Do You Need to Take a Break or Break Up for Good? Here’s How to Know

For some couples, there comes a time when both individuals need a little space. But how do you know if you just need to take a break, or break up for good? You may not necessarily be ready to sever ties once and for all, but you do know you need some time to think about the current state of affairs. If you’re considering a split from your significant other, here’s how to know whether it should be temporary or permanent.

1. Take a break when: A simple ‘I’m sorry’ no longer works

woman apologizing during an argument

Sometimes, “I’m sorry” isn’t good enough. | iStock.com/Wavebreakmedia

In some cases, taking a break is a good solution for two people who aren’t ready to call it quits. For instance, if you and your partner have been covering up your issues for too long, a break may be the only way to salvage the relationship. According to The Huffington Post, “If the good old AAA (Apology, Affection and a promise of Action) fails to work, and a quick fix a la ‘sorry’ and ‘I love you’ turns out to be nothing more but a momentary band-aid, you know taking a break may just be the answer.”

2. Break up when: The break itself is nothing more than a band-aid

Couples Dancing And Drinking

A break shouldn’t just cover up your real problems. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

On the flip side, the actual break may end up being nothing more than a band-aid itself. If this is the case, it’s time to come to grips with how much, or little, the break is actually helping. Are you doing more harm than good by keeping the relationship on the back burner? Well, if the break isn’t beneficial for both you and your significant other, it may be time to cut the cord.

3. Take a break when: You need time to think away from your partner

Young woman at cafe drinking coffee

Time apart gives you the opportunity to think about what you really want. | iStock.com/Astarot

When you decide to take a break, you know there’s still hope for your relationship down the road. You also know the current situation isn’t working, which makes time apart crucial for figuring everything out. Berit Brogaard, Ph.D., says in Psychology Today, “A break is not a break up: It’s a pause from the other person — a period to think without having to be around the other person during the thinking period.” It may be just what you need.

4. Break up when: You’re no longer happy

African American depressed woman

You deserve to be happy. | iStock.com/Rawpixel Ltd

Sacrificing your happiness is never in your best interest. Though you may love your significant other, deep down inside you know you’ll never be happy with this person as your partner. As Bustle says, there’s no reason to stay in an unhappy relationship to spare your partner’s feelings. If you are truly unhappy, a break up may be your only option.

5. Take a break when: You still want some degree of exclusivity

Young woman flirting with her boyfriend

You’re not quite sure you’re ready to let your partner go. | iStock.com/UberImages

When you decide to take a break, you’re admitting your relationship isn’t perfect. It is, however, in need of some serious evaluation. You’re not tossing your partner aside forever, which means you’re keeping him or her in your life to some degree — whether it be in the back of your mind or promising not to see other people.

“Since a break is not a breakup, it’s not a phase that changes the fundamental rules of the relationship: If the relationship had been exclusive, or monogamous, then it still is exclusive during the break,” Brogaard explains. Furthermore, being on the same page with one another (more on that in a bit) will improve your chances of avoiding too much pain and hurt along the way.

6. Break up when: You have no desire to be exclusive with your partner

Woman rejecting a geek boy in a blind date

You’re over it, and ready to move on. | iStock.com/AntonioGuillem

A loss of intimacy is one of the biggest red flags that a relationship may be headed for the hills. Without intimacy, a relationship can quickly transform from romantic to platonic. While the spark in most relationships needs to be re-lit every once in a while, no longer having the desire to be intimate with your partner — even after you’ve tried everything to make the situation better — is a bad sign.

7. Take a break when: You’re able to agree upon boundaries

Lesbian couple standing and looking each other

It’s important you and your partner agree on boundaries before you take a break. | iStock.com/amazingmikael

Everyone has their own idea of what a break will look like, which is why it’s important you and your partner establish a set of expectations. Greatist mentions you have to ask yourself the tough questions, such as whether the two of you will communicate, whether you’ll see other people, and whether you’ll tell one another about what you did during your time apart.

Just think about the Ross and Rachel saga; probably the most infamous pop culture reference of a couple experiencing a break. Did Ross have the right to sleep with someone else during the break, or were Rachel’s feelings of anger and betrayal valid? Well, perhaps the pain could have been avoided if they set some boundaries beforehand.

8. Break up when: You want to be able to do whatever you want

Young black woman with afro hairstyle smiling in urban park

Breaking up means not having to worry about anyone else but yourself. | iStock.com/javi_indy

Once you completely sever ties with the person you’ve called your significant other for so long, you have total freedom to do as you please. And this feeling can be invigorating for someone who’s all too ready to move on. You’re tired of being associated with this person, and you know ending things is for the best.

As PopSugar says, there’s a sense of ownership that goes both ways when you’re in a relationship. While no one can own you, partners often use terms like “my boyfriend” or “my girlfriend.” Deciding you’re finished being his or her partner is a clear sign you’re ready to be on your own.

9. Take a break when: There’s hope for the relationship

Couple taking photo of themselves on cruise

You can picture yourself with this person for a very long time. | iStock.com/michaeljung

Some relationships are worth saving. And in some cases, hitting the refresh button can do just that. When there’s hope for the relationship, but you need your own space, taking a break could be the best thing you ever do. You’ll be afforded the time to think with clarity, and will have the opportunity to do things differently once you and your partner have reunited.

10. Break up when: You’re past the point of no return

Young angry woman screaming on her boyfriend

You can’t stand one another, and it’s time to move on. | iStock.com/Deagreez

Deep down, you know it’s never going to work. No matter how badly you want it to, there’s just no saving the relationship. You no longer see the point in waiting around for things to change, nor do you think they really ever will. Once you’ve come to the realization that your relationship is beyond salvaging, it’s time to break up with your partner for good. You’ll be happy you finally made the decision.