Q & A: Is taking a break in a relationship healthy?

March 13, 2023

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Like so many questions about relationships, this one cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. No matter the reason why, taking a break is different from a breakup because both parties agree to take space from each other to proactively think and gain more clarity about the relationship. If you decide to take a break, give each other a specific time to reconvene and talk about what kind of clarity each person has gained.

Let’s look at three scenarios as to why people take relationship breaks.

Scenario #1: You are trying to focus on other aspects of your life (like school, sports, work, mental health) and you don’t feel you can give an adequate amount of time and energy to the relationship.

This is a common reason why people decide to take a break! Ideally, a partner will always give the space and time to be able to accomplish goals and for their partner to keep up with their individual needs, but this isn’t always the case. Leave the door open for compromise, and also let your partner know that you need time to get caught up or focus on other things for a while. Give them specific times when you will check-in with the relationship. 

Scenario#2: You just aren’t sure if the relationship is right for you, so you want to reflect and see how you feel about it without the influence of your partner.

Oftentimes, clarity comes by taking a step outside of your relationship. From this vantage point, you can see the things that you really like or dislike about the relationship. Taking a break for this reason also allows you to regain a sense of your individual self if that is something you have lost in the relationship. Give yourself adequate time to reflect, and don’t let that partner wait around forever. Be clear as to why you are asking for a break. Let them know when you will check back in with them and stick to that. 

Scenario #3: Your partner has broken your trust, lied, or cheated and you aren’t ready to end the relationship completely.

If this sounds like your situation, our hearts go out to you! It hurts to have trust broken, and taking space is a totally valid thing to do. Remember this: It is not your responsibility to change a partner. If they continue to act in ways that hurt you or take away your trust, they should be made aware of this and it is not something that builds long-lasting, intimate relationships. Taking a break because of this situation could be healthy until emotions subside, but it could definitely result in a permanent breakup. Take this break time and space to reestablish your own boundaries and limits, and to listen to trusted adults and friends. It is definitely difficult to end a relationship with someone if you have created a strong emotional bond, but trust is one of the cornerstones of a strong relationship. 

Taking breaks is going to look different for each relationship, as all relationships are unique. The common threads for all breaks that make them best for both parties are (1) that you establish ground rules and a time when you will check back in with each other, and (2) that you are both proactively engaged in reflecting and thought surrounding the relationship during your break. 

If a partner is physically violent, emotionally manipulative, makes you feel unsafe, or makes you feel bad about yourself or own life, reach out to someone that can help. It is not your fault, and these sort of actions are not means to “just take a break,” they are signs of unhealthy behaviors that can threaten the safety of you and others around you. For support, reach out to RAINN.org, TheTrevorProject.org, or call 800-656-4673. You can reach us at the REC Room by calling 907-235-3436.