect them throughout the break.

If you want to give your relationship a chance, you must trust each other. And you can’t do this if you disrespect the boundaries that you’ve agreed upon.

Are you still in a relationship even though you are on a break, or do you consider yourself single? Are you still texting each other, or have you decided not to get in touch unless necessary? These are just some of the boundaries that you have probably discussed.

You can renegotiate and change the terms. If your boundaries are going to change, it should be a mutual decision that both of you are fine with.

Boundaries are different for different couples. Whatever both of you are okay with should be fine with the rest of the world. But, you need to make sure that you’re always on the same page throughout all this.

Don’t change the terms of the deal without consulting your partner. If you change your mind about something, get in touch with them to discuss it. Stay respectful and transparent if you want there to be a chance of reconciling after the break.

12. Don’t worry about the relationship during the break.

While you should think about the relationship during the break, you shouldn’t worry about it. Meaning, don’t stress about what’s going to happen in the end. As long as you’ve discussed everything and you’re on the same page, you did all you could.

A break can end in reconciliation or in a breakup. To prevent a breakup, think about things ahead of time and try to be realistic.

For instance, could you take your partner back after they date other people if you’re both allowed to do that? Are you using the break to postpone a breakup, which is what you really want?

When setting ground rules for the break, consider what kind of consequences they could have on your relationship. Are they there to help you reconcile, or are they likely to make you break up?

It’s true, there’s a lot to worry about, but worry before going on a break. Once you’re away from each other, you just need to stick to what you’ve agreed on without worrying too much about it.

As long as you’ve thought it through and talked it out, do what’s right for you and don’t stress about the outcome.

Some relationships end after a break, but this depends only on you and your partner. So, all that you can do is respect the decisions that you’ve made and hope for the best.

13. Be optimistic.

Do make sure that you hope for the best. A break can be good for your relationship. Maybe your partner wanted it more than you did, but it doesn’t mean that they want out.

Think of it this way: your relationship isn’t working the way things are now. So, you’re taking some time and space to see if you can make it work afterward.

A breakup is not the goal of a break. When people want to break up, they simply end the relationship.

You’re just putting a pause on things because you don’t want to break up, but you don’t want things to be the way they are either.

The break might make you miss each other, evoke lost feelings, or turn you into the people that you want to be. Yes, it can end in a breakup too, but that doesn’t have to happen. Again, it all depends on the two of you.

People sometimes need to get out of a certain situation to be able to look at it clearly and assess whether it’s right for them. When you’re away from each other, you won’t influence each other as much as you do now. So, you’ll both be able to have a clearer picture of what you want in your life.

Stay optimistic because you might want each other even more than you did before.

14. Don’t expect miracles.

While you should be optimistic and consider the benefits of the break, you shouldn’t expect it to perform miracles.

A break is not a cure that will solve all your relationship problems. If there are unresolved issues, they are probably still going to be there when you come back.

However, you might return with the mindset and willpower it takes to finally tackle and resolve them.

Taking some time away from each other on its own isn’t going to bring you back together though. It’s just a step back so that you could see whether you can move forward.

So, while you should hope for the best outcome, you shouldn’t delude yourself into thinking that everything’s just fine and dandy.

If things were great, you wouldn’t be making the break in the first place. Something’s off, and you need to figure out whether you could deal with it or not.

You are supposed to gain clarity during the break, but this doesn’t always happen. You might return just as confused as you were before it.

Don’t expect enlightenment or a magical cure. Miracles do happen, but they’re the exception, not the rule.

15. Don’t hook up with other people while on a break.

Okay, so we might have already said that it’s up to you and your partner to decide whether you’re going to see other people during the break.

However, it is not advisable to do this, at least not right away.

A break does not give you permission to date other people, and it shouldn’t be used for that. If you want to be in an open relationship, that’s perfectly fine, but it’s an entirely separate subject from taking a break.

