5 Tips For Taking A Break In A Relationship — And Does It Ever Work?

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couple taking a break in a relationship

Taking a break in a relationship can feel like the only option when things are getting difficult between you and your partner.

This is the question a client asked me after finding herself getting triggered and fearing that she was pushing her partner away.

"Should I suggest to him that we take a break?" she painfully inquired. Well, it depends. 

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Taking a break can work in a healthy relationship, but there’s a lot to consider.

Another client — a defeated man contemplating his wife’s request that he move out temporarily — had a deep love for his wife and two children, but was faced with too many years of spiraling toxic behaviors.

He needed a break but was worried they were heading for a divorce. His wife seemed to have given up on their marriage, and moving out was going to be perceived by their social circle as a sign of divorce.

It weighed him down and had him fearing the worst.

There are times when taking a break from a relationship is not the best approach.

Relationships require us to get to the heart of the matter. It can get really messy and hurts plenty, but is usually the only way to the other side where love is felt again — through the pain.

If you haven’t had much experience speaking your truth and have tried to meet each other’s expectations to avoid hurt and pain, taking a break may be more of a means of escape.

Have you each shared what’s in your heart and listened from the other person’s vantage point of pain?

Have you been able to sit together, without judgment, curious about what's going on for your partner and how painful it is?

If not, running away simply prolongs the stuckness and recycles the same surface drama. It won’t give you the opportunity to find out if you can work through the underlying issue to get a glimpse of what’s waiting on the other side.

When you've faced your heartache to the best of your abilities, suffered for too long, and have lost hope in the state of your current situation — a break is the way to go.

Love can find a way through all kinds of battles, stresses, and challenges — even infidelity.

The question is, whether each partner is willing to find that love within themselves and bring it back to the relationship.

"I love you" means, "I’m willing to do whatever it takes on my part, including splitting up if it’s going to help us gain more clarity."

The goal is for you both to be happy, bringing joy to your relationship, and you wanting happiness for your partner — with or without you.

There’s no blaming, shaming, or judgment in a healthy relationship.

If you’re out to prove each other wrong, instead of looking for ways to support your different ways of being right — you will not find a way back to love, no matter how hard you try.

Any resentment you’re feeling means you’re holding onto judgments of the past or what you still can’t be with in the present. This energy is toxic and needs to be released to be in a healthy relationship.

Here are 5 tips for taking a break in a relationship.

1. Give yourself space to be with just you.

Without your partner, there’s only you with you. You can breathe more freely. It’s a great opportunity to notice what’s different now when it's just you.

You don’t have the influence of your partner affecting how you feel or what you think. You have full permission to focus on what’s showing up right here and now for your experience to re-discover what’s true for you.

2. Do you really miss your partner or are you simply afraid to be alone?

Do you feel a genuine longing to be with your partner when they're no longer there? This is a tell-tale sign of your willingness to invest time and energy in this relationship.

Be really honest with what’s true for you. It could be you miss your partner because you’re afraid to be alone.

These experiences can't be collapsed onto each other. You need to separate them in order to make the right decision.

Only when you're apart will you be able to experience whether you miss your partner, or whether you are afraid to be alone. Is it one, both, or neither that's your truth?

When you know, you’ll also know which way to go. It's unwise for you or your partner to stay out of fear of being lonely, unless that’s the level of togetherness you want. It’s also a choice to miss out on love.

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3. Independence can get you clear on what most matters.

When you're on your own, it’s important to get clear on why you even want to stay in this relationship at all.

What do you value about your partner? What’s important about being in this relationship? What does it give you? What is it taking from you?

Your independent thinking here is needed, so you can find a way to honor what's important to you and find out if you should you get back together.

4. Understand what kind of health you bring to your relationship.

A relationship is only as healthy as the health of the least-healthy person in it. When you’re apart, notice what's no longer in the space in terms of energy.

We each bring different healthy and unhealthy energies to the relationship, depending on how we are functioning in all areas mentally, emotionally, physically, and most importantly, spiritually.

This is a great time to take an assessment of what you're bringing and what your partner brings to the relationship.

  • Mentally: Your capacity to respond to new situations and handle life’s challenges brings resilience, intelligence, and calmness to whatever life throws your way.
  • Emotionally: Those who can tap into their authentic feelings without attacking or blaming someone for the way they feel brings a healthy dose of emotions for whatever is happening in your relationship, without taking things personally.
  • Physically: Are you bringing the vitality of food and activeness to your relationship with how you take care of yourself? This will affect not only how much you enjoy life’s many activities you can share together, but also the quality of your sex life.
  • Spiritually: What meaning and purpose do you hold for yourself, and what you bring to your connection? What’s the vision you have for your life together? Are you aligned, and at least looking in the same direction?

Being apart allows you to assess what you're bringing to the health of your relationship. You bring your healthy half and your partner is responsible for bringing their healthy half.

5. Reclaim the lost parts of yourself.

Discover what parts of yourself you may have lost or given up along the way. You don’t want to lose yourself in a relationship. It’s one of the biggest reasons we find ourselves attracted to other people.

It’s a vital need to be seen and heard for who we are. And it’s the greatest betrayal of all not to have this in your relationship.

What have you sacrificed to be in this relationship? Do you remember who you've always been, and does your soul have space to grow here?

It's not taking a break that will make or break the relationship.

It’s what this break provides that’s important, in whatever way the relationship moves. Whatever insights you gain helps you each decide which way you need to go.

Decide ahead of time whether you're free to meet and connect emotionally or physically with other partners during this break. That may be the experience you need in order to decide whether to stay or not.

Don’t be afraid to explore.

You don’t want to be with someone without the clarity of discovering what it is you truly want in a relationship. You want someone who wants to be with you because they value you.

A break can give both of you the freedom to discover what you each need so that — whether you get back together or not — you're in a healthier place.

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Carolyn Hidalgo, CPCC is a spiritual life coach specializing in creating healthy, happy relationships with a vision of creating a judgment-free world. Pick up her free guide to great relationships on her website.