Taking a break from your relationship
I Asked 19 People Whether “Going on a Break” Ended in a Breakup
06.06.18

My relationship with relationship “breaks” has been varied, passionate and overall ironic. I myself have never gone on an official break — I used to “not believe in them” — but I’ve been through breakups that lasted a day, a week, a year, before we reversed them: a break in practice if not in name. And nearly every time I’ve ended a relationship, I’ve used the consoling idea that we might have a future as a means to get through it, and every time, I believe it up until I no longer need to. I’m a gullible and fickle creature when it comes to love, capable of lying to myself over and over again. I have evidence in the form of 28 years of pop culture consumption and late-night talks with friends to believe we all have a little bit of love blindness in us. I think it’s part of the deal.

Going on a break is a divisive solution for a relationship rough patch. Some believe it’s just a fearful pitstop on the way to a breakup; others believe it can be a healthy and necessary means to see the relationship from a distance. Still others believe it’s a copout, a bad sign, an escape in sheep’s clothing. The beauty of the break, though, is it’s temporary by definition, which means its success or failure is imminent and at least somewhat objective. Relationship-break hindsight, in that sense, is rife with realizations. In order to mine that wisdom, I asked a bunch of people who went on a break about how theirs turned out. After you read through what they told me, meet me in the comments to further theorize on the efficacy of “the break.”


“About two years into our relationship, [we took a break]. We didn’t want to lose each other, but things weren’t working. The break lasted about a month. Skip ahead to two more years and we are no longer together. I am happy we did the ‘break’ thing in the past because I am currently not questioning if the relationship would be better now if it was revived. Already tried it and it was clear! The split was also much more amicable and loving than I ever could’ve expected. True ‘conscious uncoupling,’ Gwyneth-style.”

Ivy, 26


“Currently [on a break]! He is 18 years older than me and I felt as though I had some boxes left unchecked that I wanted to explore. Still love him and see him, but the pressure and anxiety of being in a relationship has been removed. Boundary-drawing has been difficult, but we are learning and I love having him in my corner without all of the added daily pressures of being in a full-on relationship.”

Steph, 23


“First semester of my freshman year I put my boyfriend on a break because we were heading towards becoming open and I was restless. I was also interested in someone else and overall feeling trapped. I put us on a break for three weeks — no talking. After three weeks, I went home and we broke up in a cafe. We both kinda knew it would happen at that point. After four months though, I missed him a lot. He called me and we spent a couple weeks talking and then got back together on V-day. Now we’re open. Neither of us regrets that break; it hurt a lot, but it was needed for us to grow individually. The break made us realize how much we meant to each other.”

Helena, 19


“We went for 2 weeks with just texting but no seeing each other. I ended up cheating on him during that time (but we never really defined clear boundaries, so I’m not sure it totally counts?) and we broke up about two weeks after the break was done. He never found out about the cheating. I thought it would have been nice to get some clarity, but I was just postponing the ultimate outcome.”

Martha, 24


“I was dating a guy in the military. We met in college and, after his first deployment, we talked about what our next steps were after being together for six years — was I going to “stick it out?” We decided we both needed the space to think through it. A few months in, he found out they were moving him overseas for a year, so we got back together and got engaged. He moved overseas and that was the unintentional break we actually needed. Enough so that we decided to call it off. He’s since married someone else, but I am so thankful for all that ‘time and space.’ I had started to live in his world, completely losing myself.”

Maria, 29


“My current boyfriend and I met when he was a married professor and I was his student in a college course. We commenced a relationship with the naive belief that we could avoid catching feelings. After a long affair with me, he found out his wife was also having an affair. They ended up getting a divorce and he needed to be single. I was devastated and felt deeply betrayed considering everything we had been through. We were broken up for a year, dated other people (I hated every minute of it) and eventually got back together. It’s been six years and we are going strong. It’s a long and twisted (and slightly unsavory) tale, but the bottom line is that because of our year apart, we realized that there was no one else better suited for either of us and we have never doubted since!”

Maria, 39


“My (now) husband and I went on a break for about four months a few years ago. At that point, we had been together for six years and he was living in California and I was living on the east coast, and long distance and all the anxiety surrounding it had really worn us both out. It sucked and we ultimately ended up getting back together after a lot of back-and-forth and a lot of sadness. About two months or so after we got back together, he moved back to the east coast to be with me and within a year we were engaged. I hated being on a break and when we got together I definitely didn’t take our relationship for granted nearly as much as I had before. However, it was really good for us in that we both got to experience what life was like without the other person being on the end of the phone and to sleep with and flirt with other people. I felt more comfortable getting married knowing that we had had that really intense time apart.”

Julia, 31


“My boyfriend and I went on a break after being together for 18 months. I could tell he wasn’t into it as much — he put out less effort, etc. I suggested we try something more casual and do a break. We kept talking for a few months and then he sort of fell off. We talked less and less and less. Then he got in a relationship with someone else on Facebook and I was surprised to find out we weren’t together anymore! He’s still with her but still calls and texts me drunk five years later…fun!”

