Suppose you inputted “How should I know that we need to take a break in our relationship?” on your search bar right now and somehow stumbled upon this article, oh honey, come here, let’s talk about it.
“A break” is one of the most confusing (yet potentially helpful) things that can happen in a relationship, not because it’s bad per se but because there’s so much to consider!
First things first, it differs for everybody: different timelines, rules, considerations, and reasons. It’s going to be different because each relationship requires different things and breaks down for different reasons, too.
So when should you take a break? Well, let’s talk about 15 surprising signs that it’s time to give your relationship a break:
1) You don’t miss them when they’re not there
“Love cannot endure indifference. It needs to be wanted. Like a lamp, it needs to be fed out of the oil of another’s heart, or its flame burns low.”
~ Henry Ward Beecher
Bestie, I am asking you to be honest with me: Do you miss them when they’re not there?
Do you think of them in the little things? When you buy groceries, do you buy a specific item because you know they like it?
If you don’t live together, do you count the minutes until you see them again? Do you pay attention to their presence, feel their absence in the quiet moments?
If the answer to all of that is a resounding No, bestie, isn’t that a thinker?
2) You prefer their absence
There’s a difference between not missing them when they’re not there and downright preferring them to not be there. Both aren’t good signs to feel during a relationship.
Why are you even in the relationship if you don’t want their presence? Sounds like you need some time for yourself to find the answer.
But wait a minute! What even is a break?
Before we go any further down this list, let’s not “Ross and Rachel” this discussion and let’s define what a break is.
Simplistically, a break in a relationship is temporary time apart to figure out the next move forward. “Taking a break” in your relationship is more than just “not a breakup yet”, it’s reflecting the ins and outs of said relationship.
Determining the problems and figuring out if it’s fundamentally irreversible or if the relationship can be saved.
It’s working on yourself and finding answers for what you need. It’s working on your relationship with yourself first, too.
It’s working towards rebuilding a relationship or choosing to eventually end it. And yes, it could eventually lead to a breakup—maybe even a divorce!
What are the rules for a break?
Wait, there are rules? Well, there should be, if you want it to be a fruitful one and not just a purgatory of on-off relationships.
- There should be a timeframe
Experts say a week to a month is sufficient, and it makes sense because more than that seems more like a breakup than a break. And honestly, if you can survive without them for an extended period, you’re more likely to get used to it.
Especially if there are fundamental problems in your relationship.
- Set ground rules
Rule within a rule, huh? Yup. Be as clear about it as you can, you’re already in limbo in your relationship, making your break the same way is like defeating the purpose.
So set them, here are some: How often should you communicate? Should you be seeing each other during the break? And one of the most important considerations is if you could see or sleep with other people during this time.
It’s a very loud and personal no for me on that last one, btw, but the rest of the internet is still on the fence.
Now, let’s jump back on the list.
3) You fight often when you’re together
The fight I’m talking about is more than friendly banter or a simple difference in opinions. What I mean are the messy fights where nasty words are thrown about like bullets.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that all couples fight… but what about when it’s constant? What if there’s no moment of peace?
Where do you draw the line? Humor me this, in this last week alone, how often have you and your S.O. fought?
What were the reasons and did you two ask for forgiveness from each other? Or were things swept under the rug to not rock the boat?
4) There is never any peace with them around
This might seem corny, but relationships and love should give you peace. It should feel like security and safety. It shouldn’t make you question yourself, it shouldn’t make you doubt yourself (which is #5 on this list.)
It shouldn’t be making you type the words you typed that brought you to this article.
Take it as a sign for a break if peace is more like a visitor than a cohabitant in the relationship, if it stresses you out to stay in it, why not try to be out of it first?
5) You doubt yourself around them
Bestie, it’s 2023, we shouldn’t be allocating time for doubting ourselves. I understand that sounds very preachy but I’m all for affirming our spot in the world.
To be authentically ourselves and to leave uncertainty as something momentary we feel as we discover more layers to who we are. To be sure of who we are, who we love, and who we want to be or become.
I know I’m idealistic when I say that doubting yourself shouldn’t be a daily thing, I get it, but in a relationship, it’s the bare minimum to be assured and reassured. To want the best for you. To hold your hand when the going gets tough.
Treat it as a sign for needing some time apart if being around them makes you doubt yourself.
6) You pretend to be someone else around them
This is even worse than the previous point, when there’s an awareness of a pretense but you continue with the charade in fear of disturbing the status quo.
What’s that status quo you’re in, bestie? And what parts of yourself are you choosing to sweep under the rug to make space for someone who’s making you feel like you need to be someone else to be loved?
Seems like too deep of a question? I get it, how can you address it if you don’t know, right?
Okay, hear me out, there’s this checklist (we love lists, you know?) that can help you narrow it down. It has a free exercise you can do that will help you find clarity in the values most important to you.
You might think it’s silly to do this exercise but when there’s a dissonance between who you are and the reality of what you’re living through, that creates tension. Sometimes even unhappiness.
Knowing these values is knowing the core of you, it defines your motivation and your purpose. The way forward is paved with intentionality.
Doubts? We don’t know her.
7) You don’t like who you become around them
Sometimes the truth will be so obvious to other people before it becomes clear to us. It’s sometimes easier to see from the outside in, after all.
At times we will be staring at the core of it all for years before it slaps us when we least expect it.
