Are Relationship Breaks a Good Idea?

by Gideon
January 24, 2022

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This post focuses on the question: are relationship breaks a good idea? We will take a balanced look at the idea of taking a break from a relationship and whether there are any benefits to it.

Before we dive into the topic a bit deeper, I also want to point out that this post focuses on the question, are relationship breaks a good idea, and does not aim to discuss how to take relationship breaks and all the possible rules around that.

In this post, I’m more interested in exploring and evaluating the concept rather than getting into how to make relationship breaks work.

But, first, let’s define the concept of a relationship break.

How should we understand it?

What are we actually talking about when we’re discussing the idea of taking a break from a relationship?

What is a relationship break?

As with most other things, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the idea of a “temporary relationship” break will vary depending on the individuals involved.

In general, however, temporary relationship breaks could be defined as a period of time during which two people who are in a relationship take a break from each other.

This break may be used as a way to deal with issues that are causing problems in the relationship, or it may simply be a way for the couple to take a break from each other for a period of time so that they can both focus on themselves.

Usually, when a couple decides to take a break from their relationship, it is because they may be experiencing difficulties that they feel they cannot resolve and getting some distance from the situation may be advantageous.

This break could allow them time to reassess their relationship and determine if they want to continue to pursue it.

Are relationship breaks a good idea

Alternatively, a break may simply be a way for the couple to take a break from each other and explore other options.

If that is the case, however, a couple may find it difficult to reconnect again in some cases.

The length of time a couple plans to be away from each other will depend on many factors, such as whether they are planning to get back together again, how bad things have gotten, or for how long things have been going on.

Often, the longer things have been left unresolved or unattended, the more they have been given a chance to evolve into a situation where it might be difficult to come back from.

In saying that, whether or not a break is a good idea is usually best left to the couple themselves.

The important thing though is to work together to determine what their goals are for their break and make sure they can reach them no matter what may happen in the future.

But what are the risks of taking a break from a relationship?

I appreciate that in some situations things could have gotten out of hand so much that it seems like the only logical option on the table.

However, is there an inherent risk to taking a break from a relationship?

What are the risks of taking a break from a relationship?

Logically speaking, one would think that taking a break from a relationship has the inherent risk of possibly creating a gap between two partners that might be difficult to overcome again later on.

Additionally, based on research from some relationship experts like John Gottman, one of the most important things couples must do when struggling in their relationship is to “turn to each other” or “step into the puddle” rather than seek distance and space.

That of course does not mean that there is an issue with seeking distance during difficult times in a relationship, but it does speak to the fact that the tendency to turn towards your partner forms the basis of trust, emotional connection, passion, and a satisfying sex life.

Conversely, however, Gottman found a critical difference in how relationship “masters” and “disasters” responds to bids for connection, in other words, attempts to turn towards each other during times of difficulty or conflict.

Gottman found that “disasters” turned towards each other only 33% of the time, leaving the bulk of the time where they did not.

Are relationship breaks a good idea

In that sense, one could argue that taking a break from a relationship increases the risk of a couple losing touch with the other person, especially if they enjoy spending time alone, thereby missing out on opportunities for growth and development as a couple and, as a result, permanently damaging the relationship beyond repair.

As a result, some people might view taking a break as a low-risk way to potentially salvage a relationship, while others might see it as a high-risk move that could lead to the end of the relationship.

Ultimately, however, the range of risks involved in taking a break from a relationship depends on the specific situation whether there are trust issues or not, how severe the existing negative patterns in the relationship are, and the dynamics between the people involved.

Taking a break from the relationship can turn out to be a good thing or a decision that creates a prolonged slump that leads to even more emotional damage.

Dr. Gottman is saying that a couple should address relationship problems with a mindset and strategies targeted at re-establishing a strong connection between two unsatisfied spouses.

Choosing to take a break from a relationship is essentially a decision that moves in the opposite direction, at least initially at first.

As far as I can tell, the major inherent risk of a temporary relationship break is that instead of actively working on personal issues and strengthening their emotional bond with each other, a couple relies on distance and taking a break from each other to hopefully overcome existing difficulties and grow fonder of each other again.

