Is taking a break in a relationship healthy?


Relationships take a lot of time and energy to maintain. People invest in relationships because the rewards they get from them in terms of happiness and satisfaction are worth it.

When people get the rewards they want, they continue the relationship. When they don’t, they end them.

However, there’s a middle ground between those two extremes- taking a break. When you want to take a break from a relationship, you seek a temporary separation. You’re aiming to increase distance.

Is taking a break in a relationship healthy?

That depends on the motivation behind wanting to take a break.

A healthy behavior in a relationship benefits both you and your partner. Unhealthy behavior harms either you or your partner or both.

Let’s explore why people want a break from their relationship, along with brief notes on why they’re healthy or unhealthy.

1. Having doubts about the relationship

If one partner has doubts about the relationship, they need time to re-evaluate their relationship. When you’re engaged in a relationship, you hardly get time to assess it.

Why it’s healthy:

Having doubts about your relationship is normal, and taking the time to reflect on it is critical. People enter relationships through choice, and it’s their choice to re-evaluate the relationship at any time they feel like it.

2. Ignoring your own needs

If you keep giving and giving in a relationship without taking care of your own needs, your needs will eventually catch up with you. This can lead to bitterness and resentment, causing significant damage to your relationship.

Why it’s healthy:

Just as a jar cannot fill other cups unless it’s full, you must be full before giving to others. If you’ve been ignoring your own needs for a long time, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor by taking a break and re-focusing on yourself.

3. Constant conflicts

If your relationship is plagued by constant conflicts that never seem to end, you may want to step outside of the relationship for a while.

Why it’s healthy:

Relationship problems are wicked problems that are hard to solve. As with any other complex problem, it helps to take a step back and get a big-picture view of things. Taking a break also helps you calm down so you can look at your conflict patterns more objectively.

By doing that, you may get key insights into how you may be contributing to the conflicts.

4. Re-directing resources

You may need to deploy the time and energy you’re putting into your relationship elsewhere. For instance, you may be experiencing challenging times at work that require more of your attention, time, and energy.

Since these are limited resources, your relationship will definitely bear the brunt.

Why it’s healthy:

You know what your priorities are. If you need to prioritize another life area, it can be good to take a break from your relationship.

5. Test the relationship

Sometimes people wonder what it’d feel like to end their current relationship. But instead of breaking up with their partner, they decide to take a break. They want to see how they’ll feel without their partner.

Why it’s unhealthy:

This can only be healthy when it’s mutual. Usually, it’s not. You may be testing the relationship and exploring your feelings, but you’ll be making your partner feel unsafe and uncertain. They’ll feel you had no good reason to take a break and that you’re playing with them.

6. Exploring other options

When people get bored of their relationships or feel their relationship is going nowhere, it’s natural for them to wonder what else is out there. They may feel they’re forgoing better opportunities by staying in the current relationship.

Why it’s unhealthy:

Seeing other people when you’re in a relationship will make your partner feel insecure. If you want to date other people, have the courage to end your current relationship. Don’t leave your current partner hanging.

7. Softening the breakup

You really want to break up with your partner but feel it’ll be too hard on them. So, you take a break to take the edge off the eventual breakup.

Why it’s unhealthy:

Act on what you really want right away. Instead of making your partner go through the uncertain and confusing liminal phase between ‘being with you’ and ‘not being with you’, give them closure.

8. Identifying with your partner

When you don’t know who you are, you’re likely to identify with your partner. When you don’t know who you are, you derive almost all of your self-worth and happiness from your partner, and you become overly dependent on them.

This is why when people want a break, they often cite reasons like:

“I want to find myself.”

Why it’s unhealthy:

Not developing your identity independent of your relationship forces you to give your all to your relationship. When you do that, you have nothing left for yourself. A healthy relationship balances your own needs with the needs of your partner.

When breaks lead to breakups

Once the relationship re-evaluation period is over, you may decide it’s not worth continuing the relationship. You may have irreconcilable differences with your partner. Seeing other people during the break and finding them better than your current partner gives you further incentive to turn your break into a breakup.

When breaks lead to better relationships

If, after re-evaluation, you decide that the relationship is worth saving, you’ll try harder to resolve your differences. Reflecting on your relationship will help you realize what you’ve been doing wrong and where you need to improve.

This continuous tweaking, adjusting, and learning from mistakes are the foundations of healthy relationships.