Ah, taking a break: It’s a tale as old as…well, at least the third season of Friends. But, does the strategy ever actually strengthen a relationship, or is it more so a tactic for delaying the inevitable (read: a full-blown breakup)?

Short answer: It depends—and on a lot of different variables. For instance, how serious are you and your partner? And, is the reason for the break a clear and present problem? While teasing out these answers isn’t always the most straightforward of tasks, first understanding an expert’s definition of what a break is can help you ensure you’re never in Ross Geller’s boat of bemoaning, “But we were on a break!” to anyone with ears. “An effective and functional break involves an agreement with terms and conditions,” says relationship expert Susan Winter. “Both parties acknowledge that they’re still a couple and still exclusive, but have embarked upon doing the interior work needed to bring their relationship to a better place.”

Below, Winter advises on when a taking break might just be a helpful—necessary, even—choice and also how to navigate actually going on one.

When taking a break in a relationship can be productive

If you two are serious and you’re facing a real, tangible problem, yes, a break can help. “Breaks are taken in an effort to correct a major flaw within the relationship,” Winter says, adding that without a major flaw, there’s not really a huge point to them. “There’s no reason to take a break if everything is good.”

Below, she gets into specifics to help guide you through the decision of whether or not to take a break, no matter what kind of relationship you’re in.


If things have going pleasantly enough with your new beau after five dates, but you’re just not feeling like there’s a strong chance for a future together? There’s not necessarily a major flaw to fix (or a serious relationship on the table), so don’t go on a break. Rather, consider whether it might just be time to just pull the plug.

Continue reading: