Taking a Time-Out: How to Tell Someone You Need a Break

A woman deeply pondering on how to tell her partner she needs a break.
Do you want to take a step back and cool off? Learn how to tell someone you need a break.

Are you currently going through a rough patch in your relationship?

In that case, it’s alright to want to spend some time by yourself to process your emotions.

What you simply want is a break, or in other words, a time-out in your relationship, not a breakup or a final separation.

However, it’s not easy to communicate this to your partner without them misinterpreting your words as the latter.

That being said, here’s how to tell someone you need a break.

Give Reassurance

For most people, hearing the words we need to talk means a breakup is about to happen.

Some would try to avoid the conversation, making excuses that they’re busy. Meanwhile, others would reluctantly agree to the discussion, but find it hard to focus due to anxious thoughts flooding their minds.

As the phrase has a negative connotation, try to provide your partner reassurance when asking them to have a serious conversation.

For example, instead of bluntly saying, “We need to talk,” try saying, “There’s something I want to discuss, but please don’t worry—it’s not something terrible.”

Or you could also say, “'I’ve been doing some thinking, and I’d like for us to try something out so we can work through things together.”

A woman telling her partner that she needs space after knowing how to ask for a break.
Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t make an impulsive decision and know how to ask for a break.

Be Clear

One of the worst ways on how to tell someone you need a break from them is by keeping it vague.

It causes them emotional distress and leads them to feel confused regarding your relationship status.

That being said, avoid saying things like “It’s not working out between us; I think I should go,” or “I think we should stop seeing each other.”

Instead, tell your partner what you specifically want to happen and provide context as to why that’s your decision.

For example, you can try saying, “We’ve been going through a rough patch lately, and I think it’s better that we take a break from our relationship. This way, we have space to think about and process our emotions, so we can try to resolve our issues.”

By pointing out a way for you to have a better relationship in the future, you’re not only preventing confusion and misunderstandings, but also making your partner more comfortable with the idea of a break.

Set Boundaries and Expectations

When contemplating how to tell someone that you need a break, you should also consider the boundaries you want to establish during this period in your relationship.

In doing so, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you want to be in contact with them during the break? If yes, how often is contact allowed?

  • Is it okay for your partner to see other people while you’re on a break, or do you consider it as cheating?

  • Is your partner allowed to pry into your life by asking for updates from your family and friends?

  • How do you treat each other when interaction is necessary? Should you act as strangers, or should you remain civil with each other?

  • How long will your break last?

  • How will you divide your responsibilities, especially if you’re living together or have kids?

By setting boundaries, you’re also laying out a set of expectations for how you can play out your roles and responsibilities as partners.

A woman listing down boundaries she wants to set during a break.
It’s a sensitive matter. Know how to tell someone that you need a break without causing them emotional distress.

How to Have a Good Break

People say that going on a break only does more harm than good because you and your partner are not actively trying to resolve your rough patch.

However, a break allows you to distance yourselves from your relationship and try to find solutions from a different angle.

To make the most of this time, here are the following ways you can have a good break.

Avoid Chasing a Deadline

You and your partner may have set a date for how long your break is going to last. However, avoid rushing the process.

Don’t be afraid, thinking that you and your partner will drift apart if the break goes on for much longer than you expected.

If you think you need more time, tell them. But don’t just ask for it. Share an update on the progress you’ve currently achieved and what you’re looking forward to fulfilling.

This way, you can take your time and they can adjust as needed.

Assess Yourself and Your Relationship

Many of us don’t know how to ask for a break because we don’t take the time to contemplate before telling our partner about it.

That being said, fulfill the purpose of your break by assessing yourself and your relationship.

Figure out objectively why you and your partner hit a rough patch and how you’ve been dealing with it so far.

Moreover, reflect on your role regarding the issue and how you can improve yourself to address it.

If you can, try to seek a third-person perspective from your family members or friends, as they aren’t as involved in your relationship. Their thoughts are less likely to be clouded by their emotions.

