It's not uncommon to get to the point in a relationship where you start to have doubts about whether or not you really want to continue being in that relationship. Whether you've been fighting a lot, overwhelmed with work, or have simply started to grow apart, deciding what your next move is going to be could bring you to a crossroads at which you must choose between taking a break and breaking up.
At face value, taking a break and breaking up may seem like essentially the same thing, but in reality, they are quite different.
Most couples who decide to call it quits are usually doing so because they no longer feel that the benefits of being in that particular relationship outweigh the freedoms of being single. When you decide to break up with someone, there typically is no intention of continuing the relationship — it's over. Maybe things ended on an OK note and you can remain friends, or maybe not, but the chapter of your romance is closed.
Now, I'm sure everyone can think of a situation where either they or someone they know had a breakup, only to end up right back together days, weeks, or even months later. But, the main thing that differentiates taking a break from breaking up is the intention. Making the mutual decision to take a break is something else entirely.
While there is an implied finality with breaking up, taking a break is essentially making the decision to take a step back from the relationship rather than stepping away, with the goal of allowing each person some much needed perspective and clarity on if and how the relationship can continue.
Maybe one of you just got offered a life-changing job that's going to require you to relocate, or are struggling with personal issues that aren't allowing you to meet the needs of your partner but are still very much in love.
Taking a break typically has a pre-discussed start and end time to allow for some space and reflection with the end goal being to come back together. At that time, there will be an honest conversation about if both people want to continue the partnership and what active steps they are willing to take to ensure whatever led them to seek time apart is resolved.
According to love and life coach Susan Winter, deciding to take a break when you really want to break up is the wrong move.
"Often, taking a break is the coward's way to back out of the relationship — taking a break doesn't heal or fix. It freezes the problem where it is, and nothing is changed," explains Winter.
This is why it is so important to have a detailed discussion before the break to discuss your separate goals and terms of separation. Are you planning on banging other people? No judgment — as long as your partner is on the same page, have at it. But don't assume.
It's also important to understand that there is a very real possibility that taking a break could ultimately lead to a breakup, so proceed with caution.
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.
Whichever road you choose to take, the most important thing is to be honest with yourself. If your partner isn't meeting your needs but you still love them and want to be with them, then it may be worth it to take time to work through the issues. If you don't love them anymore and want out but are hoping to "take a break" as a means of providing yourself with a comfy pre-singledom cushion — don't.
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