4 Signs You Need To Take A Break From Your Relationship, But Not Break Up
“Let’s take a break.” Uttering (or hearing) those four little words may feel next to impossible, but the fact is, saying them may very well be the thing that saves your bond. Hitting pause can not only give you the space you need to sort through your differences, but it may also offer a fresh perspective that will enable you to work through ongoing problems in a new way. But how do you know when you need to take a break from your relationship?
There are a variety of reasons why a couple might decide to take a break. Maybe one person needs to reflect on some personal issues relating to self-esteem, trust, or deep-seated fear. Maybe both people need some time and space to identify the dysfunctional aspects of the relationship before diving in to resolve them.
Just ask my aunt and uncle. The two decided to go their separate ways for a bit during college, and now they’ve been happily married for 22 years. According to them, that time apart opened up their eyes to what was and wasn’t working, which then allowed them to re-approach the relationship as better partners.
Regardless of your reasoning for taking a break, Dr. Joshua Klapow, a clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, says it’s crucial to first figure out why you’re seeking some time apart.
“A ‘break’ in the relationship can be defined and deployed in so many different ways,” he tells Elite Daily. “What is most important is to understand what the break actually means, why you all are putting [it] in place, and what you hope to accomplish from the break.”
So, how can you tell when to take a break rather than break up? Here are some subtle signs to look out for.
You’re having deja vu during arguments.
Real talk: It’s frustrating AF when it feels like you and bae are having the same conversation over and over again, whether it's about your conflicting needs, communication style differences, or something else entirely.
“Sometimes, small problems that you have tried to address multiple times continue to pop up in the relationship,” says Dr. Klapow. “You are at a sticking point on these problems. You are not ready to give up, but there are too many problems to address while you are together every day all day.”
According to Dr. Klapow, this is a fitting time to consider a break — and board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Susan Edelman agrees.
"You may need a break if the conflicts in your relationship are leading to one or both of you shutting down communication or provoking the other to emotional extremes," she says. "And you might be able to replay the same issues with a better outcome after realizing how much the your partner means to you."
Essentially, having time on your own to reflect may help you both to realize what you need to do to finally push past those problems.
You can’t prioritize the relationship right now.
It goes without saying that relationships require a lot of time and effort. Sometimes, external factors such as family-related or career-related responsibilities will pose a challenge to your ability to offer 100 percent to your significant other. In an ideal world, you’d be able to continue giving to your relationship and leaning on your partner for support during these trying times. However, if you become overwhelmed to the point where your relationship feels like added stress to your life, you may need to take a step back.
“You are at the point where you feel like you have no more energy to put towards the relationship,” Dr. Klapow explains. “You love them and care about them, but can’t give it your all.”
Life throws your curveballs sometimes. And while in some cases those obstacles will only make your relationship stronger, only you know whether you can continue putting effort into your relationship while dealing with other stressors. Hopefully, your partner will understand your need for space while you sort through whatever it is that’s keeping you from making your relationship a top priority.
You’re having FOMO.
Dating in your 20s and 30s is no easy feat. Between maintaining all your friendships, trying (key word) to achieve financial stability, and pursuing your passions, you’ve got a lot on your plate. If it’s starting to weigh on you that you’re neglecting other areas of your life that you feel need attention, that could be a solid reason to take a break.
“In other words, one or both of you are feeling like you are missing out on other parts of your life,” says Dr. Klapow. “You want to make sure that you don’t regret being in the relationship and you want to devote time and personal energy to something other than the relationship.”
Of course, taking a break is not a decision you want to make hastily. If you feel like an honest conversation with your partner about your boundaries and how much space you both have in the relationship may help you to explore the areas of life you’re missing out on, that’s a talk worth having. However, if it’s clear that you and your SO have different expectations for time spent together or you feel like you can’t currently meet your partner’s needs due to other interests that you need to pursue, then you may want to take a break.
Things are moving too fast.
Relationships can move at vastly varying paces. If you feel like yours has progressed at an uncomfortably fast rate, a break may help you to re-assess what you want from this connection before you’re in too deep.
“Maybe you need time to process your feelings about the person,” says Dr. Klapow. “You each need to feel like you deeply want to be together.”
It’s crucial that both people feel comfortable with the pace at which the relationship is moving. Certainly, it’s worth being open with your boo about the fact that things are progressing too quickly for your liking. However, if they aren’t keen on the idea of slowing things down, then it might be time to take some time apart, so you can figure out whether there’s a way to compromise or whether there are certain things that are causing you to hesitate on taking the relationship to the next level.
According to Dr. Klapow, deciding to take a break should only come after you’ve asked yourself certain questions about your current relationship. Those questions include:
What is happening in our relationship now that is causing problems for one or both of us?
Are the problems something we have really made an effort fix before?
Why are we creating space between us? Because we need time for ourselves? Because we need time to be with others? Or do we need to see what life is like without each other?
Dr. Klapow adds that it’s important to define the “terms” of your break as well — as in, whether you’ll communicate during that time (and if so, how frequently), and whether you’re allowed to see other people. Another key question to ask yourselves is what you both hope to learn or understand during your break.
“If the break is well defined — if you both understand why you are going into the break and you have actual goals for the break — then the break can help create space, give clarity, and develop a different perspective about the relationship,” says Dr. Klapow. “The key is to not enter the break out of pure anger, frustration, irritation, or [impulsivity]. Enter the break on civil terms so that it is seen as a purposeful tool versus a reactive impulse.”
According to Dr. Edelman, if you're still struggling to sort through certain ongoing problems after your break, it may be time to seek a professional outsider's perspective.
"Often, couples therapy can help you figure out what to do when you can't resolve these issues alone," she explains.
A break isn't the answer for everyone, but for some couples, it can prove to be a powerful tool to gain a deeper understanding of how to make the relationship stronger, healthier, and happier. I mean, if Ross and Rachel did it, it has to bode well — right?
This post was originally published on Oct. 25, 2018. It was updated on Sept. 3, 2019 by Elite Daily Staff.