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Taking a break in a relationship : why, how, when ?

take a break in a relationshipAt one point or another in a relationship, you may begin to question if the other person is really the right man or woman for you.  Everyone has doubts once in a while, this is only natural.  Maybe the relationship is getting more serious than you’re prepared for; perhaps you’re afraid that you’re becoming too dependent on your partner; maybe you’re just not sure that your relationship has a future. The fact is taking a break in a relationship has become

At times like these, you just wish you could have some space from your partner, to take a break, almost like a trial separation so that you have some time to think about what it is you really want.  Right now you don’t think you want to break up; you genuinely care for the other person and you don’t want to see them get hurt.  But you aren’t entirely sure that you’ll be happy if you stay together either. Taking a break in a relationship may be the best solution.

What is meant by taking a break in a relationship?

Taking a break in a relationship means that both you and your partner agree to a temporary separation. However, with some closed parameters.  You both agree that you need some time apart to reconsider your relationship and decide if you want it to continue.  It is not a break up.  It’s more like a time out. Where you can both take some time and space to reflect on the relationship. Think about your own feelings, and decide if your relationship has a future.  Taking a break in a relationship means hitting pause on the remote. But with every intention of pressing either play or stop afterwards.  It is a temporary trial separation so that you and your partner can have some distance from one another to catch your breath and remember what your life was like before you met the other and before you were in a relationship.

Why do couples need to take a break?

It’s important to note that not all couples take a break or ever feel the need to do so.  Sometimes, if a couple is struggling; they’re having a lot of arguments, or everything their partner does is beginning to irritate them, or one of them has cheated and the other needs some time to consider whether or not they can forgive their partner and whether or not they want to continue the relationship; a break in the relationship can be a helpful solution.  Especially if you’re living with your partner; you can start to feel suffocated by them and may think that you’re heading towards a break up.

Taking a break in a relationship is like an alternative to breaking up or a trial break up. You and your partner are having doubts about the relationship and while you both still love each other, you want to take some time apart to give yourselves a chance to breathe and to examine whether or not you should continue to see each other romantically.

Taking a break in a relationship gives you a temporary reprieve from your partner, to clear your head and examine your feelings, without your partner being there to make you feel confused or conflicted.  It’s a lot easier to examine your relationship doubts if there’s no chance of your partner being there to witness it and get hurt by it.  Sometimes people need to take a break from a relationship to remember why they love the other person, to miss the other person and to rekindle their love for the other person.

How to take a break

If you have decided that you think it would be a good idea for you and your partner to take a break in the relationship, then you need to discuss this with your partner calmly and rationally. Certainly not in the middle of an explosive argument.  If you suggest taking a break in a relationship while arguing with your partner, it is sure to add fuel to the fire of the argument. You’ll end up breaking up rather than taking a break.  You want this to be a conversation, not another argument.

Have a conversation, not an argument

Sit down with your partner. Begin by telling them how much you love them and how much you want your relationship to work out. Because you can’t imagine what your life would be like without them. Then let your partner know that you’re struggling.  Let your partner know that while you don’t want to break up, you feel that the two of you could benefit from some time apart. That if he/she agrees, it may be a good idea to take a break in the relationship. This, so that you don’t end up breaking up.

Prepare yourself for what your partner’s response may be.  Perhaps your partner is totally against the idea, gets angry at you and you know right then and there that your relationship will not survive.  Maybe just bringing up the way you’re feeling and discussing it will be enough for the two of you to work through your problems.  It’s possible that he/she has been feeling the same way and will be glad that you have suggested taking a break in a relationship because he/she doesn’t want to lose you either.  No matter what happens or how your partner reacts, if you want to take a break you must have a calm and clear discussion about it. You can’t scream it in the middle of a fight and storm out slamming the door. It has to be a unanimous decision.

