Calling a timeout on a relationship worked for Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin, Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth, and even royals William and Kate. It can help couples realise they’re meant to be – no matter how tough the challenges. But others just don’t come back from it. Is there a right time and way to do it?
You quarrel a lot…
… and not about the small stuff . Sophie*, who called a timeout on her relationship for eight months, feels couples should only consider this option if the disagreements they’ve been having come down to differences in the big things, like core values and life goals. “Don’t take time off for petty arguments,” she says. “These should be talked through – if taking a break is your answer to these problems, it’ll only make the lack of communication worse.”
In her case, she felt that she and her ex were never on the same page about their long-term life goals, like when (or if) their relationship was going to move to the next level. It bugged her enough to want answers, and she knew that leaving things status quo would only be ignoring the elephant in the room. After a breather from each other, they still didn’t have an answer, so they called it quits.
You suspect you’re using your partner as a crutch
A break can be good for helping you ﬁgure out if you’re really into him, or if he’s just a convenient way to make you feel better. Take Natalie*, who hit the pause button on her two-year relationship to deal with anxiety issues. She recognised that she had become overly reliant on her boyfriend – to the point that it frustrated him and put a strain on their relationship. Realising that things had become toxic, they decided they needed some downtime.
“When I was alone, it forced me to confront things that scared me – like work responsibilities – without his help,” she says. “As time went on and I learnt to cope, the knowledge that I was conquering this on my own gave me conﬁdence. I realised I didn’t need him to be with me every step of the way.” So after a month, when they checked in with each other, the couple agreed to give things another go. “We just needed time to evaluate if the relationship was worth it, and for me to point that it frustrated him and put a strain on their relationship. Realising that things had become toxic, they decided they needed some downtime. “When I was alone, it forced me to confront things that scared me – like work responsibilities – without his help,” she says. “As time went on and I learnt to cope, the knowledge that I was conquering this on my own gave me conﬁdence. I realised I didn’t need him to be with me every step of the way.” So after a month, when they checked in with each other, the couple agreed to give things another go. “We just needed time to evaluate if the relationship was worth it, and for me to work on myself,” she says. That time apart gave the couple clarity, and they’re still going strong after six years.
You ﬁnd you’re happier on your own
If you’re leading pretty separate lives, a recess could conﬁrm whether it’s time to pull the plug on things. After all, it’s telling if you both seem to get by just ﬁne without each other. That was the ﬁrst thing Sophie’s ex pointed out when they had a conversation after their break. This was on top of the fact that there were fundamental differences in their personalities that they could not reconcile.
Sophie says she harboured hopes that they would get back together, but with hindsight, she feels that the interlude gave them both clarity and perspective that they weren’t heading in the right direction. “Plus, if he was feeling that way, I didn’t see a point in ﬁghting for the relationship. It takes two, after all,” she says. And even though the hiatus ended her relationship, it opened other opportunities for her to reconnect with friends, as well as sparked a career switch.
*Names have been changed.
IT’S NOT MEANT TO BE A RELATIONSHIP VACATION
A break doesn’t make you a swinging single. If you really want to get the most out of it, stick to these ground rules:
Do this right from the start so you can avoid angry spats down the line. Do you want to take stock after two months? Are you both open to reinstalling Tinder? Are you going to change your Facebook relationship status. Get these ironed out.
Don’t stay in constant contact:
If you’re meant to explore being apart, texting each other regularly won’t do any good. In Natalie’s case, she and her boyfriend barely texted, and if they did, it was only to check in to see how the other was doing.
It’ll help you not obsess over things and make the most of your alone time. Feeling a little lost after going on a break from her boyfriend, Sophie signed up for new fitness classes like barre and kick-boxing.
Ask yourself how you’re feeling, and if you’re happier flying solo. Was your partner making you a better person? Or are you now able to achieve more without him? Try keeping a journal. Twiddling your thumbs never solved any problems.