For some, taking a temporary step back from their partner means ripping off the band-aid slowly on a clearly failing relationship. For others, it’s actually helpful and will make a couple stronger. But what does it really mean to take a relationship break and what rules do you need to follow if you decide to try it?
What a relationship break entails and why it requires rules
- It means pressing pause on your relationship. You don’t want to end things entirely because you still love your partner and think things could work. However, lately things have been way too intense and you feel like if you don’t take a breather soon, you’re going to spontaneously combust. A relationship break is a temporary pause, not a permanent stop.
- It’s time that should be used wisely. A relationship break shouldn’t be used simply to cool off when you’re angry with your partner. Instead, it’s time for you to really think about what the major issues are between you and if you really do want to continue things with them. You might find that with time away, you’re happier, more productive, and have some clarity on the fact that it’s time to move on. On the other hand, you could realize that you really do love your partner and want to go the extra mile to getting things back on track.
- It’s a way of offering your partner grace. Maybe you’re not the one who wanted to take a relationship break and you hate that you have to play by someone else’s rules. However, relationships, particularly successful ones, are all about compromise. If your partner tells you they need some time to work out what’s going on in their head, give it to them. Do so without getting angry, accusing them of anything, or guilt-tripping them out of taking the time and space they need. Offer them this because you trust them and care about them. They will be thankful for it (and so will you in the long run).
- Taking a relationship break requires ground rules. Even if you’re both on the same page about taking a short hiatus from your relationship, there needs to be some ground rules set if you ever hope to get back together. After all, you don’t want to come back to things in a few weeks or months to find out your partner has been cheating, nor do you want to resume your relationship without having had the processing time and space you really needed.
- It shouldn’t be used in place of a breakup. If you’re 99% sure that you no longer want to be with your partner and that the issues between you can’t be resolved with a bit of time apart, don’t decide to take a break in order to avoid the awkwardness and upset of just ending things altogether. It’s unfair to you and it’s definitely unfair to your partner. Have the courage and the decency to break up properly so you can both use your time to get over one another and move on.
Relationship break rules to follow if you want to get back together
As you begin your relationship break, having these rules in place will give you the best chance of coming back stronger and happier than ever as a couple when it’s over.
- Be honest in your evaluation of the relationship. Do they really make you happy? Have you become better since being in the relationship? What do you like and dislike? A break isn’t party time now that you don’t have someone by your side. Sit down and seriously think about what you want from this relationship, what you can change to get it, and if the relationship is even worth saving.
- Set a deadline. I’ve seen breaks that drag on for months because no one wants to be the first to say “are we good yet?” I get it, it’s an awkward period. The moment you decide to take a break, discuss a solid deadline. Take at least a few weeks. After that, set whatever deadline is best for the two of you. Leaving things open-ended is basically a surefire way to never get back together at all.
- Choose how and when to communicate. Most of us have no clue what a break means in terms of communication. Is it against the rules to still text your partner even while taking a relationship break? How many calls are too many? I know you might not be in the mood to talk at that very moment, but set some communication guidelines. State whether any communication is allowed, what typem and how often.
- Avoid dating at all costs. A break isn’t a free pass. You’re still together. Do you realize how many breaks turn into breakups because of this? On the other hand, if you feel the need to date other people, it’s time to break up anyway. There’s no wiggle room with this rule. Don’t date while on a break — that’s called cheating.
- Don’t give in to urges. Okay, so your bed buddy isn’t around, but you’re still horny. I get it, we’ve all been there. That’s what masturbation is for. Take care of your own urges. Look at number 4 again. Remember, no dating and no sex with others. This will only destroy your relationship and your partner entirely.
- Both parties need to agree. This should be obvious, but saying you want to take a break and expecting the other person to be okay with it isn’t right. Both of you need to agree to the break. If you can’t, you either need to sit down and talk things out now or end it. In most cases, it shouldn’t be that hard to agree on a break if it’s really needed.
- Spend some time apart. You do know what a break means right? At least the basic concept. A break means you spend time apart. Taking a break only to be in each other’s faces 24/7 isn’t going to help anything. There might be situations you can’t avoid, such as work or mutual friends, but otherwise, stay away from each other as much as possible.
- Consider your future. It’s easy to get caught up in the “us” when you’re in a relationship. It’s also easy to lose sight of your own future. Don’t think in terms of “us” right now. Think about your own future. If your partner doesn’t naturally fit in anywhere, there might be a problem. Remember, you need to be happy too. It’s not considered a failure to realize that they don’t feature in your ideal future anymore. It happens.
- Take time to calm down. Breaks usually don’t happen when everything’s nice and calm between the two of you. Take the break as a chance to calm down. Let go of your anger and think about things more clearly. Is it possible you jumped to conclusions? Did you read too much into their words? Could a little work on both sides fix things?
- Figure out if you’re happier or not. I think this is the biggest rule during a break. Are you happier or not? If you suddenly feel free and happy and that feeling doesn’t change, it’s time to end the relationship. If you find yourself feeling miserable without them, then there’s still something worth fighting for.
- Leave others out of it. The two of you might not be talking, but anything you tell your friends and family could still reach their ears. I know you want to complain about what a jerk he is right now. Go back to number 9 and just breathe. If you want to talk to someone, only talk to someone you truly trust that isn’t a mutual friend. It’s okay to get another opinion on what to do. Just remember to do what feels right to you in the end.
- Get your own life together. Breaks aren’t always about the relationship itself. It might seem that way, but sometimes it actually about one or both of you needing to get your own life together. We’re all full of insecurities and issues. Whatever’s going on in your life, work on fixing yourself during the break. At least try to acknowledge you’re not perfect and might need to improve yourself before the relationship is able to get any better.
- Make a final decision. The entire purpose of a break is to figure out what to do next. Do you want to stay or go? In the end, it all boils down to one decision. Figure out what you want and talk to your partner about it when the deadline comes. If you still feel undecided and like you don’t know what you want to do, that’s a pretty good indication that it’s time to say goodbye.
Breaks aren’t fun, but they’re a time to sort out things. Don’t think of it as the end. Think of it as a possible new beginning to your relationship.