By Laken Howard

How do you know if you’re on a relationship ‘break,’ or your time apart is foreshadowing a breakup? My interview with Bustle shows you the difference: #break #breakup #timeapart

Laken writes, “Ask anyone you know, and chances are they’ll have an opinion on relationship breaks. Some people are firmly in the camp that taking a break from your relationship is a bad idea, while others believe it can be essential to getting the self-reflection you need to grow as a couple. But what does a break mean in a relationship, anyway? What makes it different from a breakup? It’s one thing to communicate your feelings and ask for what you need from your partner, but does it really help to temporarily call it quits while you think things through?

There are many valid reasons why a couple may choose to take a break, and as it turns out, it does not automatically mean you’re doomed for a permanent breakup. According to relationship expert Susan Winter,

“Breaks can be for the purpose of reflection and reconfiguration, or time devoted to personal development. Time apart from each other can be a positive thing if the relationship is healthy and not suffering from ongoing, unresolved issues,” she says.

“Coming back into each other’s arms after structured ‘me time’ apart can reignite a stagnant romance.” It’s a case-by-case basis, and the intent behind the break, as well as the strength of your relationship, matters. After all, “When a couple is already distanced, more distance does not create closeness,” Winter explains.

If you genuinely just want a little time apart to think about the relationship or work on yourself, there are ways to successfully take a break from your relationship without dooming it. For starters, both parties have to agree that the break is desirable. “The time spent apart must be structured and purposeful for it to be beneficial to the relationship,” Winter tells Bustle. “Establish an end date. This is also mutually agreed upon. For most couples, several weeks is enough time to reset their thinking and come to new discoveries.”

The key is open communication and setting clear boundaries — like how much (if any) contact you want during the break — so both partners are on the same page and know what to expect. “If you don’t work out the issues with each other, they will still be sitting right there when you are done with your break,” Pella Weisman, licensed psychotherapist and dating coach, tells Bustle.

But alas, even the most well-intentioned breaks don’t always go according to plan. If you’re worried about whether your break could turn into a permanent breakup, here are seven signs to watch out for.

1. One Of You Is Secretly Dating Around During The Break

Don’t get me wrong: The stipulations of your break are totally up to you and your partner, and if you’re both truly, honestly comfortable with the idea of dating or sleeping with other people while apart, then do so! And obviously, if you’re in a non-monogamous relationship to start, this can involve dating other people and doesn’t reflect on the strength of your connection.

But if you and your partner are in a decidedly monogamous relationship and did not clarify that dating during the break is OK, it’s a little shady. And if you specifically chose to go on a break just to “see what else is out there,” that might not bode well for the future of your relationship — especially if only one of you is interested in dating around.

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