Aleandra, 26


“[Went on a break] for maybe a month or two, on and off. It was confusing. We kept seeing each other and sleeping together because we still really liked each other and it was hard to keep away from one another. I remember telling him I would sleep over and have sex with him, but I wouldn’t kiss him on the lips, like that was an important line for me to draw for some reason. We ended up breaking up for real eventually, with no communication whatsoever. After three months of that ‘real breakup,’ we got back together (slowly, while talking through all our issues) and have been together ever since. That was three years ago.”

Emma, 24


“We had been dating for just over a year when we went on a break for three weeks. Rules were: no talking or texting, dates with other people [were allowed] but no kissing other people, and we even split up what days we could go to our acro yoga class. We didn’t have a shared dog, so I guess our class was our big shared item. Absolute overkill. It was torture, on my end. I just couldn’t stop thinking about our relationship and him. Thank goodness for girlfriends listening to me hash it out over and over again. We did get back together and dated for another two months before it ultimately ended. Did it help us with some of our problems? Yes. Did it fix the fact that our relationship was never going to end in commitment for life? No. I’m glad I gave that relationship everything I had, but I’d never do a break again. The break nearly broke me. Or at the very least, nearly broke anyone having to listen to me talk about it for three weeks straight.”

Jessica, 30


“I never thought I’d be ‘that girl’ who goes on a break with her significant other. It’s common knowledge that going on a break is just pregaming your breakup. But love can make you do weird things, hence why I put my long-term relationship on hold for ‘about a week’ only to break up with him three days later. I also never thought I’d be the girl who dumps her boyfriend and gets back together with him a month later, but here I am. Love is weird. Who cares if you’re ‘that girl?'”

Timarie, 19


“I went on a break with my boyfriend of three years because I was feeling discontent with the roles we had fallen into and realized I had completely stopped working on myself and wanted to make some more time for that. He seemed to agree at the time — when I said it face to face — but a day later he was already asking if I would to get dinner. I wanted to text a little less, but it was hard to orchestrate that when he kept texting me and I felt obliged to reply so as not to upset him. We then had a wedding coming up that had been planned [to attend] for a long time and we agreed we would go to it together. We slipped straight back into being a couple again without me really feeling like I had made the active decision that I wanted the relationship to carry on. So the break lasted around two weeks and now I’m in the awkward position of needing to bring up the same thing all over again because my feelings haven’t changed…”

Emily, 23


“I once went on a break with my boyfriend who was also long distance. After the first day, we never spoke again. He lived in Tennessee and I’m in Connecticut, so it was bound to flop anyway.”

Will, 19


“My ex-boyfriend begged and begged that we go on a break nearly a year into our relationship. He claimed he needed time to ‘figure out how to love me better’ (?!). He had lots of rules planned out about how often we would communicate. ‘We’ll write each other letters!’ he claimed. ‘That way we (read: he) can properly spell out how we’re feeling.’ I knew how I felt. I knew that I loved him, but it was apparent to me that he didn’t feel the same. Reluctantly, I agreed to said break. I also held up my end of the deal by writing and following the laid out rules he made up. I never heard from him. A ‘break’ was his way of just breaking it off without having the guts to say what he was feeling.”

Jade, 24


“My boyfriend and I went ‘on a break’ when we both moved to New York after college. It was my idea and he wasn’t into it at first, but I wanted us to separately get our bearings in a new city, instead of growing into a new life being dependent on each other for support. Eventually, it helped us both realize that we didn’t need to be in a relationship at all. We had a very amicable, mutual breakup at the end of the ‘break’ and we’re still friends!”

Zoe, 24


“We were both in school, end of the semester, prepping for our respective internships. I was moving to New York, he was staying local. Before I left, we said we were fine with each of us seeing other people. With our agreement, I went ahead and started to see someone new. He couldn’t deal with it and blew up on me. Cold shoulder for months. We are on fine terms now, but we never got back together after our ‘break.'”

Bridget, 21


“Last year my ex suggested the day before my birthday that we go on a break for a week (still convinced it’s because he didn’t get me a gift). After a week, I texted him and said, ‘I’m happy the way things are.’ Took a year to get over it and I’m so happy it happened.”

Colleen, 22


“I went on a break with a guy where we didn’t talk for a bit and he ended up moving to Ohio and not telling me. The only reason I found out was through his Snapchat story!”

Mallory, 19


“We went on a break for six months because I wanted to go live in Italy and he wanted me to be free and not worry about him. So I did just that. When I got back, he essentially ghosted me (we were going on 2.5 years) and so I dumped him. We got back together (by his request) and then broke up again six months later. Pretty sure I broke his heart by showing him I wanted to be my own person despite being with him and was able to do that happily.”

Emily, 22

Photo by Arthur Elgort/Conde Nast/Contour via Getty Images.

Get more Postmodern Love ?