The parameters

The time frame

Don’t set a solid time frame.  The key in taking a break from your relationship is not to put yourselves under pressure.  You can perhaps have a maximum time limit in mind, but don’t suggest it aloud to your partner, as you may find that it is not sufficient and you need some more time.  You don’t want to give your partner expectations that you cannot live up to.

The ideal time period for taking a break in a relationship is between a week and a month, but you shouldn’t be put off if you feel you need a little longer than this.  However, be careful that you don’t take much longer than this; you don’t want the break to turn into a full-scale break up.  If you know after a few days that you want to get back together, that’s great!  But wait a little longer to get in contact with your partner.  You might have managed to get your head straight within a few days, but maybe he/she hasn’t.  Give your partner a little longer and don’t end the break until a week has passed.


This is a decision that each individual couple has to make for themselves: are you going to have any contact?  If so, to what measure can you take a break while still being in contact with your partner?  It is recommended to cut off contact completely with your partner for a week or two while taking a break in a relationship.  No contact will give you the chance to really miss your partner and remember why you don’t want to be apart from them.  On the other hand, this is understandably more difficult if you have children together or work in the same place.  In this case, while communication is still necessary, limit yourselves to talking only about your children or your work.  Talk as little as possible and don’t discuss your relationship.

Seeing other people

taking a break in a relationship : temporary separationThis is the part that will remind everybody of the infamous “we were on a break!” from Friends. If you want to avoid a Ross and Rachel type situation, you and your partner need to be very clear. Especially about whether or not you are seeing other people during this break.  This, again, is a decision each couple will have to make for themselves. But be certain that there is no confusion over the issue.  While it’s up to you and your partner, it is not recommended that you see other people while taking a break in a relationship.  If you decide it’s allowed, that’s fine. But one partner may choose to see other people and the other may choose not to. That will only cause lots of jealousy, hurt and betrayal when you reunite.

Perhaps you feel like you need to see other people to get a good idea of what your life would be like if your relationship ended.  In this case, maybe it would be a good idea to agree to date other people. But perhaps prohibit kissing or sleeping with other people? That way you can experience what it is like to be single when you perhaps haven’t been for a long time. Without being unfaithful and staying true to your partner and avoiding hurting them.  Whatever you and your partner decide, make sure there is no confusion and you are both comfortable with the decision.

Make the most of your time apart

Use your time away from your partner to think carefully about how this break came about.  Reflect on the relationship; why were you feeling suffocated, what was it that you weren’t happy with in the relationship, why did you feel the need to take a break?  You need to consider all these questions and think in depth about anything else that was bothering you about your relationship.

Then, you need to identify the problems you were having and resolve them on your own.  You need to think about the doubts you have about the relationship and work through them.  When you and your partner reunite, you need to be absolutely certain that you’ve worked through all your issues; otherwise you may feel the need to take another break in a few months, and this time your partner may not be so understanding.  Do it right the first time and you’ll come back to the relationship feeling happier and more hopeful.  You need to make the most of your time apart so that when you’re ready to come back to the relationship, you’ve left your doubts behind you and you know that you can make it work.


If you’re going to take a break in the relationship, you need to have a lot of trust in your partner.  You need to trust that he/she is seriously taking this time to consider your relationship.  If you agreed not to see other people, you need to trust that your partner is not going out with a different person every night.  You need to trust that your partner is obeying the parameters that you both set up for the break.

If you agreed not to sleep with other people, you need to trust that your partner is being faithful.  And your partner needs to be able to trust you too.  You both need to trust that you’re doing this just for you and the sake of your relationship and not for any other reasons.  If you come back to the relationship with feelings of jealousy and distrust, believing that your partner didn’t take the break seriously, then your relationship is doomed to fail.  If you want the relationship after the break to be successful, you must have complete trust in your partner, and they must have complete trust in you.

Be honest with yourself

You entered into this break fully believing that you would come out the other side thinking your relationship would be stronger and more stable. But during your time apart from your partner you really enjoyed your life. You felt happier and freer. Or perhaps you really didn’t miss your partner all that much.  You have to be honest with yourself.