Unfortunately, as already mentioned, I cannot speak to the efficacy of this approach because it might very well be what some couples need to get things back on track.

However, one can also not overlook or deny what sound relationship research and experts are telling us about how “masters” in relationships reconcile differences to keep their relationship happy, healthy and intimate.

For example, they welcome having difficult conversations, they work hard to honour their partner’s wishes, and above all, they change their attitudes and actions to cultivate and maintain trust.

Yet, in saying all of that, what are some of the potential benefits of taking a break in a relationship, if any?

What are the benefits of taking a relationship break (if any)?

From an objective point of view, one could argue that there are a few potential benefits to taking a break in a relationship.

Firstly, it can give each person some time and space to reflect on the relationship and what they want from it.

When it comes to relationships, taking the time to reflect on what you want and need is incredibly important.

If you don’t take the time to figure out what you want, you may wind up in a relationship that’s not right for you.

Additionally, spending time thinking about your relationship can help you to identify any potential problems and work to address them before they become bigger issues.

By taking the time to reflect on your relationship, you’re also setting the stage for a more positive and fulfilling future

Secondly, it can help you to focus on improving your own individual relationship with yourself.

This can be important, as healthy relationships with others are often built on a strong foundation of self-love and self-care.

It can help you to better understand your own needs and desires, and whether or not they are being met in the relationship.

are relationship breaks a good idea

Based on that, taking a break can help you to evaluate whether or not you really want to be in the relationship or not.

Lastly, it can help to identify any problems that may be causing tension in the relationship.

The distance can help you see existing problems in a situation because it allows you to take a step back and view the situation objectively.

When you are close to a situation, it is easy to become emotionally invested and see things only from your own perspective.

This can lead to tunnel vision and a lack of objectivity, which can prevent you from seeing the full picture and identifying potential problems.

The distance can help you to overcome these biases and see the situation more clearly. It can also help you to come up

What do relationship experts say about taking relationship breaks?

According to relationship experts, taking a break from your relationship can be beneficial in some instances.

It is said to allow you time to examine your relationship and decide whether or not to continue it.

Lesley Edwards, a dating specialist and relationship counsellor in Toronto says that “the core of a break is to allow time to each member of a relationship to reevaluate what they want.”

Also, in the same article, according to Laura Bilotta, a Toronto-based matchmaker and dating coach, “it’s crucial to spend time by yourself to think on what’s occurring in your relationship and what you want the outcome to be.”

“Taking a break” usually means that a couple has made a conscious decision to modify their relationship status in order to allow space to rethink it,” Bianca L. Rodriguez, LMFT, explained to insider.com.

Furthermore, according to Dr Ramani Durvasula on insider.com, clinical psychologist and relationship expert at TONE Networks, “It might also mean moving out of a shared property, or it can mean continuing to live together but with permission to do their own thing” (e.g. no expectations around having dinner together, as well as permission to date or be intimate with other people). In some situations, the couple may choose to live separately or suspend the customary expectations of the relationship.”

What we can take from this so far is that setting goals and boundaries is vital in any relationship, but it is especially important when taking a break, according to most relationship experts.

That is, when two individuals decide to take a break, they must agree on what that break will entail.

They must agree on how frequently they will communicate, what they will discuss, and what they will not discuss.

They must also agree on each person’s goals during the break.

Are they attempting to decide whether they want to stay together or whether they want to go their separate ways?

Also, what will need to happen for them to make that decision one way or the other?

When two individuals leave a relationship, it’s not always apparent what the expectations are.

This, in turn, can lead to even greater bewilderment and heartbreak.

One person may believe that they can still talk to the other, while the other believes that they are absolutely off-limits.

This can also result in one person attempting to reconcile with the other while the other tries to maintain some distance.

If the break is not handled properly, it can lead to a lot of bitterness on one or both ends.

As a result, it is critical for both partners to establish expectations from the start in order to avoid misunderstandings.

That also includes the question of how long should a relationship break be.

Part of establishing expectations is to discuss and establish a workable and reasonable timeframe.