If you did the exercise I listed above, you might have already identified your main values and motivations. Does it align with how you act around your partner?
Or do they make you act in a way that does not align with who you are? Do they make you feel vindictive or desperate? Hungry for validation?
Someone you don’t recognize? Time apart sounds good, bestie. Even just to rediscover who you are, if you have fundamentally changed as a person, or if the relationship is just pulling you to darker waters.
8) You feel like you have to please them all the time so they won’t leave
If you need to beg for affection, validation, or assurance. If love is not freely given but rather earned.
It is exhausting to constantly tiptoe around someone, especially someone that you’re sharing life with. When you feel like you need to please them so they won’t be displeased and leave you.
When you feel like you need to be a certain way or act specifically just so it keeps the peace, a break is signaling to you, bestie.
(Honestly, and this is my mean friend energy coming through, that sounds like a giant red flag and a breakup seems like a better plan.)
9) The relationship feels transactional
Speaking of earned…Time apart sounds like a good plan when your relationship is starting to feel transactional.
What do I mean by this? When the basis for action is a reward. When people only act for the benefits and not for love or concern.
When there’s an expectation of a return. And before you say it, I understand that there’s a level of give and take in a relationship, but that one is organic. That one’s freely given.
This isn’t what I’m talking about here at all.
10) Your long-term goals do not align
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. And although a difference in opinions is also pretty common in a relationship, long-term goals not aligning is more cause for concern.
Some of these make or break long-term goals are marriage, children, finances, and career.
Money is such a friction-inducing consideration in any relationship and actually is one of the leading causes of divorce as well. It’s a conversation that needs to happen within a relationship, bestie.
And so is marriage and having children. This conversation is probably not for a new relationship but definitely for something more long-term.
If you do decide on a break, think of what you’re willing to compromise on or if you’re not willing to compromise on these at all. These are big, life-altering decisions after all. Think about it carefully.
11) You find yourself always giving in
Ah, here we go. Is there an imbalance in your relationship? Do you find yourself always being the bigger person?
Have you been disregarding your own preferences for their sake? Now, don’t come for me, I understand that you do things for your partners but it should be unburdened and without guilt.
And the keyword here is “always”.
In these cases of giving in, you might be thinking that it’s just easier to let it pass or let them have their way. However, constantly letting your partner have their way is unhealthy and makes it seem that you’re letting them not be accountable for their actions.
And what about your opinions? What about what you like? What if you’re right?
If you don’t even know the answer to these questions anymore, perhaps some time apart can help clear your head.
12) There is never compromise
This is related to the point above, and a cooling-off period in the relationship seems like a good idea when there is never any compromise between you.
From the smallest concerns to the biggest decisions, it’s their way or no way at all.
When they don’t allow discussion on decisions. When your opinions are disregarded. When you are made to feel like you can’t give your two cents.
But between you and me, and I’m being completely honest here, this isn’t a subtle or surprising a sign at all, this is a Giant Red Flag waving at you to pay attention to.
13) You don’t see a future with them
And even the immediate future is bleak. When you find yourself making plans and there is no place for them to fit into or you don’t even remember to consider them there.
Those tiny moments of neglect can pile up.
Perhaps time apart can show you if what you’re feeling is true to your core or only brought about by current relationship frustrations.
14) You find yourself CONSTANTLY comparing your current relationship to others (previous, potential, or other people)
As much as I can, I don’t like comparing relationships because this breeds discontent. However, I understand that it’s inevitable when you’re not satisfied with the reality of your situation.
So, bestie, if you find yourself constantly comparing your current relationship to your previous one or potential and hypothetical ones, a break is in order.
15) The idea of being single is very appealing
If time alone seems like the better option than wading through all this mess, that’s a pretty good indicator that a break is in order. Heck, that could even be a pretty good indicator that a breakup is in order.
Wait, but what if we break up for real?
Look, a break won’t magically fix your problems. It might not even fix one problem and that’s probably because it cannot be fixed.
This is why what you do during a break is important. This isn’t simply time apart for dilly-dallying, it’s time apart to find answers and lead to a decision. It’s finding the holes in the sinking ship and wondering if there’s any way to save it.
To know, despite good intentions, if there really is anything worth saving.
To figure out what’s better for all those involved (including children if there are any) and sometimes, a break will lead to a breakup. Such is the nature of knowing what you deserve.
Break vs Breakup: When should it apply?
When should it be a break and when should it be a breakup? Honestly, it’s a case-to-case basis again as we all have different thresholds of what we can endure.
But do allow me a few considerations, I consider these as glaring examples:
- If you’re only using a break to justify sleeping with or trying a relationship with someone else, opt for a breakup instead. You can “test the waters” as a single person.
- If you need to figure out what you want, try a break.
- If there’s a major life decision that you’re both having trouble navigating, try a break. Perhaps navigating the situation alone would give more clarity.
- If you’re weaponizing the break (that’s toxic, btw), just break up.
- If you genuinely feel like a break will allow room for you two to grow as individuals, go for a break.
- If the love is more enduring than the problem, try a break first.
There is always confusion and overwhelm in navigating relationships as each one is so different from another.
A break would be fruitless if you don’t know what you should be expecting from it. It could also be messy if you don’t set ground rules.
If the expectations do not align and if you’re expecting it to magically fix everything without doing the necessary work, it will fail.
Remember to proceed with good intent. I’m rooting for you to find clarity in this mess.
All the best, bestie.