Engage in Self-Care Activities

A break is not the end of your relationship; it’s only a time-out. So there’s no need to grieve over something that’s not lost.

View this break as an opportunity to pursue your own happiness and engage in what you consider to be self-care activities. Plan a weekend getaway with friends, indulge in some retail or food therapy, or explore new spots in town.

This is a rare moment wherein you can slightly step away from your roles and responsibilities as a partner and divert anxious thoughts about the relationship.

A woman having a good break from her relationship.
Have a good break! Do activities that make you happy.

How to Reconnect After a Relationship Break

After your break, things may be awkward between you and your partner. You took time away from each other in the middle of an unresolved conflict, and you possibly haven’t seen each other for a long period.

To ease your reconnection and avoid awkwardness, try to be honest.

You don’t need to pretend you had the best days of your life without them. It’s okay to be vulnerable and say that you’ve missed their presence.

Moreover, your reconnection is a time to address the problems you’ve put on hold. In doing so, take turns asking each other open-ended questions about yourselves and the relationship.

This can be regarding the realizations you’ve had, how you think your relationship compares before and after the break, or the steps you think you can take together to address your rough patch.

However, remember to keep an open mind as you listen to each other’s responses.

A break doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to find a middle ground right away. But it does give you the opportunity for a fresh start after working on improving yourselves.

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How to Tell Someone You’re Done Trying

During your break, you might have realized that it’s better for you to ultimately end the relationship.

If you have no reservations regarding your decision, don’t wait until the end of your break to contact your partner and tell them. It’s best to do it as soon as possible so that you won’t keep them waiting.

When breaking up with them, be direct about what you want and why.

If you have negative feelings towards your partner, avoid being too harsh. Try to end your relationship on good terms and let bygones be bygones.

However, be prepared for any reaction your partner might have. They may be okay with it, or they may lash out or beg you to stay.

If you believe your relationship deserves a second chance, you can stay. But if you think you’ll be happier being away from your partner, prioritize your well-being.

What to Do if Your Boyfriend or Girlfriend Asked for a Break

While you already know how to tell someone you need a break, you may be wondering what to do if you’re on the receiving end of the message.

Here are some tips you can follow.

Respect Their Decision

A couple reconnecting after a relationship break.
Now that your break’s over, what’s next? Avoid awkwardness by knowing how to reconnect after a relationship break.

If your boyfriend or girlfriend asked for a break, it can be tempting to convince them otherwise. However, that would be counterproductive on your part as they might impulsively choose to end your relationship.

What you should do instead is respect their decision and give them the space they need.

Make Sure Your Terms and Expectations Align

When someone says something like, “My girlfriend wants to go on a break,” most people would assume the worst. They tell you that your partner’s going to cheat or that they’re going to leave you without any closure.

To prevent yourself from having similar thoughts, make sure that your terms and expectations align with your partner’s.

Clarify how you both define a break, how frequently you’ll communicate throughout the break, whether or not you’re allowed to see other people, and how long the break will last.

Prepare for Different Outcomes

After the break, your partner may try to reconnect, or they may instead decide to end things.

As you have no idea what’s going through their mind during the break, it’s best to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for different outcomes.

If your partner decides on the former, welcome them back with open arms and do your best to have a fresh start in your relationship.

However, if they choose the latter, try to respect their decision no matter how painful it is. Afterwards, give yourself time to heal from the breakup.

A man whose girlfriend asked for a break.
Don’t panic! If your girlfriend asked for a break, respect her decision and prepare for different outcomes.

Know How to Tell Someone You Need a Break

When you’re at the height of your emotions, it’s always best to take a step back, calm yourself down, and try to look at the situation objectively.

That being said, if you and your partner have hit a rough patch in your relationship, take a break and make space for yourselves.

Whether you’re the one who asked for it or the one on the receiving end, take your break as an opportunity to focus on your growth.

Reflect on what you need to improve on yourself, your relationships, and your goals.

This way, regardless of the outcome, you’ll gain something positive from the experience.

A woman looking at a man who is looking at a phone. A woman looking at a man who is looking at a phone.

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