Does Taking a Relationship Break Ever Work?

Does Taking a Relationship Break Ever Work?

“I think we should take a break.”

Are these scary words synonymous with breakups, or are there benefits to a broken relationship? Experts say it depends on why you're taking a break and how you're taking it. But one thing is for sure - if you view your breakout as an out, then it will become an out.

“A break is not a strategy to avoid difficult topics or issues, and a break is not the same as a breakup,” says Nancy Landrum, author and relationship coach at RelationshipRehabCoach.

"There's a huge difference between a relationship breakdown and a breakup," she explains. "A breakup is the end of the relationship. In contrast, a break is for a specific purpose and for a mutually agreed-upon length of time."

What to Know About Relationship Breaks
A Break Shouldn’t Be a Way to Avoid Dealing with Issues

Assuming neither party is using the break as an excuse to end things. If you take a break to avoid dealing with potential problems, it still doesn't guarantee success.

“If a partner is looking for something to eliminate in the relationship—such as dissatisfaction, conflict, etc.—then interruption may not be effective because it is just an avoidance of addressing the problem,” says Jamie Long, Ph.D., a practicing clinical psychologist.

"All relationships experience conflict and issues that need to be resolved, and the simple passage of time may not be enough to make lasting changes. Instead, serious dialogue, empathy, and behavioral changes are strategies that lead to better relationship satisfaction," Long added.

If a partner is looking to incorporate something into the relationship, such as more self-care time or better boundaries, breaking clear expectations can be helpful, Long adds.

Breaks can be constructive, with clear goals and expectations

Landrum has first-hand experience with successful breakups.

“At one point, my late husband and I were going through a heated conflict,” she said. "We finally found someone who could teach us better, more respectful communication skills, as well as anger management techniques. We kept seeing her and using the skills we were learning, but we were completely consumed by the emotional energy After all, first it was fighting, now it’s learning new skills.”

The couple owns an apartment on the beach that needs renovation. Landrum spends about five days a week overseeing the work while her husband stays home to care for their two sons. They talked every night and he visited on the weekends.

"I drove in two days a week to attend counseling appointments and take care of things at home. In total we were together about four days a week and three days apart. This break lasted about three months," she added. "This gives us a refreshing break and allows us to regain balance from years of fighting."

It also restores the energy needed to rebuild the marriage. But it was clear from the beginning: the intention behind the breakup was never separation. It’s a commitment to transforming and rebuilding their relationship.

What Couples Should Consider Before Taking a Break

Long believes that if you're considering breaking up, it's a sign that you're exhausted by the status quo and don't feel like the relationship is going in a good direction. This is something to admit to your partner.

All couples should also ask themselves whether their intention is to temporarily withdraw from the conflict and work on developing better habits, or whether they have come to the painful conclusion that they must separate, Long said.

"Breaking off a relationship is unproductive if it's just something that has to be addressed to avoid the relationship from functioning properly," Landrum adds. "A breakup is negative if either party denies or cheats and really wants to break up. If If neither partner is working on their own needs and the needs of the relationship during the break, the break will be ineffective for change.”

After you take an honest and hard look at your intentions, you'll also need to set some ground rules. For example, would you date other people?

“Relationship breakdown can be beneficial,” says marriage, couples, and relationship therapist Cynthia McKay, JD, MA, LAC, MFT. "However, ground rules must be set and fully understood. If one party seeks to date or have sex with the other, that must be accepted. If a breakdown occurs, neither party can throw away their experiences in the other's presence."

McKay recommends answering the following questions:

Does a breakup mean you're single again?

Does taking a break mean you and/or your partner can date or sleep with anyone?

How long do you and your partner think the break should last?

Keep in mind that if you choose to date someone else during your break, it could wreak havoc on your relationship. McKay said: "Once

When people start dating again, they may become smitten with their newfound freedom and break off the relationship permanently. "

On the other hand, she said "absence can save a relationship by making the heart grow fonder."

So it really could go one direction or the other. Consider seeking professional support during this complicated time in your relationship—it can make or break the success of your breakup, according to Landrum.