Taking A Relationship Break

For most, taking a break when you’re in a relationship is a sign your love is going downhill. Some feel taking a break is merely a way of prolonging the pain or ignoring problems. Others think it’s a passive-aggressive method of breaking up.

However, from my experience, I feel having space builds a stronger, healthier relationship. Fundamentally, breakups vastly differ from breaks—with a breakup, there is no intention to continue the relationship. On a break, you reevaluate what you want as an individual and as a couple which in turn better equips both parties to handle the relationship.

If you’ve been feeling the relationship blues and would like to try taking a break to see if it’ll create positive relationship changes, here’s a guide on what I personally find to be the most constructive manner to go about it.

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Before taking a break

1. Mention to your partner you want to take a break

You should sit your partner down or Facetime them when you break this piece of news. If you’ve been arguing like monkeys, wait for both of you to cool down before you start the talk.

You’ll want to speak in a calm, respectful manner when you make clear taking a break does not mean ending the relationship completely. Emphasise how you want to take a step back to reflect on what’s happening and to see if the relationship problems are reconcilable or not.

2. Discuss the reasons why you both are taking a break and what to reflect on

The purpose of discussing the reasons is not to make your partner feel bad, but how compromise can be reached so you both feel fulfilled in the relationship.

I’ve found this is a great way to practice effective communication and help my boyfriend and I understand why we felt unsatisfied.

How to do this without attacking your partner:
-Don’t bring up issues more than a month old because it’ll look like you’re counting score
-Try not to use absolute terms such as “never” and “always”
-Bring up issues in an objective manner; have supporting evidence and a solution
-Speak in a calm, measured voice, and don’t use swear words
-Remember you’re not trying to hurt your partner’s feelings

End the discussion by setting clear objectives on what you’ll be reflecting on so the post-break discussion will be effective. If you or your partner refuses to see the other’s POV, then an actual breakup might be a better solution.

3. Set a date to speak again and an emergency means of communication

Taking a break means completely cutting off communication. Some couples require only a week’s worth of space, others need four weeks. I like to go with two weeks. While there is no hard and fast rule for the duration of a break, know six months constitutes a breakup.

However, you might have to talk during the break. It’s best to create a separate channel of communication to facilitate such messages.

Though it’s quite lame, I used my cat’s Instagram account to emergency DM my boyfriend and cut the text after I got my point across.

4. Define whether you can see other people

Breaks are not temporary breakups. When you take a break, you are still together and you do not have a free pass to cheat on your partner. If you both want to see other people, know there’s a possibility the introduction of a third party can wreck your relationship.

From observing the people around me, I notice allowing each other the freedom to date usually ends with an official breakup. This is why I don’t believe in introducing casual dating into the mix. I’d rather focus on spending the alone time to mull over what’s best for me and my relationship.

5. Tell each other you love each other

Whenever my boyfriend and I voice our disagreements, we make sure we reaffirm each other with an “l love you”. Saying this ends any discussion on a positive note, and serves as a reminder the relationship isn’t ‘me versus you’ but ‘us versus the problem’.

During the break

6. Tell only your support group

A relationship is between two people but having a small, trusted group of friends will provide emotional support when you’re feeling low. They’ll also help you gain perspective.

7. Learn how to recentre your life on yourself

The best kind of validation ultimately comes from yourself, so get to know yourself better during this emotionally vulnerable period.

During a break, I read and paint more and make an effort to eat right. I find this helps me kickstart habits I should already be doing and puts me in a positive headspace.

8. Stick to the rules of the break

Respecting boundaries is a direct reflection on how much you’re willing to engage in healthy relationship practices.

If your partner breaks the agreed rules of the break, consider maybe your partner doesn’t respect you and it might be the reason your relationship has become toxic.

After the break

9. Discuss how you felt and create solutions to make things better

Tell your partner what you’ve learnt and have them do the same. From there, create solutions you both can execute to have the relationship work out.

If there is still no resolution, maybe the relationship might not be the best thing for you.

Make It Or Break It

A successful break should have strengthened your relationship and reaffirmed your love and affection for each other, or result in a mutually respectful parting of ways.

Usually a breakup would be the preferred solution if:
-The person you’re with is emotionally or physically abusive
-You can do without the person in your life and won’t regret not being with the person
-You’re crying more than you’re laughing because you’re dating a person, not an onion
-You’re lying to yourself that the relationship can work (e.g. he constantly cheats, breaks your heart and show no signs of changing despite apologising)
-You’re only staying in the relationship for sex
-Your partner refuses to communicate with you or trust you

If you come off worse after the break or nothing seems to have changed, I hope you’ll be brave enough to make the right choices for yourself again.

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