What To Consider Before You Take A Break In Your Relationship

Sometimes the most loving and supportive relationships require a break. Whether it's because it's moving too fast and needs to cool off before jumping to the next step or you both need to recenter yourselves for any number of reasons, a break can actually be a good thing and not a sign of the end.


"So many couples think a healthy relationship means being together all the time, but that's not true," clinical psychologist Ann Rosen Spector, Ph.D., tells Women's Health, citing that a break can be "healing" because it's "relationship renovation."

If you renovate your home from time to time to give it a new and updated look that's a better fit, renovating your relationship so it works more seamlessly can be a good idea too. Although research has found that on-again/off-again relationships are more likely to experience negatives than those who stay together, the difference with taking a break is that you're not playing the yo-yo game. You're sitting down and making a conscious choice to revamp things in your relationship.


But before you take that break, there are some things you want to consider first.

Decide why you need a break

While there could be more than one reason why you and your partner feel your relationship needs a break, it's important to evaluate each and every one of those. Are you hoping to break unhealthy patterns that you two have fallen into over the last several months or years? Just because your relationship might not be toxic as a whole, that doesn't mean it's completely void of toxic behavior and patterns that need to be stopped before they get worse (via Mind Body Green). Or maybe you need a break because you both want to turn your energy toward your careers or education. No matter the reason, if you both feel that a break is necessary, it's important to be on the same page as to why.


"[A relationship break is] unhealthy when one of the partners wants to actually terminate the relationship but doesn't have the courage to break up, so they opt for 'taking a break' and offer false promises like 'We'll get back together,'" professor of sexual communication Tara Suwinyattichaiporn, Ph.D., tells Cosmopolitan.

If you value your relationship and respect your partner, it's essential that you're honest with each other.

Talk about what the break could mean

Yes, a break could lead to a breakup, but it doesn't necessarily have to if you're clear with each other about what the break means and what you both plan to do during that time. You simply can't take a break and then come back together without having done some work while you were apart.


"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," licensed psychotherapist and dating coach Pella Weisman tells Bustle.

If you were able to pinpoint the why for the break, then you should, ideally, decide what you plan to do with this break. Self-reflection, for example, is a good place to start. "When you're in a relationship, it may be difficult to see things objectively," Chicago-based licensed marriage and family therapist Anita Chlipala, LMFT, tells Prevention. Without each other around, you can take time to reflect on all the components in your life. You can appreciate things differently, which can lead to a whole new way of seeing yourself, your partner, and your relationship. This is what your break could mean, so harness that energy and go with it.


Set some hard rules

Now comes the Ross and Rachel reference you've been waiting for: "We were on a break!" If you find these words grating to the point where you never want to hear them in real life or, even worse, shout them at your partner, then you better come up with some hard, set-in-stone rules before you take your relationship break.


As Berit Brogaard, D.M.Sci., Ph.D., writes for Psychology Today, the rules you have already established for your relationship shouldn't change. You're still in your relationship, you're just on a break. So, if your relationship is monogamous, this isn't your chance to have a Ross-type of slip-up — unless this is something you decide together might be okay while you're on the break.

Granted, if your relationship is open or you're polyamorous, then sex outside the main relationship is likely to be fine, but ultimately, the parameters of the relationship shouldn't change.

Consider not telling anyone

You know what's not fun? Having your friends and family judge you for your relationship choices. So, why tell them about your break?

"[Set] boundaries around what you're telling your friends and family about this break so that everyone is on the same page and there's no negative gossiping and rumors," professor of sexual communication Tara Suwinyattichaiporn, Ph.D., tells Cosmopolitan.


Considering how often our friends and family don't always like our partners — even if they won't dare say it to our faces — it really is best to keep the break to yourselves. No one needs to hear "I told you so" or "you'll totally break up after this break." It's so easy for people to tell us what they really think when we've broken up with someone because only then do they really just let it all out (via Repeller). So don't assume that it will be any different if you tell them you're on a break. The last thing you want is tension in your inner circle when your break is over.

Use the time apart wisely

So, you've decided you're going to take a break, you've laid down the ground rules, but now what? "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" as Mary Oliver asked in her poem "The Summer Day." Your time is now completely your own, so don't waste it. You and your partner took a break for a reason, so don't let the opportunity to work on yourself pass you by.


"I've found with relationships that timing can be everything," founder of The Sex Ed Liz Goldwyn tells Refinery 29. "It is not the end of the world to come apart to focus on yourself, your needs, and your evolution while letting your partner do the same. You may find yourselves closer than before, or come to a clarity you wouldn't have been able to if you didn't have space to breathe — remember that what keeps a flame burning is oxygen."

If done properly, a break can breathe new life into a relationship that feels like it's in a rut or needs a new direction. Sometimes relationships worth fighting for need a bit of space before they can fully flourish. Just look at Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck and what that years-long break did for them. You could be J.Lo, but you just don't know it yet.