What's The Best Length For A Relationship Break To Reap Its Rewards?

It was the biggest debate of a generation. It tore families and friend groups apart. It dominated the public discourse for literally a decade. Yes, you've already guessed it — were Ross and Rachel on a break? Despite the ongoing "Friends" storyline of the on-again-off-again lovers arguing this point, we are still, to this day, consumed by this idea of a "break" from a relationship. It's not exactly a breakup, but you're not exactly together as you once were. 


When red flags in a relationship come up, is it a good idea to take a step back from it for a period of time to calm down, reassess the situation, and then regroup to decide how to move forward? "Separation can be very healing," clinical psychologist Dr. Ann Rosen Spector told Women's Health. "When a situation is complicated, having distance to get clarity is important."

So you're going on a break. What are the ground rules? Should you communicate during the break? How long should the break last? Are you actually allowed to see other people? And most worrisome, does a break mean it's time to end your relationship? Let's investigate.

Breaks shouldn't last longer than a season

According to experts, if you're going to embark on a break, you need to establish some ground rules. That means sitting down with your partner for an open conversation about what you hope to get out of it, what you expect during it, and determining ahead of time how long it should last before you regroup.


Relationship expert Susan Winter told Well+Good, "An effective and functional break involves an agreement with terms and conditions. Both parties acknowledge that they're still a couple, still exclusive, but have embarked upon doing the interior work needed to bring their relationship to a better place." Did you catch that? Yes, you're still exclusive, and seeing other people during your break is a definite no-no (sorry, Ross Geller). Discussing why you need this time can help you both assess whether that need can eventually be met. "The essence of a break is to give time to each member of a couple to reevaluate what they want," Toronto-based relationship coach Lesley Edwards told Global News.   


And yes, the duration of your break is predetermined. "If you don't want it to be considered a 'breakup,' then the break shouldn't be more than a season, or three months long," relationship therapist Laurel Steinberg told Well+Good. Edwards counters that one week to a month should be sufficient. So what's considered a breakup? Edwards says that six months is truly a breakup.

You have to cut off communication

We're not done with the ground rules, folks. Experts say you should also probably also refrain from communication with your partner altogether. That's right, no texting check-ins, no sending them your favorite Instagram reels, no heart-reacting to their Facebook posts, no retweeting them, and definitely stay out of their family's group chat. "You both need space, full stop," dating expert Lesley Edwards told Global News. "You can't remain in touch and continue checking in with each other." Relationship therapist Tammy Nelson says that's required in order to reap the rewards of a break. "It takes space, at times, to miss someone, to appreciate what you have, and to remember that you love your partner," she told Well+Good.


Of course, the big worry about embarking on a temporary break is that it's just a stop along the way to Splittsville. Not true! "Taking a break doesn't mean it's the end of a relationship," clinical psychologist and sex therapist Janet Brito explained to Women's Health. "It's just a designated amount of time where both people are consenting to limited communication." Clinical psychologist Ann Rosen Spector agrees, telling the outlet, "So many couples think a healthy relationship means being together all the time, but that's not true." So, if you're looking for a sign to have that break convo with your partner, this is it.