Relationship Experts Advice on Taking a Break in a Relationship

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For some couples, staying happy is a moving target. Taking a “break” doesn’t have to mean breaking up

You love your partner—but you also feel like you could use some space to work on yourself or clear up a bout of relationship anxiety. If this sounds like you, you might be curious about taking a break in a relationship and what it could mean for your relationship.

“When a couple is having issues, a break can provide evidence of what’s the best decision in terms of the relationship,” says Anita Chlipala, a Chicago-based licensed marriage and family therapist (L.M.F.T.). “It doesn’t mean there’s an official breakup, just that the couple is pausing the relationship for a certain period of time.”

And while taking a break in a relationship might not be right for everybody, if you’re feeling like you need a bit of space—it’s worth considering. After all, a break doesn’t have to mean catastrophe—it can provide some necessary time and space to evaluate the partnership.

Ahead, learn more about what taking a break truly means, plus expert-backed tips for pressing the pause button on your relationship.

Does taking a break in a relationship work?
While taking a break might seem like a negative thing, it doesn’t have to be. Ultimately, if you’re considering taking a break over breaking up for good, it means you’re still looking for a way to move forward with your relationship.

And while there’s no cookie-cutter way to take a pause, doing so can actually be extremely healthy for both the individual and the partnership. “When you’re in a relationship, it may be difficult to see things objectively,” says Chlipala. “Giving yourself some space can let you see your relationship from a different perspective.”

Whether or not a break will “work” for your relationship depends on what you define as success. If you define success after a break as getting back together, know that may not be the case. However, it should help you see things more clearly and get your emotions in order.

Is taking a break in a relationship healthy?
A break in a relationship can be healthy if both partners have the right motivations for the change and use it as an opportunity for growth. If the break is intended as a temporary pause to provide clarity, reduce volatility, and aid in emotional regulation, then it can certainly be very healthy and beneficial, explains Vagdevi Meunier, Psy.D., licensed professional psychologist, certified Master Gottman Therapist, and founder of The Center for Relationships.

However, a break may be unhealthy (as opposed to, say, a break up) when “used as a punitive measure, an escape, an avoidance, or deflection from issues that need to be worked on (with no intention to work on it), or to engage in secretive, deceptive behavior,” Meunier explains. “In these cases the break is benefitting one person at the expense of the other partner’s well-being, comfort, or financial stability.”

So, what does “taking a break” mean?
A break is like putting a bookmark in the relationship, so you can temporarily take a step back and reassess what the partnership means to both of you.

“What differentiates a relationship break from a true breakup is that you usually have intentions of getting back together. It’s a way to hit pause and then come back together after gaining clarity, or taking time for personal improvements and self-growth,” says Samantha Burns, L.M.H.C., couples therapist, breakup coach, and author of Breaking Up and Bouncing Back. “Some couples take breaks if they aren’t in a mental or physical place to prioritize the relationship, whether because of obligations such as travel, work or educational commitments, or taking care of a sick parent.”

Depending on the couple, a break may mean a physical separation, limited communication, or a change to the “rules” around the relationship. The key is that it’s a break from the day-to-day routine and life you have as a couple

When to take a break
Taking some space can be beneficial when something jarring happens in a relationship, such as an infidelity or a sudden career change. It lets you hit the pause button and analyze the event so that you’re not immediately reactive. “Feelings can be powerful,” says Chlipala, “but with some physical and emotional distance, you might start thinking, ‘How did I ever put up with that?’ or ‘Why did I make such a big deal about such small things?’”

Another reason you may consider a break is if you feel you’re not at the right place in life to be in a relationship. Maybe you want to work on yourself, be at a particular point in your career, or move out of your parent’s house. You don’t have to be in a perfect place to be in a relationship, but a break can give you time to figure out if you’re ready to fully commit.

There’s another reason for a break that can be hard to acknowledge: you’re worried you’re not really right for each other, but stay out of fear. “Fear can look like a lot of different things,” says Chlipala. If you’re staying in the relationship because you’re afraid of being alone or you catastrophize what your life would be like without your current partner, it could be time for a break. “Once you’re on a break, you may realize things aren’t as bad as you thought they would be on your own,” she says.

Tips for taking a break in your relationship
Here’s what to do for a smooth and productive time apart, according to experts.

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