Why A Relationship Break Will Never Work, According To An Expert

When a relationship gets tough, there are only a few options. You can endure it, work through it, or end it. Facing these three difficult scenarios, some couples choose to postpone their decision by following a fourth path: taking a relationship break.

The idea of a relationship break certainly isn't a new one. Anyone who has a passing familiarity with the TV mega-hit "Friends" probably remembers Ross' iconic exclamation, "We were on a break!" You might also remember that his and Rachel's decision to go on a break ended up causing more problems than it solved. But what about in real life? If you're fighting constantly with your partner or even think you may be falling out of love, is there any value in stepping back and taking an intermission in your relationship?

To find out more, we spoke to licensed clinical marriage and family therapist Jessica Schroeder. As the owner and clinical director at JS Therapy Group, LLC, Schroeder has years of expertise and knowledge when it comes to navigating fraught partnerships. According to her, relationship breaks aren't the answer you've been hoping for.

Relationship breaks just put your problems on hold

When your romantic partnership is going through a rocky period, it can be tempting to plunge your head into the sand like an ostrich and just hope it all works out. And this is basically what happens when you decide to take a relationship break. As Schroeder explains, "Relationship breaks don't address the real problem. They just avoid the problem and maybe buy a little time. The real problem for the couple is not being able to see how they emotionally impact each other."

Taking a break is essentially like pressing pause on an argument. Eventually, if you decide to resume your relationship, you're just unpausing amid the same turbulent issues, and they're bound to come up again sooner or later. So while taking a break may seem like a tempting short-term way to avoid making bigger, harder decisions, it boils down to a form of procrastination that won't do anything to improve your relationship in the long run.

Relationship breaks don't fix negative patterns

Some people may turn to brief separations as a way to get some space, clarity, and perspective on a relationship. But while short breaks may help each partner take some time to calm down, they do nothing to rewrite the negative habits, thoughts, and behaviors that may be plaguing your interpersonal communication.

"Couples get caught up in patterns of negative interactions that they can't get out of because they often don't see how they are impacting their partner," Schroeder reveals. "They only see what is coming at them and then go into protective strategies like becoming critical of their partner and blaming or withdrawing and pulling away. This just perpetuates the negative pattern of interactions."

Unfortunately, taking a break doesn't address this issue. To truly change the script between you and your partner, it would probably be more useful to look into proactive ways to mend the cracks in your foundation, such as working to balance the emotional labor in your relationship or introducing the idea of couples counseling.

Working through your issues immediately can get you on the road to a better relationship rather than leaving problems to fester and worsen. "Breaks essentially are a cooling off period for the couple. It will help them in the short term by helping the couple get out of fight or flight mode," Schroeder says. "But in the long term, the real problem still exists. That problem will only get resolved by working together, not apart on a break."