According to Ann Rosen Spector, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Philadelphia, one of the best ways to repair a relationship is to put some distance between you and your partner by taking a break. "Separation can be very healing," she says. "When a situation is complicated, having distance to get clarity is important." And a break is the way to get it.
What is a break?
Taking a break is a chance for people in a relationship to explore what not being together feels like, take time for personal growth, and look at their relationship from a distance. "So many couples think a healthy relationship means being together all the time, but thats not true," says Spector. Attaching yourself to another person-while it might work for some-can be the perfect setup for disaster down the road, especially if there are disagreements you cant seem to let go of.
Breaks are for partners who care about each other but cant see eye-to-eye. They require you and your partner take a significant amount of time to weigh how you feel being separated versus how you feel together. Then-and only then-you can determine which is better.
And though separation is much easier said than done, its essential to what Spector calls "relationship renovations" and breaking toxic patterns. Breaks allow couples to see the partnership from a new perspective, acknowledge personal doubts and wrongdoings, determine changes that need to be made, and then decide if the relationship is even worth continuing. In Spectors experience, couples usually realize it is.
But remember: breaks are not one-size-fits-all (because that would just be too easy). The way you carve out time away from your partner totally depends on the kind of the relationship youre in. Does one person depend on the other financially? Are there children in the picture? Is this a long-distance relationship? The nitty-gritty makes all the difference and must be **seriously** considered beforehand or else the break might just turn into a breakup.
Gotcha. But how do I plan a break?
"Breaks must be done with clear rules and for the right reasons," says Spector. A break is not the answer if youre too afraid to end the relationship, want to see other people, or punish your partner.
It is the move, however, if your intentions are to share a toothbrush holder with your partner for the long hall. You each must be willing to use the time apart to be honest with yourselves and really reflect on what you can do to make that a possibility.
Wondering whether your relationship is make or break? Ask yourself these two questions:
Once you and your partner discuss reasons for the break, the next step is to come up with a game plan for the separation. Consider these conditions when coming up with your break guidelines:
- Whether or not to involve a relationship therapist
- The length of the break (duration depends on the couple and the issues, but Spector insists that a week is **not** enough for real change)
- How often youll contact or see each other during the break, if ever
- Whether youll discuss what you did while you were apart (this ones major-just ask Ross from Friends )
- Whether youll date and sleep with other people
- How youll explain your break to your families, friends, and children
Again, no break will look like another. Some might be limited to weekends because living separately is too expensive. Other times, breaks call for month-long total radio silence, and there are instances when a couple comes back stronger after dating other people. Its up to you to determine what will work for you. But Spector does warn: "The more [conditions] you add, the more complicated breaks can become."
K, breaks over. Now what?
Tbh, sometimes couples come back from breaks and one person hasnt taken responsibility for their actions, or someone realizes they want to call it quits. But, typically, if you both commit to honest self-reflection during the break and compare how you felt during the separation to being together, your relationship ends up stronger. Partners will have had time to consider what they need from the relationship and what they need to do to make sure their partner is feeling fulfilled, too.
Of course, just because youve spent time apart doesnt mean your issues will have disappeared. But the separation will have given you and your partner the chance to approach your relationship differently and move forward.