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April 1, 2019

Taking a Break – The Do’s and Don’ts of Pausing Your Relationship

“We were on a break!” is a phrase the TV show Friends made into a popular joke. You can probably hear Ross’s voice ringing through your head now!

But in reality, taking a break from a relationship is no joking matter. In fact, many people feel they don’t work and lead to an actual break up.

Yet, that’s not true.

There are ways of taking a break that can lead to the kind of clarity and understanding a troubled relationship needs to survive. Let’s look into the do’s and don’ts of pausing your relationship.

Do: Be Honest About Why

Before deciding to put your relationship on pause, it’s important to understand why you feel this way.

You may have reached an impasse in the relationship and need to take a step back to refocus. Or a potential deal-breaker has come up and you need time to think.

Whatever you identify the issue to be, that’s the time to set down with your partner and talk it through. Be open and honest with them. And listen to what they have to say.

Above all, don’t request a break in the middle of anger or frustration. It’s a big decision to make. And one that both of you need to discuss and decide on together.

Don’t: Take a Break If You Want to Break up

Many people decide to take a relationship break to avoid the messy situation of actually breaking up. But taking this slow-motion approach will only be harder on the both of you.

If you know you want to break up, it’s best to confront the situation head-on.

It may suck to think about hurting your partner. And the thought of being alone again is scary. But taking a break will only prolong the inevitable.

Breaking up now, when you know it’s what you want, will let the healing process begin. Not only for yourself but your partner as well. And you both deserve that much.

Do: Set Boundaries

Once the both of you have talked, and you agree taking a break is best, it’s time to set some boundaries. Because running into confusion and a hurtful situation down the road will not help anything.

But the boundaries may look quite different for each couple. It’s all in what you feel comfortable with.

Will you still consider yourselves in a relationship during the break? Or will you be officially single during this time frame? Then you may want to discuss if you’ll date or sleep with other people.

Be very careful, and crystal clear, in deciding what is acceptable and what is not. You both need to feel secure and have an understanding. Not only for your break but in the relationship that may follow it.

Don’t: Communicate During a Break

A break means exactly that. And that includes taking a break in communication.

When you suddenly find yourself without someone who has taken up a big part of your life, it’s natural to feel a void. And in turn, it’s natural to keep going back to this person.

But you need this break to clear your mind and reflect. Having regular communication or even checking in with your partner will only muddy things up.

Use this time apart to gain insight into yourself, your partner, and your relationship. And to do that successfully, you’ll need space without interruption.

Do: Set a Realistic Time Frame

Taking a break in a relationship without an end in sight may create turmoil and anxiety. And in reality, an open break is a breakup. That’s why it’s a good idea to set a time frame.

Make it a time frame that both of you feel comfortable with. You may feel a week is enough time apart. Or you might need a month.

Just be sure to respect that time frame once it’s set. You may go half-way through and know you want to stay with your partner. But they may need more time.

Seeing the time frame through will ensure everyone gets the space they need.

Don’t: Focus Solely on Your Partner’s Needs

Sure, a break is a time to reflect on your relationship and your partner’s needs. But don’t forget about yourself in the process.

Your needs and well-being are important. So use this time for YOU!

Spend time on hobbies you enjoy. Reach out to family and friends. And getting physically active will release “feel good” hormones that can help you get through this difficult situation.

Taking care of yourself throughout a relationship break will give you the self-confidence to make the right decision.

Do: Ask Yourself the Important Questions

While you’re taking time to focus on yourself, it’s also the time to start facing the important questions.

Are you seeing things clearly from both sides and understanding your partner’s concerns? Are you putting the kind of effort into the relationship you should be? Or are you pointing fingers and placing blame?

The time you spend alone while taking a break will also leave you with other questions to answer.

Are you happier without your partner around? Can you not imagine a future without them? Or are you hanging on because you don’t want to be alone?

Asking yourself the hard questions will get you down to the nitty-gritty part of your feelings. The part that will lead you to make a decision about your relationship that’s best for both involved.

Don’t: Set Unrealistic Expectations

Nobody and no situation is perfect. So setting unrealistic expectations on your relationship and your partner will only be setting yourselves up for failure.

Realize every relationship takes work. Mistakes are going to happen and feelings are going to get hurt. But it’s how much of yourself you’re willing to invest in this relationship that will dictate the outcome.

Be realistic about each of your needs and weaknesses. Be honest about the role each of you plays. And know to start fresh, you need to set expectations that create a relationship worth fighting for.

Taking a Break Provides Relationship Clarity

When you’re in the midst of a murky relationship, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to take a step back to see things more clearly. In fact, taking a break may provide the exact clarity you need. Only then will you be confident enough to know how to move forward.

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Grant Funding

Funding for these programs was provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Grant Number 90FM0063

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