Relationship Breaks Vs. Breakups

Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images

Everyone knows what a breakup means, but a relationship break means different things to different people. If you and your significant other are considering a break, make sure you both know exactly what you mean by that, what the rules are and what you hope to accomplish. Taking a break without answering these questions first can be more painful than actually breaking up.

Decide What You Mean

Some people use phrases like "taking a break" or "taking some time off" as euphemisms, when what they really mean is that they want to break up. Some use these phrases to mean that they want to be free to date or become intimate with other people, with the vague possibility of someday getting back together. Both of these situations are really breakups, not breaks. A relationship break is time spent apart for the purpose of either strengthening the relationship or deciding to end it. A relationship break has a set time limit, after which the couple gets back together to reassess the situation. Make sure you and your partner are both talking about the same thing before agreeing to a break.

Decide What You're Doing

Both you and your partner should agree on what you're doing and why you're doing it before you start your break. For instance, you can take a break to decide whether you want to break up or not. You can take a break so you can date other people and decide whether you want to commit to each other exclusively. You can take a break so you can work on yourself for a while and come back to the relationship with a better mindset. Once you've agreed on the reason for the break and what you're trying to accomplish, it will be easier to agree on some rules.

Negotiate Some Rules

Different people take relationship breaks for different reasons, so the rules have to be negotiated depending on the situation. If you're sure you want to be together but you're having problems getting along, you might agree not to see each other for a while but not to date other people either. If one or both of you isn't sure about committing or doesn't feel ready to be exclusive, you might agree on some rules for dating. You should also agree on whether and how often the two of you will be in contact during your break. Finally, you should agree on how long the break will last before the two of you meet up to decide on your next steps. You can make any rules you want, but make sure they're clear and that both of you agree on them.

Assess the Situation

When the break begins, give yourself some time to get settled in to the situation and then begin the process of assessing the relationship and your role in it. Use the break as an opportunity to really think about whether you want to be with your partner for the long term and whether you think you can make it work. If you're happier without your partner around then you know what you need to do next, but if you find that you can't wait to get back together then you can return to the relationship with a new sense of commitment.