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Now Reading: Should Christian Couples Ever Take A Break?

Should Christian Couples Ever Take A Break?

“Maybe we should take a break.”

In modern dating, it’s not uncommon to take a ‘break’ in response to relationship difficulties. But should Christian couples ever take a ‘break’?

Can a ‘break’ actually be good for a relationship? Or are you just running away from your problems and postponing the inevitable?

WHAT IS A BREAK?

Fundamentally, a break is when you and your partner take some time off from each other. You’re not ending your relationship, but you decide to hit ‘pause’ on it temporarily.

Usually, a couple takes a break for one or both of the following reasons: (1) in response to relationship problems or (2) to gain some perspective.

TAKING A BREAK IN RESPONSE TO RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS

Imagine you decide to take a break because your partner has an anger problem. Over the next month, you get into a much better headspace. You start feeling more positive about life and about the relationship. You decide to get back together.

Chances are, your partner still has an anger problem.

Hitting ‘pause’ on your relationship means hitting ‘pause’ on the relationship problems. This can be a source of short-term relief, but it doesn’t actually address the problem.

As counsellor Debra Fileta points out, “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.”

One of the things I value so deeply about my relationship with Renée, and certainly one of the reasons why I married her, is that when challenges come up in our relationship, we navigate them together.

When one of us hurts the other, we listen, apologise and commit to being better. When miscommunication is an issue, we learn from it. When external things like money pose problems, we talk through the problem and face it as a team.

Addressing relationship problems and growing through them is a heck of a lot harder than just taking a break. However, if you want to move forward rather than just hit pause, this is what you need to do.

DON’T POSTPONE THE INEVITABLE

I want to acknowledge that there are certain relationship problems where trying to work through it together might not be the answer. These would be dealbreakers like cheating, addiction, or any kind of abuse.

There may also be circumstances where you’ve been trying to work through issues for some time, but your partner just isn’t making the same effort, or things show no sign of getting better.

In these circumstances, the answer isn’t to take a break, it’s to break up. If you know the problem is a deal-breaker, or you find yourself regularly thinking “I wish I wasn’t in this relationship anymore,” don’t postpone the inevitable.

I know that’s easier said than done. It takes enormous courage to end a relationship. However, if your relationship falls into this category, know that ending it is going to be the best thing for both of you.

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TAKING A BREAK TO GAIN PERSPECTIVE

The second reason a couple might take a break is to gain perspective. Perhaps there is a big commitment on the horizon, and you worry that you can’t make a clear-headed decision in the midst of a relationship.

Of the two reasons, this strikes me as a better justification for taking break. However, I’m still sceptical.

Over the course of my relationship with Renée we’ve taken some significant steps. We’ve started a long-distance relationship, decided to move countries together (twice), gotten engaged and then married.

Reflecting back on each of these choices, I don’t think taking a break would have given me more clarity. If anything, not being able to talk things through with each other and the negative emotions associated with being apart would have made the decision harder.

The big assumption with taking a break is that it will give you more objectivity and clarity. But in many cases, this won’t be the reality.

In my own life, the good decisions I’ve made have been the result of having a good framework for making such decisions. If you want clarity in your relationship, I’d advocate for building such a framework.

Talk to friends or family, especially those with more wisdom than you. Take time to intentionally and regularly reflect on the relationship. Measure your relationship against important standards (like these 10 factors for figuring out whether your partner is “the one”).

BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT YOUR BREAK

You’ve probably realised I’m not a big fan of taking a break in most circumstances. However, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Christian couples deciding to take a break. Every relationship is different, and I know for some couples, taking a break has been a positive step.

If you do decide to take a break, it’s important to be intentional. Establish some clear ground rules.

How long are you going to take a break for? A couple of weeks? A month? Set a date where you are going to check-in with each other. This isn’t a date that you need to have everything figured out by. You might come back together and decide you need more time to think. But it’s neither fun nor fair to feel like you’re stuck in relationship limbo, so make sure the break has a check-in date.

Decide how often you’re going to communicate with each other, if at all. Remember, the whole purpose of a break is to take some time away from the other person, so the less regular communication, the better.

Finally, dating other people during your break is a no-no. The fact that this would even be up for discussion is absurd to me. You’re taking a break to decide, with a clear head, whether you want to stay in a relationship with this person.

I can’t think of anything that would mess with my judgment more than starting something romantic with someone else. Don’t go there.

CONCLUSION

So, should Christian couple’s ever take a break? Maybe.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a break, but if you’re considering it, the question I’d encourage you to ask yourself is “Why will taking a break be the best step for our relationship?”

If relationship problems are the reason you’re considering a break, how is taking some time apart going to improve things?

If you’re struggling with clarity about the relationship, what are some other ways you can gain perspective? Do you have trusted friends or family members you could talk to? Do you reflect on your relationship? Do you have standards you can assess your relationship against?

If, after answering these questions, you do decide to take a break, set some clear ground rules. Approach the time apart with purpose. Don’t just hit pause; use this an as opportunity to grow.

Have you ever taken a break in a relationship? Was your experience positive or negative? I’d love to read about it in the comments below!

Got a relationship question? I’d love to answer it here on the blog! Just email your question to samuel.brebner@gmail.com. 



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