What's In This Article
There's no one-size-fits-all answer to whether or not taking a break in a marriage works.
The success of this kind of separation depends on many factors, including the couple's reasons for taking the break, how they go about it, and how they handle things when they come back together.
On the one hand, it can be the perfect way to reevaluate your relationship and decide if you're meant to be together. But it may also just lead to more heartache and problems down the road.
So what's the right thing to do? Here are 7 points to consider before taking a break in your marriage.
1. Define the Problem
If there is a specific issue that you hope to work on by taking a break, defining the problem is an essential first step to determining if a break will be helpful. Without knowing what you're trying to solve, you won't know if a break will be the right solution.
For example, if you're feeling overwhelmed and need some time to yourself, that's a different problem than feeling neglected and wanting more attention from your partner. Be as specific as possible when defining the problem so that you can figure out the best way to address it.
2. Evaluate Your Relationship
Not all relationships are healthy enough to withstand a break. If you and your spouse are constantly fighting or if there are significant trust issues, a separation can give you time to cool off and think about things, but it won't fix deep-seated problems.
If your relationship is already on shaky ground, a break could be the final straw that causes it to crumble. It might be best to seek counseling or other forms of treatment instead of taking a break.
3. Understand Your Expectations
Before taking a break, talk about your expectations of each other. What does each of you hope to accomplish by taking some time apart? Are there certain things you agree not to do during the break?
Discuss how long the break will last. Will it be a weekend, a week, a month, or longer?
Decide what kind of contact you will have with each other and if you will see other people. What are the expectations for behavior during the break? The process will be smoother if you know what's acceptable and what's not.
4. Consider the Logistics
If you have children, you'll need to plan for their care while taking a break. Who will pick them up from school or daycare? Who will be responsible for their meals and activities?
You'll also need to figure out where each of you will sleep. If you live in the same house, you might sleep in separate bedrooms. Or one of you may decide to stay with family or friends during the break.
It's also important to discuss any financial or legal issues during the break. For example, if one person moves out of the house, will they continue paying rent? Who will take care of shared bills?
There can be a lot to coordinate when taking a break, so make sure you and your spouse agree on how things will work.
5. Communicate During the Break
Just because you're taking a break from your relationship doesn't mean you have to take a break from communication. Check in with each other regularly to see how things are going, even if it's just a text or email. You can set up a regular time to talk, or you can check in as needed.
You can avoid misunderstandings and work through any problems during the break by staying in communication. Plus, the lines of communication will still be open when you're ready to reconcile.
6. Don't Use the Break as an Ultimatum
Threatening to take a break to get your way is not only manipulative, but it's also likely to backfire. It'll make the break that much more difficult when (not if) things don't go according to plan. If a partner agrees to the break because they're afraid of being left, that's not a good foundation for working through problems.
A break should be a time for both spouses can take a step back and evaluate their relationship. If you're considering a break, make sure it's something you both agree to and not an ultimatum.
Read More: Can You Be Happy In An Unhappy Marriage?
7. Prepare for Things To Get Worse Before They Get Better
There are several reasons things can go downhill during a break. For one, it can give you more time to focus on your grievances. If you're already upset about something, time apart may only give you more time to dwell on it.
Another reason is that a break can cause trust issues to surface. If one person is considering taking a break, they may be worried about what the other person is doing behind their back. And if there are already trust problems in the relationship, a break can make them even worse.
Sometimes, a break may be the final straw that causes a relationship to crumble. Consider seeking counseling or other treatment instead of taking a break.
The Pros and Cons of Taking a Break
Along with understanding the 7 points to consider above, it's also important to be aware of the pros and cons of taking a break.
7 Pros of Taking a Break in Your Marriage:
1. It Gives You a Chance To Miss Each Other
Time apart can make the heart grow fonder. If you're constantly arguing or you've grown apart, taking a break may help you appreciate your spouse more.
2. You’ll Remember Why You Fell in Love
Problems in a relationship can eclipse the reasons you fell in love in the first place. You can reflect on the good times during a break and remember why you're with your spouse.
3. Prevent Further Damage to Your Relationship
If things are awful already, taking a break may be the best way to prevent further damage. By giving yourselves some space, you can avoid more hurt and resentment.
4. Identify What Needs To Change in Your Marriage
A break can give you some much-needed perspective. You can use the time apart to think about what you want from the relationship and what needs to change.
5. Space To Rediscover Yourself and What You Want in Life
In a relationship, you can lose sight of your goals and desires. You can focus on yourself and what you want in life if you take time apart. That can make you a better partner when you eventually reconcile.
6. Gain a Fresh Perspective on Your Relationship
Time apart can help you see your relationship in a new light and find ways to improve it.
7. Rekindle the Spark That’s Been Missing
Once you've spent time apart, you may discover you have a renewed love and appreciation for your spouse.
Read More: Is Life Better After Divorce?
7 Cons of Taking a Break in Your Marriage:
1. Communication Difficulties May Worsen
If you're already having communication problems, taking a break can make them worse. Without regular communication, it will be difficult to resolve your differences.
2. You May Start Seeing Other People
A break without ground rules can lead to you or your spouse seeing other people. That can lead to even more hurt and resentment.
3. Permanent Separation May Become More Likely
If you've been apart for a while, you may have grown used to being without your spouse. Or, if you've been seeing other people, it may be hard to let go of those relationships.
4. It Can Exacerbate Marriage Problems
Use the time apart wisely. If you spend the time dwelling on the negative aspects of your relationship, you may come back feeling even more resentful.
5. Other Relationships May Suffer
If you have kids, they may feel caught in the middle. Your decision to take a break may also affect friends and family members if they think they have to take sides or worry about you.
6. You Cannot Guarantee That a Break Will Fix Your Marriage
There’s no guarantee taking a break will fix anything at all. The problems in your marriage may still be there when you come back together
7. Marriage Requires Effort and Commitment
A break won't fix your marriage if you're not both committed to working on it. If one or both of you aren't willing to put in the effort, taking a break may only delay the inevitable
The Final Word
Taking a break in a marriage can be difficult, with many potential outcomes, but if done correctly, it can give both partners the space to grow individually and as a couple.
When considering taking a break, weigh the pros and cons carefully before deciding. Make sure you know what you want from it, and be clear about what it means for both of you.
And don't forget that taking a break is not always the answer; if underlying issues in your marriage need addressing, they'll still be there when the break is over. So make sure you're both committed to working on the relationship before taking this step.
Lauren Cook-McKay is the Vice President of Marketing at DivorceAnswers.com. She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) from the University of San Diego and applies her training in private practice to helping couples struggling in their marriage. She believes there is hope in all marriages and strives to provide therapy to couples that will lead them back towards a loving marriage, or an amicable divorce that brings peace and closure.