You might want to stay exclusive until you have made up your mind about the relationship. After the break, you can decide to end things or to be in an open relationship. But, don’t use this short amount of time to hook up with someone as soon as possible.

You should be using this time to reflect on your feelings and reassess your wants and needs.

People can be in happy, healthy relationships where they have permission to date other people. Some couples make it work. But, it is not for everyone. Usually, it’s not that easy to welcome someone back after they’ve been in someone else’s arms, let alone their bed.

It’s hard, if not impossible, to separate feelings from sex. Usually, sex comes with a lot of confusing emotions that make things complicated. So, it’s advised to stay faithful to each other during the break.

If you want to date other people, that’s okay. Use the break to think about whether you want an open relationship or to end things and freely see other people. Anything in between is likely to just cause problems.

16. Consider your feelings during the break.

The most important part of all this is figuring out how you feel during the break.

Do you miss your partner? Were you happier with them? Can you imagine a future without them? Are you with them just so that you wouldn’t be alone?

These are just some of the big questions that you need to ask yourself.

Being on a break gives you a chance to see how you would do without your partner. If you miss them terribly, the answer to your problem should be clear.

But what if you find that you’re happier without them? Could you be just as happy with them, or it’s time to reconsider getting back together?

How does the idea of getting back together make you feel after you’ve had some time away from your partner? Do you look forward or dread being in a relationship again?

If you want to give your relationship another chance, think about how you could create a relationship that would make you happy.

17. Trust each other during the break.

A break is likely to lead to a breakup if you can’t trust each other. There’s always a danger of one of you falling for someone else. If you won’t keep in touch, you aren’t going to know what your partner is doing. You’ll just have to trust them to respect the ground rules that you’ve agreed on.

If you’ve been honest with each other throughout this, you should be able to trust each other.

Some couples end up breaking up just because of the lack of trust. They obsess over what each other is doing during the break to the point that they picture the worst-case scenarios.

Don’t do this. Give each other the freedom that you need, just make sure that you respect the boundaries that you’ve agreed on.

As already mentioned, get in touch if something changes. If you want to change the rules or you’re not happy with the break anymore, talk about it.

Otherwise, just make sure that you can trust each other enough not to let this experience be too stressful for both of you.

18. Talk about how you are going to proceed once the break ends.

A break can’t last forever. If you’ve agreed on the date it will end, really end it on that date. Once you’ve both had some time to think things through, your relationship goals should be clearer.

Are you going to end your relationship or work on improving it? By the time the break ends, you should both have an honest answer to that question.

Talk openly and honestly about your wants and needs. Open up about the way you’ve been feeling during the break.

Keep in mind that you and your partner might not come to the same conclusion. While one of you wants to give the relationship another chance, the other one could want to end things.

And if your partner does want to end the relationship, respect their decision. They already gave your relationship a chance by going on a break instead of ending it. Perhaps they weren’t sure before. If they now are, accept it and let them go.

19. Consider professional help.

If you and your partner want to work on the relationship, you could seek the help of a therapist. Couples counseling tends to be more effective than taking a break when it comes to figuring out where your hearts are at and how you see the relationship.

So before you even think about a temporary separation, consider whether you are in a position to give couples counseling a try.

Too many couples try to muddle through and find solutions to their problems by themselves, and often they never really manage to. They either live with resentment or they split up.

But a professional has the training and expertise to help you reach a conclusion – hopefully a positive one – faster than anything else can.

If you think your relationship deserves to have that chance, try the online relationship counseling available at Relationship Hero. Here, you’ll be able to speak to an expert via phone, video, or instant message, from wherever you are in the world.

Click here to speak to an expert right now or to learn more about the service Relationship Hero offer.

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About Author

Katie is a writer and translator with a focus on travel, self-care and sustainability. She's based between a cave house in Granada, Spain, and the coast of beautiful Cornwall, England. She spends her free time hiking, exploring, eating vegan tapas and volunteering for a local dog shelter.