What Is A Relationship Break?

What Is A Relationship Break? The Truth About Taking Time Apart From Your Partner

What Is A Relationship Break?
What Is A Relationship Break?

What Is A Relationship Break? | When your relationship is on the rocks, is a break the answer? We reveal the truth about taking time apart and if it helps or hurts romance.

When a relationship hits a rough patch, it's normal for couples to feel overwhelmed and question whether they should stay together. During stressful times, some partners suggest taking a break from each other to gain clarity and perspective on the relationship. But what exactly is a relationship break and does it help or hurt your chances of repairing the relationship?

In this comprehensive guide, we will define what a relationship break is, discuss the different types of breaks couples take, and reveal the truth about whether time apart can save or end a troubled romance. We'll provide tips from relationship experts on how to approach a break in a healthy way and boost your odds of reconciliation. By understanding the nuances of taking time off from your partner, you'll gain insight into if and when a relationship break could be right for you.

Defining a Relationship Break

A relationship break, commonly known as "taking a break," is a period of time that a couple voluntarily spends apart from each other while remaining in a committed relationship. Unlike a breakup where the relationship fully ends, a break implies that the couple plans to reunite after a certain amount of time and re-evaluate if they want to stay together.

The purpose of a relationship break is to give both partners physical and emotional space from each other. This allows them to gain perspective on the issues straining the relationship, reflect on their feelings for their partner, and decide if they want to put in the effort required to make the relationship work long-term.

While the terms may sound similar, a relationship break is not the same as a trial separation. A trial separation more formally sets ground rules and conditions, such as living apart for a set time period before reassessing the relationship. It also may involve more legal protections, including a written separation agreement. A break is typically more casual and undefined.

What Is A Relationship Break?
What Is A Relationship Break?

Reasons Couples Take Breaks

There are a variety of reasons why couples decide to take a break from each other for a while. Some of the most common motivations include:

  • To Deal With Trust Issues: Major breaches of trust like infidelity, emotional affairs, or dishonest behavior can rupture a relationship. Taking space helps couples process these betrayals before deciding if the relationship is worth repairing.
  • Arguments and Fighting: Frequent heated arguments and fighting about the same issues over and over can drain couples emotionally. A break provides distance from the fighting cycle so partners can calm down and gain a new perspective.
  • Stress Outside The Relationship: External stressors like difficult jobs, financial strain, family demands, or health issues can put pressure on the relationship. A break allows partners to cope with stressors before working on the relationship.
  • Questioning Compatibility: Doubts like mismatched life goals, differences in values, or wanting different things from life may cause partners to question if they're truly right for each other long-term. Taking a break allows time to reflect on compatibility.
  • Physical Separation: Partners doing long distance or frequently traveling for work may feel disconnected and take a break to evaluate their feelings about continuing the relationship.
  • Personal Growth: One partner may want time apart to achieve personal goals, focus on their career, go back to school, or have new life experiences outside the relationship.
  • Boredom and Loss of Passion: A stale, boring relationship lacking intimacy, excitement and passion may cause partners to take a break and see if absence makes the heart grow fonder.

No matter the specific reasons prompting a relationship break, the underlying issue is that one or both partners feel doubtful about the future of the relationship in its current state. The break provides the space to gain clarity.

Setting Rules and Boundaries

Since relationship breaks mean different things to different couples, it's important to discuss rules, expectations and boundaries first. Leaving things open and ambiguous can lead to confusion and hurt feelings. Key things to define include:

  • The Length of The Break: Agree on a set time frame for the break, such as two weeks or one month. This prevents it from continuing indefinitely.
  • Limited or No Contact: Determine if you will cut off contact completely or check in occasionally. Limiting contact helps gain more productive perspective.
  • Dating Other People: Decide if you are allowed to date and be intimate with others during the break or if you will remain exclusive.
  • Social Media and Mutual Friends: Discuss if you will remain connected on social media and how to handle mutual friends. This avoids uncomfortable situations.
  • Relationship Status: Are you broken up and single, just on a break, or "on a break" as a technicality but still together? Avoid assumptions.
  • Counseling: Determine if you will attend therapy separately or together during the break to work on underlying issues.

Setting expectations upfront minimizes potential pain and confusion down the road and facilitates an easier transition back into the relationship if you reconcile.

Can Taking A Break Save Your Relationship?

