How to know when your relationship needs a break

Racheal Ede 7 July 2022

Sometimes we need to find clarity in our relationship, or things don't feel quite the same. But you don't want to break up. In times like this, you need a break

A break is an opportunity to reevaluate your relationship from a new perspective and decide if the relationship is worth salvaging after the agreed period.

Even though taking a break can seem frightening, there are times when it is necessary. If you find that whatever is making you consider a break is something you cannot work on as a team, the next best decision is to work on it individually. 

"A relationship break can be a good option if you aren't happy with the dynamics of your relationship, and you are open to the idea of working things out after spending time apart," says Jessica Alderson, co-founder and relationship expert at So Syncd.

"For a break to make sense, you both need to potentially be willing to put time and effort into the relationship to save it."

Most people wrongly assume that a break means a breakup. However, these are entirely different situations. Dr Elena Tourani, psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, explains that a break is only a pause in your relationship but not the end.

"When a couple is taking a break, they may still consider themselves to be in a relationship, holding each other in mind, and still being psychologically committed to each other," she says. "Breaking up with someone is the final ending." 

If you're wondering if you should take a break in your relationship, here are a few signs that it may be time to seriously consider it.

You are both miserable

What does it mean when a relationship makes both partners miserable?

Remember when you first met, how you and your partner were ecstatically happy to be with each other. Then, as days run into weeks, months, and years later—reality checked in?

"Work, stress, bills, arguments, and maybe kids make it difficult to get back the spark of the good old days"

Something about everyday life ruins the once happy relationship. Work, stress, bills, arguments, and maybe kids make it difficult to get back the spark of the good old days. You both feel overwhelmed and pressured by the commitment. In fact, any attempt at communication always ends in a fight.

Yes, this is a perfect reason to consider a break.

Depending on the circumstances, you and your partner can agree on time apart to see if you can still make each other happy, individually assess the dynamics of your relationship, and changes that need to be made if you choose to continue the relationship.

You lost your sense of self

Woman turning away from partner, taking a breakSome people find that they lose their own sense of identity over time in a relationship

If you have lost your sense of self in a romantic relationship, chances are that you're fully focused on the other person in the relationship, and you don't know who you are without them anymore.

You give up everything that makes you, you—your needs, hobbies, goals, friends, career, and even family, to the point that your entire life revolves around your partner.

You always put their needs first, you don't say "no", and you don't even have any boundaries on what you are willing to accept from them.

It's extremely important not to lose ourselves in any relationship. A healthy relationship must be collaborative and equally balanced as a team and as an independent person.

When you find yourself losing your identity and sense of independence, it's fine to take a break, create some personal space and rediscover yourself. Remember that self-care is not selfish.

You argue more than you communicate

Many people don't understand that there's more to communication than speaking. Real communication means that you sort through your emotions and are more effective in tone, delivery, approach, listening, understanding and interpretation when talking to your other half.

If you struggle to communicate effectively because you argue all the time, you will gradually become resentful and grow apart. 

"If you struggle to communicate effectively because you argue all the time, you will gradually become resentful and grow apart"

"It might be worth considering a break if there are high levels of conflict, and you are having difficulty communicating effectively, ie, recurrent arguments that tend to spiral out of control and are hard to resolve," says Dr Elena Touroni.

She explains, "It can sometimes take the heat out of the situation when emotions run high, and both people feel triggered. In these situations, it can be hard to find a way forward without taking some breathing space."

You don't trust your partner

Woman checks cheating partner's phone while sat in bedA break can help you sort out your feelings without conflict if your partner has broken your trust

Sure, every relationship has pitfalls. Let's say something happens that pushes the reset button in your relationship.

For example, when your partner cheats. Or, you find out your partner is constantly lying to your face. Dishonesty can cause a split in a relationship no matter how big or small the lie. The point here is that your trust has been broken in either scenario.

The right thing to do is not to jump back into the relationship. You don't want to be carrying around the baggage of unhealed wounds while pretending to be okay. You will only be hurting yourself and your relationship with your partner.

It would be best if you had time and space to get to a place of forgiveness and healing to move forward in your relationship. Take some break to prioritise your healing, and become emotionally free from the heartbreak while learning to trust your partner again.

You don't know what you want

There are no guarantees in love, and it's easy to get caught between "certain" and "uncertain." So, if you find that you don't know what you want from your relationship, then, without a doubt, take your time to figure it out. 

Do you love your partner? Are you only with them because you were lonely? Do you see a future with them in it? Look, it's unfair to your partner when you're only partially committed while doubting the relationship the rest of the time. Take a step back, figure it out, and move forward from there.

"It's unfair to your partner when you're only partially committed while doubting the relationship the rest of the time"

"If you are at the stage where you are having doubts about the relationship, and you've not been able to get to where you want to be as a couple, a break can be effective at giving you the clarity of thought you need to make the best decision," says Dr Elena Touroni.

In some cases it is possible to fix your relationship issues with a break—but it's going to require work from both partners. You should have an open conversation with your partner if you're considering this option.

Take some time to think about why you needed the break, what might help solve your problems, changes that need to be made when the break ends, and, most importantly, what's best for you.

Read more: 6 Expert tips to make your relationship stronger

Read more: Going through a divorce amicably

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