With all of the complexities and moving parts that make up our lives, it's not uncommon to want to step back from a relationship. If you've found yourself wanting to take a break without breaking up, this doesn't necessarily mean your relationship is doomed — but it could be a sign that there are deep issues that need to be addressed.
The truth of the matter is that communicating to a partner that you think it would be a good idea to spend some time apart is probably not going to be met with celebration and encouragement. Chances are it's going to be pretty difficult for them to accept that you essentially want to break up — without actually having to deal with all of the ramifications of a break up. Instead of ripping off the Band-Aid, taking a break is a tactic commonly used to back out of a relationship slowly because of all fears and uncertainty associated with separating. It's totally understandable why this can seem like an acceptable way of coping with relationship issues, but this isn't always the case.
1. Be Honest With Yourself
Before making the decision to press pause, be honest with yourself about why you're feeling the way you are. Although there's nothing wrong with wanting space in the midst of uncertainty about a partner or relationship, Winters says that's not the time to take a break. "It's better to communicate, open up with each other, and try to work things out as a team," she says.
According to Masini, you might want to take a time-out in the wake of an infidelity or after a potential deal-breaker has come to light.
"Making decisions about something traumatic requires space and quiet. Sometimes, a break is the best way to really focus," says Masini.
However, using a break as a cover for really wanting out of a relationship isn't the best course of action if your partner isn't on the same page.
2. Confront The Issues Head On
"Often, taking a break is the coward's way to back out of the relationship," admits Winter.
It can be tempting to ease out of a relationship rather than making a definitive decision to work through your issues.
"If you're feeling uncertainty about your partner, you need to ask the questions that feel uncomfortable. Walking away is not a solution. Taking a break is not a solution. Getting vital information is what is required. That means making it safe for your partner to tell you how they really feel — even if you don't like what they have to say," explains Winter.
Ultimately, once you've tried to work through your issues or have made the decision that spending time apart is part of a larger regrouping process, it's time to start a dialogue.
3. Discuss Rules
If you and your partner decide that taking a break may be the best course of action, it is absolutely vital that you discuss the rules of the break to avoid further confusion down the line. Masini frequently hears from couples that took a break and then got back together, only to be disappointed when one person found out their partner had dated and/or slept with other people.
"It’s important to understand that a break means you’re single and what happens during the break is all fair."
Both Winter and Masini agree that having a conversation about the exact terms of a temporary split is the best way to ensure both people get the most out of the pause without further tainting the relationship.
4. Accept That Taking A Break Could Lead To Breaking Up
"In order to have a break be effective (because this is very tricky territory), you have to have joint agreements, end-goals and timeline markers in place," says Winter.
If you find it difficult to have an open, conversation about the specifics of why you are taking a break and coming to an agreement on exactly what that means to the both of you — it could be a sign that a real breakup is on the horizon.
"[Just] taking a break doesn't heal or fix. It freezes the problem where it is, and nothing is changed," notes Winter.
Sometimes two people simply can't reconcile their mutual needs which can be really painful when there is still a strong bond. That's why it can be much more productive to resist the urge to run, and instead, lean in and put in the effort to work through the difficulties. If things still end up dissolving in the end, then at the very least you can walk away knowing that you gave it your all.
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