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Taking a break from your relationship to decide on future - What are the rules?

It is no secret that relationships are tumultuous. One day a couple can be on top of the world, the next they can be sworn enemies.

For some people, when things take a downward turn, they take a break from the relationship.

But how long is a break supposed to be when a couple are assessing their problems, and what are you supposed to do in the meantime?

Relationship counsellor Lethabo Ntsasa untangles the ins and outs of taking a break.

How can a break help?

A break is recognising that you are too close to the situation and have lost your ability to be rational, objective and to listen without being defensive. It can also be a remedy for the one partner who feels that their efforts in building the relationship are in vain. So, in essence, a break is a way to step back and evaluate the situation before deciding on the next move.

Is a break short of breaking up?

Not necessarily. The relationship is just in limbo, almost like letting steam out of a pot.

How long is a break supposed to be?

There is no definite time limit to a break, but in my professional opinion, it should not be longer than six months. I say that because it does not take an entire year to figure out if you miss being in your relationship, and if your partner has good qualities that supercede the ones that warranted the break in the first place. Two things can happen when you take a step back; you can either realise that you cannot live without your partner and want to reunite so you can make things work, or you can feel free and liberated and decide for a clean break.

What does one do during the break?

A break should be a time of reflection. Being on a break allows you to look at things more objectively and to evaluate the pros and cons of being in that relationship.

Do we date other people while on a break?

Not necessarily. Being on a break means that you have not fully cut ties with your partner, so dating other people can make the waters murky. It can cloud your judgment as well, as you wouldn't necessarily be able to distinguish if you are enjoying the attention and euphoria that comes with meeting new people, or if meeting new people makes you realise exactly what it is you have been missing. I would recommend against seeing other people until you both have come to a decision about your relationship.

If I have sex with someone during the break, did I cheat?

Yes. Giving yourself to someone else sexually would signify how less invested you are about figuring out your relationship.

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