Taking a “Break” From Your Relationship
Taking a break from your dating relationship is certainly not a decision to be taken lightly. Some couples are able to take a break in a positive way and renew their love for one another. Others find that taking a break from their partner ultimately ends in a breakup. It is important to consider why you and/or your partner feel a break is necessary and specifically how the break is defined in terms of expectations. The following tips can help you work through some underlying issues and determine if taking a break is the best approach for your relationship.
Determine your reasoning. Why are you and/or your partner considering a break? You need to have an honest conversation with your partner and figure out why you are unhappy in your relationship.
It may help you to develop a list of positive things about your partner and a list of things that are bothering you. If you find that your list of negatives contains any personal deal-breakers or red flags (such as substance abuse or a violent temper), a break will not resolve those issues. If the issues are more manageable, process through them with your partner.
Sometimes two people are just not a good match for one another and ending the relationship might be the best option for both of you. As you consider if separating might be appropriate, remember that this decision isn’t just about you – think about how it might affect children you have together (if any).
What are the positives? If you both determine that your needs are not being met in your relationship, you may choose to spend some time apart to determine what you want (in a romantic partner and in life) and to look at your relationship objectively. How your needs are defined and prioritized may depend on the stage of your relationship and your life. Take the time to separate relationship stress from other stressors in your life. For example, many couples face financial challenges. How your partner manages money may cause you stress; this is distinct from both of you feeling stress about general financial issues. Some couples find that taking a break leads to a sense of renewal in their relationship and they are able to work through differences and move forward. If your relationship is not the real reason for your stress or unhappiness, time apart may also help clarify this point.
What are the negatives? Taking a break is not for everyone and certainly not appropriate for many relationships. It should not be used as a way to avoid communication or commitment, or as a means of “escape” when things get difficult. Couples in healthy relationships work through issues together as a team. When a couple is not in agreement about the terms or purpose of separation, the relationship often ends up in worse shape than before the break.
Setting ground rules. It is important for you and your partner to understand that “taking a break” (versus breaking up) means that you are still in the relationship. It is not a time to enjoy single life again for a given period of time or to cut off all communication with your partner. It should be a time to contemplate your relationship, develop action steps to work through problems and make efforts to improve your relationship. Neither of you are expected to dramatically change when you take a break. Rather, you should reflect on how you treat each other and consider your future together.
You and your partner will need to determine whether or not you will date other people or if fidelity will be maintained during the course of the break. You should also decide how frequently you will communicate with one another. Keep in mind that cutting off all communication will not help you work through your issues, and the same problems will resurface when (and if) you reunite. Determine a specific date when the break will come to an end.
What are some alternatives? There are many other ways you might want to work through issues without taking a break. Take a marriage and relationship education (MRE) workshop to help you identify relationship skills that might enable you to more effectively work on your relationship as a team. In an MRE workshop, you will learn how to communicate better and resolve conflict and stressful situations within your relationship. Many MRE programs offer specialized services for couples dealing with specific issues such as military deployment, cultural barriers, blended families, etc. Couples counseling may also be an appropriate course of action if there is a specific issue or problem that you need to address.
Taking a break may allow couples an opportunity to evaluate issues within their relationship and how their partner fits in with their expectations and life goals. It is not for everyone. First, consider alternate ways you can work through issues without separating from one another. Then carefully communicate with your partner to determine if taking a break is the best for you both.