This is the reason why you decided to take a break. Even though you don’t want to hurt your ex, lying to yourself by telling yourself that you want to reunite with your partner will only hurt both of you in the long run.  If you were truly happier apart from your ex, it is better to end the relationship now. Even if it hurts your ex. If you don’t, it will only make you miserable and lead to a lot more pain for both of you in the future. When you want to break up, admit it.  Be honest with your partner and yourself, even if it’s likely to hurt them.

Reunite on neutral territory

If you decide that you do want your relationship to continue, you and your partner should reunite in a place that is neutral territory for both of you; not your home or your partner’s home; perhaps a park or a coffee shop.  Discuss what you’ve both been doing over the break, what you’ve been thinking and how you feel about it now.  Meeting in a neutral place will ensure that the meeting goes smoothly and emotions don’t run too high.  Seeing your partner after some time apart may be overwhelming so meeting on even ground is a good place to start.

Will things really change afterwards?

It is up to you and your partner to keep working on your relationship after you take a break. Things may change for the better, but only if the two of you are truly committed.  And you need to be sure that you’re not backing a dying horse.  If the relationship is still having difficulties after you’ve spent some time apart, you have to consider that it may be best to just call it quits. Walk away now while you and your partner can still be civil to one another.

Taking a break in a relationship itself is not a cure-all solution.  You have to make sure that you really want it to work.  Use your time apart to really think about what’s going wrong and the things that you can do to improve.  It won’t happen overnight.  If you want things to change after the break, you have to give it your all.

Things can change afterwards.  You may find after a week or two away from your partner that all your fears and doubts were silly and unfounded.  Perhaps a little space was exactly what you needed to show you how much you love your partner. Maybe you’re willing to do anything to keep your relationship alive.  You may find that the break in your relationship will really put things in perspective for you. Things will really change afterwards because you and your attitude will have changed.

But is it effective?

taking a break in a relationship : hit pauseTaking a break in a relationship can be effective because it makes you miss your partner, and when you miss your partner, you remember all the great things about your relationship, and any problems you had can suddenly seem insignificant.  It’s like they say: absence makes the heart grow fonder.  When you’re apart, you’ll remember all the great things you love about your partner. How they make you feel, how they can cheer you up when no-one else can, how they can always make you laugh… All the doubts that you had about your relationship can suddenly disappear. When you take some time away from your partner, you realise how much you enjoy having them in your life.

Why can it be effective ?

It can be effective. Because your time alone in the single (although not quite single) world makes you appreciate your partner a lot more. Taking a break can show you how fortunate you are to have your partner. It can make you realise that you really don’t want to lose them. So you’re inspired to try harder and put a lot more effort into keeping your partner happy and making the relationship work.

Taking a break in a relationship is an effective way to make you appreciate your relationship more. Indeed, it gives you a little glimpse into what your life would be like without your partner, without breaking up.  It gives you the chance to get a little time and space to clear your head and work through any doubts or fears you have for the relationship. This, without having to completely give up the relationship.  There’s a saying that we don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone. In general, taking a break is a way of solving this problem.  Taking a break is a way to show you what you’ve got and how lucky you are before it’s gone.

Why is it important to agree on it ?

Mostly, taking a break in a relationship can be a great way to take a step back from a relationship. It allows you to get your bearings, ultimately making your relationship stronger. But for many couples it can be the beginning of the end.  It can seem complicated, but in fact it’s very simple. You just have to make sure to have a long conversation about it first.  You need to set out parameters and be very clear about them. Then make the most of the break to really think about the future of your relationship.

You have to be honest with yourself and trust your partner and when you reunite. Also, you should do it on neutral ground and have an in-depth conversation about what happens next.  It may seem scary to take a break from a relationship. However, it may be the best option for your relationship if you don’t want to break up.

Antoine Peytavin, fondateur du site

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