Once you initiate a relationship break, the burning question is - will it ultimately help or harm your relationship? Can taking time apart actually fix the issues and bring you closer together? Or does it simply delay a inevitable breakup?

The truth is - it depends. According to couples counselors, there are upsides and downsides to taking a breather from your partner:

Potential Benefits of a Relationship Break

  • Allows feelings of suffocation or resentment to subside
  • Provides emotional and physical space to gain perspective
  • Removes distractions to honestly evaluate your feelings
  • Breaks negative relationship patterns and dynamics
  • Reignites passion and appreciation for your partner
  • Sparks motivation to actively work on problems
  • Strengthens individual identity outside the relationship

Potential Risks of a Relationship Break

  • Creates more distance and disconnect between partners
  • Allows emotional attachments to weaken over time apart
  • Enables partners to get their intimacy needs met elsewhere
  • Makes it easier to avoid relationship issues altogether
  • Can be an excuse to prolong an inevitable breakup
  • May cause partners to move on and let go of the relationship

As you can see, taking a breather from your partner could go either way in terms of saving your troubled relationship.

According to one study published in Family Relations journal, only about 25% of couples who took a break ended up happily together in the long run. However, many variables impact the success rate, including how healthy your relationship was to begin with and how you each handle the time apart.

If deeper issues of incompatibility exist, a break may just delay a split rather than mend what’s broken. However, for couples going through temporary relationship problems or life stresses, some quality time apart could reignite feelings and put problems in perspective.

Much depends on if partners use the break to constructively work on themselves and reflect on their commitment, or use it as a stepping stone to moving on.

Making The Most of The Time Apart

If you decide a relationship break is worth trying, make sure you use the time productively to give your relationship the best chance of success. Here are some tips:

Reflect On The Core Relationship

  • What initially brought you together and kept you invested?
  • Do you still share the same key values and life vision?
  • What must change for you both to be happy long-term?

Work On Yourself

  • Address any individual issues negatively impacting the relationship like anger, insecurity or fear of intimacy.
  • Pursue positive personal goals that nourish your identity outside the relationship.
  • Take care of your physical and mental health through self-care.

Heal and Forgive

  • Process any betrayals, lies or hurts from the relationship.
  • Practice forgiveness - it’s for your benefit, not just your partner’s.
  • Release resentment and anger to clear space for positive feelings.

Envision the Future

  • Do you want this relationship long-term? Why or why not?
  • If you reunited, what would need to change? Could you both do the work?
  • Imagine how staying apart will make you feel. Will you regret it?

Communicate Constructively

  • If you agree to limited contact, communicate kindly and respectfully when you do.
  • Avoid blaming, shaming or emotionally dumping on your partner during chats or texts.
  • Discuss any insights you’ve gained about the relationship.

Using the break to gain clarity and work on the relationship, instead of just creating distance, will lead to the most growth.

Navigating Reconciliation After a Break

If after some time apart you mutually decide to give the relationship another chance, take steps to rebuild your partnership on a stronger foundation:

Ease In Slowly

  • Don’t immediately go back to acting like everything is normal. Ease back into communicating regularly, spending time together, and being physically intimate. Rushing can overwhelm.

Have Honest Conversations

  • Discuss what you realized and learned during the break. Share your reflections on the relationship’s issues. But avoid blaming - focus on understanding.

Make Specific Changes

  • Don’t just make vague promises to “try harder.” Outline specific changes you will make individually and together to improve the relationship. Then consistently follow through.

Practice Patience and Compassion

  • Change takes time and effort. If old wounds or issues resurface, respond with patience and compassion rather than criticism. Healing isn’t linear.

Seek Couples Counseling

  • If you continue to struggle with reconciliation, seek guidance from a couples therapist. An objective third party can help you communicate and problem solve.

While taking a break is risky, if you use the time to gain perspective and renew commitment, your relationship can grow stronger in the long run.


So should you take a break from your partner or try to work through problems together? There are reasonable cases to be made for both options. Taking time apart can provide much-needed perspective, but also comes with the risk of weakening your bond. Ultimately, you have to weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks and decide what feels right for your unique relationship.

If you do decide to take a break, set clear expectations and use the time proactively to work on yourselves and reflect. Effective communication during and after the break will also impact your chances for reconciliation. While challenging, some couples emerge from a break with renewed dedication, deeper understanding and the skills to create a happier relationship.

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