When your relationship has hit a rocky patch, and you and your partner aren't ready to throw in the towel, but can't keep going the way you're going, what else is there to do besides take a break? Though it can be a hard decision to come to, once you and your partner have decided to take a break, it's important that you keep a few things in mind. Nobody wants to wind up like Ross and Rachel on Friends, forever referring to that time you were on a break, right? That's why there are things to do when you go on a relationship break so you and your partner don't wind up forever ruined for something that happened during your time apart. Because a break to one person can mean a completely different thing to another.
You've gotten through the hardest part, which is deciding with your partner that you do in fact need a break to figure out the next steps. Now, there are a few things you can do to ensure you use your time wisely, and come back from that break feeling clearer about the direction of your future with or without your partner. Because if you're not using your time to figure out what it is you want next for your relationship, then what exactly are you doing? Here are seven things all couples should do during a relationship break that will it worth the time apart.
1. Define Expectations
If you're looking to get back together with your partner in the future, you and your partner both need to sit down to discuss what your expectations of your break will be. Though it might be a hard discussion to have, it's one you need in order for you to part ways temporarily on the same page. Paulette Kouffman Sherman, psychologist and author of When Mars Women Date told The Chicago Tribune, that couples need to be honest and clear with each other about what that time is going to look like in order to get the most out of the break.
2. Set Boundaries
Can you call each other during this break? Text? Drop by? See other people? It's important to set and define boundaries for you and your partner during your break, so that you don't come back from your break with entirely different views and experiences about how things happened. If one of you has been at home, contemplating the future of your relationship while the other has been out dipping their toes in the dating pool, you're going to come back from that break with very different thoughts about what to do next. Though it might seem excessive to set such detailed boundaries in place with one another, for the break to really be a mutual break, it's important to do.
3. Figure Out Why You Want To Take A Break
If you're feeling blasé about your relationship and think a break will fix it, couples therapist Liz Higgins told The Huffington Post that it's important to get to the bottom of why you want to take a break. "When taking a timeout, call it for yourself and not for your partner," Higgins said. "This decision all comes down to knowing yourself." Finding the why will better help you approach the situation with your partner, and can help both of you better evaluate what your break will look like.
4. Set A Clear Timeline
Figure out a timeline for your break. Taking a break with no end in sight is the fastest way for your break to turn into a full on break up. Even if you just schedule a check in after a certain period of time, to figure out if you need more time, or where to go next. In the same Huffington Post article above, couples therapist Marni Feuerman said setting up a time to check in with your partner is extremely important. And you don't have to have all the answers when you check in, according to Feuerman. You just need to stick to your timeline, and respect it. “When you do eventually talk, just let each other know how you’re working on yourself during the time apart," Feuerman suggested.
5. Use Your Time Wisely
In order to come back from your break with a renewed sense of understanding of your relationship, you need to use your time wisely. Take time and think about why you're on a break, and whether or not you and your partner truly have a future together. "People often return from the break with renewed hope, and yet once again face the disappointment that the same issues remain glaring in their faces, unchanged," psychotherapist Fran Walfish told the The Chicago Tribune. In order to prevent that disappointment from happening, both you and your partner need to commit to working through what's been keeping you apart, even if it's on your own time and your own terms.
6. Stick To Your Rules
Being apart from your other half can really open your eyes to what you're missing when they're not by your side. But according to The Huffington Post, it can also open your eyes to the idea that you might need your break to become a break up. Regardless of what your break helps you come to terms with, it's important to stick to your rules. If you've realized that you can't live without your partner, don't call them and text them incessantly to tell them about your revelation. Respect the rules you agreed upon at the beginning of your break, and honor your partner. Whether it's positive or negative, by respecting the boundaries and expectations of your break, you can revisit your relationship with your partner with clarity when it's time.
7. Reconnect On Neutral Territory
When you decide to reconnect with your partner, reconnect on neutral territory. Pick a place the two of you can meet that's not your apartment, or their apartment, or their workplace on a break. Try a coffee shop, a park, or a restaurant to meet up with your partner and discuss how the break has been for the both of you. By meeting up in a neutral place, you avoid the risk of things getting too emotional, which can be helpful if you think you need more time, or if you've decided not to pursue the relationship further. Regardless of what your break has helped you realize, meeting your partner in neutral territory will ensure that your first meeting post-break goes smoothly, and gives both of you time to discuss what you learned and realized over the break.