Is Taking a Break In A Relationship Good or Bad?

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Shorter Version

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Is taking a break in a relationship good or bad? Well, it depends.

What does “taking a break in a relationship” actually mean?

Is the term “break” just a kinder word for a brief or possibly permanent break-up?

Or is this “break” considered “time apart,” during which you are forbidden from “coupling up” or having sex with other people?  

The truth is, if you don’t define what “taking a break” means for you and your relationship, it can quickly turn into a full-fledge break-up.

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Longer Version

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So, now that you semi-understand the concept of a “relationship break,” is this type of separation ever healthy, and does it even work?

The Statistics about Taking a Break in a Relationship

There is an ongoing debate as to what “relationship breaks” really entail and there hasn’t been a ton of reliable research into the effectiveness or pros and cons of them. However, a 2009 study indicated that on-and-off couples are more likely than “healthier and steadier couples” to report adverse “break” experiences, such as poor communication, betrayal, jealousy, mistrust, and doubt, and less likely to report positive ones such as trust, respect, love, and empathy from their partners. 

Similarly, a 2013 study found that only a third of couples who take one or more “relationship breaks” actually got back together and stayed together indefinitely.

Why Taking a Break in a Relationship is Good for Some Couples

Still, relationship experts believe that breaks can be healthy and even beneficial for some couples. It really just depends on the situation. However, the key to success hinges on taking the proper steps to preserve the honesty and integrity of your relationship during these breaks.

But, what if this break leads to the end of your relationship?

Even if a short-term relationship break leads to a permanent break up that may be a good thing for both you and your partner, especially if one or both of you have been in denial about the state of your relationship or find it difficult to let go. Ending a relationship that’s simply not working anymore is always a good thing, even if it causes you temporary pain.

Determine why you need a break from your relationship

At some point in your relationship, you’ll probably need a “breather” or break from your partner. Maybe, you feel that your relationship is going downhill and just need some time away to reset. Or perhaps you’ve already decided your relationship is over but need this break to figure out how to gracefully break the news to your significant other.

Perhaps, a relationship break does not signify any of the above scenarios and you simply want to focus on yourself for a while so you can be the person your partner needs and wants you to be. Perhaps a relationship break provides you with a much-needed “refresher” or “energizer” for your relationship. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, right? What if all you need to get your relationship back-on-track or re-spark the fire between you is a little time apart?

Could it be that this relationship break is more about figuring out what you want and need to feel satisfied and content in life and in your relationship and less about trying to leave or “run away” from your partner?

Is Taking A Break In A Relationship A Good Idea?

The truth is, when many couples decide to take a break or trial separation from each other, it’s because one or both individuals are unsure about some aspect of their relationship and even more unsure of what the future holds for them as a couple. Thus, in this case, the goal is to find clarity or determine the next steps in their relationship.

Conversely, some couples view relationship breaks as an opportunity to see if “the grass is truly greener on the other side.” It usually isn’t but some people can’t help but wonder. They want to see what’s out there or what they’ve been missing before deciding if it’s worth it to end a new relationship, long-term union, or marriage. If one or both partners determine the sacrifice is worth it then what has been originally deemed “a brief “relationship break” can turn into a lasting break-up.

The Consequences of Taking a Break in a Relationship

Understand that it’s hard to take a relationship break and not have additional problems pop-up as a result of it. Also, keep in mind that a break may be an excuse for a permanent break up or the first step towards one.

 So, is a “relationship break” ever healthy? Yes!

Sometimes you and/or your partner may honestly need a breather for a few minutes, hours, days, or months. Maybe, you just need a night out with your closest girlfriends, and/or your partner just needs a boys’ night out. Perhaps, you just need time to “do you” for a while. Does that mean you no longer love and want to be with your significant other? Not in the slightest. It’s not about him or her – it’s about you

In this case, the relationship break is only meant to be temporary. The ultimate goal is to ease stress and return to your relationship. It is not meant to permanently break up.

