Have you ever thought about taking a break in a relationship? Here's what you need to know about why it's not always helpful.

That “On Again, Off Again” Relationship: The Truth About Taking A Break In A Relationship

In Dating by Debra Fileta

Have you thought about taking a break in a relationship? I spoke with a guy who did just that.

“We’re taking a break in our relationship right now”. 

He was referring to their on again/off again relationship that had been going on for about the past 2 years.

“We’re trying to see if that will help us figure things out.”

He was so confused.

This relationship he’d been hanging onto for quite sometime now had seeped into every part of his life.  Just the thought of ending it and starting all over again brought him into panic-mode.  He wasn’t sure if it they should keep trying to make things work out- or if it was fear that was keeping them holding on.

So for now, they were “taking a break”.  Sorting through some things. Trying to figure out the next steps.

Why Taking A Break In A Relationship Doesn’t Usually Work

I often get asked on my opinion about taking a break in a relationship for couples that are dating.  Is it worth it?  Can it be productive? And do I recommend it for a couple as a way to figure things out? It’s hard to give one blanket answer for a question like this, because it can be so case specific.

Generally speaking– I’m not a huge fan of the break unless it’s done really, really deliberately. Sometimes, I think people use the term “break” to mask the reality of ongoing negative behaviors and unhealthy patterns of interaction in their relationship.

It’s as though hitting the pause button for a couple days, weeks, or months is going to somehow magically change the outcome of the movie.

For cases like this, taking a break is essentially prolonging the inevitable and wasting some seriously precious time in life.

For me personally, the thing I regret most about past relationships that didn’t work out is this one thing.  I could have been doing so many important things, and investing in myself- instead I spent some really valuable time just “waiting around” and hoping for things to change.

They never did.  

Because simply waiting around doesn’t bring change.

Why would it? What changes when you decide that you’re taking a break in a relationship? Usually nothing. Because it’s not the “break” that makes the difference in a relationship, it’s the commitment to change and grow together. Without that, taking a break is just prolonging the inevitable…or what you already know needs to happen.

And that was exactly the case for the young man I introduced you to in the beginning of this post. After 4 years of the roller coaster ride of his on again/off again relationship— nothing changed, and he finally decided it was time to get off, and move on.

For me, one major difference I noticed with the relationship I had with the sweet man I now call my husband– is that we never really needed a break. It’s not that we had the perfect relationship, it’s that we were able to face the bumps in the road together.

When conflicts came up, we worked through them.

When we felt misunderstood, we communicated better.

When one of us was hurt- the other apologized, listened, acknowledged, and worked to change.

It’s these kind of patterns that kept our relationship growing smoothly — without the need to press pause. And it’s these type of patterns that are still at play in our marriage today.

What patters do you see in your relationship?

Healthy relationships lack drama…and if you ask me, dating relationships shouldn’t be so stinkin’ complicated.

But I get that relationships don’t always work out this way.  Sometimes, you hit bumps on the road of dating.  Even while I write this, I can think of a few now-married couples who took a break in their dating relationship.  Like I said, breaks can be done – but they have to be done well.

If you feel like you are stuck in your dating relationship–and contemplating taking a break in a relationship then tune into this post where I share a few guidelines about how to make sure a break in dating is actually productive rather than simply prolonging the inevitable.

Comment below: Have you ever taken a break in a relationship, and how did it end up? I’d love to hear your experiences!

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Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, and Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me where she writes candidly about love, sex, dating, relationships, and marriage. You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!