It usually happens when you feel like you’ve exhausted all other options, you’re overwhelmed, and at the end of your rope. But sometimes taking a break in a relationship can be an awful decision to have to make — but you know it just has to happen. I remember taking a break after two and a half years of being in a relationship because it just felt like we were having the same fights and conversations over and over for, well, about two and a half years. I eventually hit my “I can’t do this right now, I need a break” limit, and we didn’t speak for over a month.
We ended up getting back together, although it didn’t last long. In our case, a break just sort of made clear what was inevitable, but I know some people who’ve found that a break has totally saved their relationship. Ideally, it gives you breathing room to figure out whether or not you actually want to be together, but that doesn’t mean it’s not difficult to do. It’s important to try to stick to whatever rules you’ve laid out in your relationship and actually use the time constructively. It’s tough, but sometimes it’s exactly what you need.
Here are seven things to know about taking a break in your relationship:
1. It’s Mature
Don’t feel like you’ve lost or gotten something wrong if you end up needing a break— it happens. Maybe it’s because you’re going through some difficult family or work-related problems, maybe you’ve just never dated other people and need some time, maybe you’ve been through infidelity and need to reset. Life happens. If you feel like you need a breather and some perspective, you haven’t done anything wrong— in fact, you’re being mature.
2. It Doesn’t Have To Mean The End Of A Relationship
Although it may set off alarm bells, going on a break doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed. As Psychology Today explains, “A break is not a breakup: It’s a pause from the other person—a period to think without having to be around the other person during the thinking period. ” You don’t need to assume that it’s going to end.
3. But It’s Fine If It Does
That being said, it may be that you get the perspective you need to realize a relationship is over. That’s fine too. When I took a month off from a relationship we broke up shortly after the “break” was over. It was clear it wasn’t working— partly because I could see how much happier I was on my own. Taking a break isn’t giving up, it’s giving it your best shot— and sometimes you just need to be realistic.
4. Too Many Of Them Should Tell You Something
A break should be something that happens occasionally, not all the time. One of my friends went on a month-long break with her partner practically every six months for years. Needing some breathing room is one thing, but if you constantly feel you need breathing room then that’s something else entirely — you need to be honest about what’s going on in your relationship.
5. Make Sure To Use The Time Wisely
You’re taking the break for a reason, so make sure you take advantage of it. According to Steve Ward, a relationship expert and CEO of Master Matchmakers, “A break is often a welcomed reprieve from relationship and a useful inflection point. It provides a valuable space for introspection and focusing on assessing your feelings within the relationship.” So you should be doing just that. Do some soul searching, spending time with your friends, work on your hobbies— but make sure you’re giving the relationship some real thought.
6. Try Dating Other People And Being Single
You may have distinct rules for your break— like exactly how long it lasts or whether or not you can see other people. Glamour says some “people take a short, temporary break and agree not to date anyone else, while others take a break that’s essentiallya break-up with the acknowledgement that you might get back together.” But I think there are lessons to be learned from both dating a bit and being really on your own. If you’re trying to figure out whether or not you want to be with your current partner, experiencing single life is a great way to do that.
7. Don’t Use A Break To Run Away From Your Problems
A break isn’t a replacement for confrontation. The most important part of a relationship is clear, direct, honest communication— having those gut-wrenchingly difficult conversations when you have to. You can’t use a break as a way to run away from or avoid those big relationship issues. They’re just going to be there when you come back. Exhaust all conversation and talk from a truthful place before deciding to go on a break, otherwise it’s not going to solve anything.
Originally posted on Bustle