This type of relationship break is not only healthy but also highly beneficial for both individuals. How? By helping both of you retain your individualities – the parts of yourselves that make you appealing to each other and quite frankly fun. It adds mystery and “spice” to your relationship. It gives you something to talk about and makes you appreciate each other and your relationship.

Moreover, it helps you realize what a great thing you’ve built together. In this scenario, the relationship break does not necessarily lead to a full-fledge break-up. In fact, this break may actually improve and enhance your relationship.

The key to ensuring you have a relationship to return to afterward is to communicate, set healthy boundaries, develop a clear-cut plan that you both agree on, determine what you both want and need out of yourselves, each other, the relationship and your future, and keep at the forefront of your mind how much you love and respect your partner.

If you take these steps to ensure the honesty of your relationship, then a relationship break can be healthy.

Actionable Steps


Determine if the relationship is healthy for you

Is your relationship healthy? What are you getting from the relationship – right now? Does it make you feel happy and fulfilled? Does being with your partner spark joy in your life or is it unhealthy and toxic? In other words, does it physically or emotionally “beat you down” and cause angst and sadness in your life?
If your relationship causes pain in any form, it’s probably not healthy. But, you are the only one that can determine that. You can gain the clarity you need simply by taking a much-needed break to evaluate if your relationship is still right for you. Being away from your significant other can help you see your relationship as it really is – not how you’d like it to be. Be honest with yourself about your role and your partner’s role in the breakdown of your relationship.
Keep in mind that you’re most likely considering a relationship break because some aspect of your relationship has changed. Thus, separating (even temporarily) may help you identify your own wants and needs so you feel happy and fulfilled when you reunite or when you enter into a new relationship with someone better aligned with you.


Define what a “break” means for your relationship

Once you and your partner have decided to take a relationship break, your next step should be to clearly define what the break will mean for you, your partner, and your relationship.

Ask the following questions: how long will this break last, what are the plans and goals, and how do you think it will make you feel to be apart from each other? What would you like to change or improve as a result of the break? What are the pros and cons of taking a break now? Finally, what boundaries should you have? For instance, are you allowed to date, have sex with other people, or call or text other people? Or, is this separation only to be used to better yourself – sans any potential love interests? Will you talk to or text each other daily, weekly, or not at all?


Be productive during your time apart

Do things that “spark joy” in your life. Reconnect with the parts of yourself that make you…YOU. Also, use this time to better yourself. For instance, if you’ve wanted to get rid of those extra pesky holiday pounds – revamp your diet and start an exercise routine. If you’ve been wanted to color your hair, stop by Walgreens, Walmart, CVS, etc., pick up the hair dye you’ve been eyeing, and just do it!
If you’ve wanted to reconnect with your friends and family but have been “tied-up” with your significant other, then make dinner plans with them to catch-up. Or, if you’ve been dying to take cooking, yoga, piano, or dance class but didn’t want to take time away from your relationship – now is the time to try it out. Focus on yourself and be productive during your time apart. 


At the end of the break, re-examine the relationship and take action

This may be the hardest part of taking a relationship break: eventually, it will end and you and your partner will need to re-examine your relationship and decide your next steps. Maybe, you’ll mutually decide to stay together or maybe, you’ll mutually decide you’ve come to the “end of the road” for your relationship. Or, perhaps, you’ll emerge from this time apart still unsure of what to do. As a result, you may decide to extend the relationship break so you both can gain more clarity. However, once you and your partner decide what you want to do, it will be time to act.
Maybe, the break made you realize that the relationship no longer works for you. Perhaps, you’ll decide you want to work things out and continue the relationship because it does work for you. If so, map out how your relationship will work from now on. Regardless, you’ll need to act – even if this means setting up an appointment with a relationship expert (i.e. couples counselor).

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About the Author

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Ph.D. in Family Psychology

Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author.
Full Bio | LinkedIn

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