Crossroads of Love: Navigating the Decision to Take a Relationship Break
It can feel scary to consider taking a break from a relationship.
People often feel afraid to take a break during a relationship due to a multitude of reasons, primarily rooted in the fear of the unknown and the uncertainty of the outcome. Taking a break can feel like a precarious decision, as it involves temporarily letting go of the security and routine that a relationship provides, which can be particularly unsettling. There's a fear of potential permanence in the separation, as many associate breaks with the possibility of a breakup, making it a daunting choice for those deeply invested in their partner. The fear of judgment from friends and family can add to this apprehension, as society often stigmatizes relationship breaks as a sign of weakness or instability. Additionally, individuals may worry about their partner's reactions and whether they'll find someone else during the break, potentially intensifying their insecurities and anxiety. Ultimately, it is this blend of uncertainty, societal pressure, and fear of loss that often makes people hesitant to take a break in a relationship.
Dominant cultural norms sometimes push couples to break up rather than take a break.
Taking a break in a relationship is often considered taboo in American culture because it challenges the dominant cultural norms of commitment and fidelity. American society traditionally emphasizes the importance of perseverance, communication, and working through challenges within a relationship, fostering a belief that true love should withstand all difficulties. The concept of taking a break can be seen as a sign of weakness or a lack of dedication, leading to fears of infidelity or the potential permanent dissolution of the relationship. There's also a social stigma attached to it, as many people view breaks as a precursor to a breakup, with a widespread fear of judgment or failure. Consequently, cultural norms and values in the United States tend to discourage the idea of taking a break in a relationship, despite its potential benefits in some cases.
There are times when partners need physical and emotional time apart from each other in order to reconnect with themselves.
Couples may decide to take a break from their relationship for various reasons, often as a means to introspect, rejuvenate, and address underlying issues. This break can offer a breather from the routine, allowing individuals to reflect on their personal growth and goals, reevaluate their compatibility and communication dynamics, and gain clarity about their feelings and needs. In some cases, it can be a way to navigate temporary challenges or conflicts that may be straining the relationship, with the intention of returning to it with a renewed sense of commitment and understanding. Taking a break can provide valuable space for self-discovery and assessment, potentially strengthening the foundation of the relationship or, in some cases, leading to a decision to part ways amicably if the couple realizes their incompatibility.
In some cases there are benefits to taking a break from a relationship.
Taking a break in a relationship can be a more suitable option than ending it in situations where there is genuine love and commitment between the partners, but they are facing temporary challenges or conflicts. These challenges might include personal growth and self-discovery, external stressors like work or family issues, or a need for space to reassess one's priorities and feelings. If the issues seem manageable, a break can offer a chance to reflect, heal, and rejuvenate, potentially allowing the couple to return with a deeper understanding, improved communication, and a renewed sense of commitment. It can be particularly beneficial when there's a desire to work through problems or when both partners feel that the connection is worth preserving in the long term. In such cases, taking a break can provide a valuable opportunity for growth and can often lead to a healthier and more resilient relationship.
There are also scenarios where it’s time for the relationship to end, and taking a break is only delaying the inevitable.
Ending a relationship is often a more suitable choice than taking a break in situations where there is a fundamental incompatibility, repeated instances of trust or respect violations, or when the relationship has become emotionally or physically harmful. It's advisable to consider ending a relationship when efforts to resolve major differences or conflicts have been consistently unsuccessful, indicating a lack of long-term compatibility. Similarly, when trust has been irreparably eroded, such as through infidelity or deception, the relationship may be unsustainable. In cases of abuse, whether emotional, psychological, or physical, immediate termination is crucial for the well-being and safety of the individuals involved. In these instances, the decision to end the relationship may be a necessary step to prioritize personal health, safety, and emotional well-being.
Relationship breaks can be used as an intentional time to reconnect with a person’s feelings, wants, and needs.
During a break from a relationship, individuals have the opportunity to engage in positive and self-reflective activities that can contribute to personal growth and well-being. This time can be used for self-discovery, exploring one's own interests, and setting new goals. It's a chance to strengthen emotional resilience and independence, fostering a healthier self-esteem and self-awareness. People can also invest in their mental and physical health, whether through therapy, exercise, or personal development workshops. Taking a break provides the space to reflect on the relationship's dynamics, communication, and individual needs, which can lead to better decision-making when considering the future of the partnership. Overall, the break can be a valuable period for self-improvement and personal enrichment, potentially leading to a more fulfilling and harmonious relationship when the partners decide to reconnect.
Here is a list of important considerations for couples planning to take a break from their relationship:
Communication: Establish clear and open communication about the reasons for the break, its purpose, and the expectations from both partners.
Set Boundaries: Define the boundaries and guidelines for the break, including whether dating others is allowed or how often you'll communicate during the break.
Timeframe: Determine the duration of the break, whether it's a specific time frame or an open-ended period, to avoid uncertainty.
Goals and Objectives: Clarify what each partner hopes to achieve or work on during the break, whether it's personal growth, self-improvement, or relationship issues.
Reflect and Self-Explore: Use the break to reflect on personal needs, goals, and desires, and engage in self-exploration and development.
Therapy or Counseling: Consider individual or couples therapy to address underlying issues and improve communication skills.
Trust and Transparency: Trust is essential. Be honest about your intentions and any changes in feelings that may arise.
Support System: Maintain a support system of friends and family for emotional support and guidance during the break.
Reconnect Plans: Discuss how and when you'll review the progress and determine whether to continue, amend, or end the break.
Respect Each Other's Space: Respect each other's need for space and time apart, avoiding pressure or constant contact.
Emotional Health: Prioritize emotional well-being, seeking help if emotional difficulties arise, and avoid harmful coping mechanisms.
Legal and Financial Considerations: Address shared financial responsibilities and legal matters, such as shared leases or joint assets, as needed.
Consideration of Children: If children are involved, discuss how the break will affect them and maintain their stability and routine.
Positive Activities: Engage in positive activities and self-care to promote personal growth and overall well-being.
Reassessment: Continuously assess whether the break is achieving its intended purpose, and be open to the possibility of returning or making more permanent decisions based on the progress made.
Remember that every relationship is unique, and the considerations for a break may vary. It's crucial to approach this decision with empathy, understanding, and a commitment to the well-being and happiness of all partners involved.
About the Author
Diana Calvo is a Denver couples therapist. She provides professional support to couples in all stages of relationship and has experience working with the many difficult issues couples are faced with. Diana offers premarital counseling, couples therapy, discernment counseling, and divorce counseling services to Boulder, CO and Denver, CO. All gender identities, sexual orientations, and relationship styles are welcome.