By: Rebecca Strong

When a relationship has started to lose its spark, you have several options: Stay, split or take a break. Some think breaks are a controversial topic, suggesting they’re a cowardly way out of breaking up with someone when it’s obvious that your relationship isn’t working. Others believe stepping away is the only way to potentially repair things before too much damage is done. According to the experts, a break can actually save your relationship in the long run — provided you’re taking it for the right reasons and careful about establishing some rules.

A 2012 study focusing on on-again, off-again relationships showed that about half of the 792 participants broke up briefly to ride solo for a while before getting back together with previous dating partners. It’s clear that taking a break is actually quite common. Time apart can allow couples some valuable space to assess their feelings, gain some clarity on the problems plaguing the relationship and hopefully reunite with a renewed perspective on what needs to change.

But the real question is

Can a Break Work for You?

It’s important that you’re crystal clear on why you’re taking a break in order for it to work. According to relationship expert and dating coach Susan Winter, a break simply won’t be effective if your problems stem from a chronic issue that your partner refuses to address or get help with, such as an addiction or personality disorder.

“A break would be pointless when you know there’s an inherent condition within your partner that’s unfixable,” explains Winter. “For example, if your partner is a known narcissist, serial cheater, or compulsive liar, you can’t fix character flaws of this magnitude. And a break won’t repair what your partner is unwilling or unable to correct.”

On the other hand, if you or your partner is ready to tackle some personal problems that may be negatively impacting the relationship, a break may be just what the doctor ordered. Winter notes that taking time apart can also give you an opportunity to reflect if you care deeply about each other but have reached a point where you feel stuck at a stalemate. Meaning, you’re having the same fights over and over without finding an obvious solution.

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