According to Edwards (mentioned earlier), “Anything from one week to a month should be enough time for one or both parties to determine whether they should stay together. You may decide halfway through the agreed-upon time that you want to be with that person, but you should respect the time frame.”

Furthermore, relationship experts all appear to agree that communication is a critical aspect in a relationship break.

are relationship breaks a good idea

It’s critical for a couple to establish a schedule for talking and staying in touch throughout the break, based on the goals and expectations discussed previously.

Daily check-ins and short text messages to see how they’re both doing, even if it’s simply asking if they’re having a nice day, are examples of communication.

It can also be limited to once-a-week messages or phone calls.

The point is that frequent communication, rather than a complete break in contact, can serve to keep the relationship grounded, assist the partners in working through relationship challenges, and avoid misconceptions that could potentially create permanent damage to the situation.

Additionally, it is very likely that one partner will be more active than the other in communication in some situations.

Now, there is a lot to consider here, but it seems that the primary point from all of this, is that clarity and communication appear to be critical components of a successful relationship break.

All the other details will vary depending on the couple in question.

However, issues of clarity (how the relationship break will work) and communication (the nature of contact during a relationship break) need to be present in every case, regardless of the couples involved.

The risks appear to outweigh the benefits when a couple simply takes a break from the relationship with no clarity around goals and expectations, no plan for communication and how it will happen during the break, no certainty around the duration of the break, or polar opposite ideas about what the break means.

In reality, it appears that unless a relationship break is regarded as another form of instrument to better a relationship, such as “date nights,” it might end up becoming a mechanism that simply further divides an already divided couple.

This brings us to a final point as you consider the question, are relationship breaks a good idea.

That is the warning of not using a relationship break as a means to break up or because you want to break up but don’t know how or do not have the courage to do so.

Don’t take a break if you want to break up

There might be many different reasons for taking a break in a relationship, but if what you actually want to do is end a relationship, then don’t take a break first.

Taking a break will simply delay the inevitable and possibly make it more difficult to break up later if that’s what is needed.

are relationship breaks a good idea

That cannot be overstated.

Why?

For two reasons…

To begin with, it is usually difficult to end a relationship with someone you actually still love on some level but cannot be around.

You must have really good and clear reasons for wanting to take a break from the relationship before you can do so, which is often difficult.

And, once you’ve decided to act on them, during the break, chances are also that your emotions may alternate between hope and dread, love and hatred, and comfort and rage.

That may potentially end up confusing you more than it helps you. 

As a result, you may even decide to stay in a relationship that is in fact, wrong for you.

Second, taking a break to avoid the inevitable is a mistake that is unfair to all parties involved in the situation.

Because the sooner you make a complete break, the sooner you’ll be able to start moving forwards.

It is pointless to stay in a relationship if your heart is no longer in it because as the ancient rabbi Yeshua taught, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

What that means to me is we typically care for and protect what we perceive to be most valuable to us, because our heart is in it.

As a result, one could say that if your relationship is no longer a “treasure,” chances are your heart is no longer in it as well, which means you would most likely neglect it and let it wither over time.

Yes, there may be some practical realities and issues to work through before making a clean split, but this should not persuade you to sacrifice your happiness in order to delay making the decision to end things.

Taking a break from a relationship must have a definite time frame after which you may have to have a hard conversation about where things stand and where they are headed.

Taking a break from a relationship is not a wise decision if what you actually want is to break up.

If that’s the case, it could be a good idea to sit down with your partner and have a heart-to-heart.

Putting off the inevitable simply adds to the anguish and misery.

About the author 

Gideon

Gideon is the founder of TheRelationshipGuy.com, a top-50 relationship blog (2021) and top-100 marriage blog (2021) which focuses on providing healthy relationship advice about love and life. He earned a Master's degree in theological studies before training as a professional counsellor and hypnotherapist (DipProfCouns., DipMSHT.) almost 10 years ago. He completed a graduate diploma in Psychology and is currently pursuing postgraduate Psychology studies at Massey University. He has been married to his wife for over sixteen years and is the father of two children. His articles have been published on Marriage.com and The Good Men Project.

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