The idea of taking a break in a relationship instead of fully breaking up with someone is a contentious topic and has been for a while. Many believe a break up should be a last resort, and that a temporary break simply holds people in a relationship they no longer want. Others believe more in the timing of a relationship being vital to it working or a time for both people involved to decide what it is they truly want as individuals. Looking at both sides as well as my own personal experiences, I want to try and figure once and for all if a break can ever be a healthy and realistic approach to a rough patch in a relationship.
There are many negative aspects to "taking a break," including lingering feelings and setting rules and boundaries while still being involved enough in each other's lives to be able to pick back up. Often times allowing a glimmer of hope that it can work makes it difficult for people to let go of their feelings and move on. While a break offers the possibility that things will go normal, it can feel like having that hope will make moving on more difficult if things end permanently.
In order to make picking things back up though there needs to be involvement in each other's lives but along with that come rules and boundaries that may be awkward to set up or discuss. Most of us are familiar with Ross and Rachel's famous "we were on a break," blowout from Friends, and that makes a clear argument for clear rules if a break is an option you want to consider.
On the more positive side regarding a break are a time to sort out your feelings without feeling the gigantic loss a breakup can bring, as well as a maintained relationship with someone you most likely care about a lot. Like a breakup, a break should be a time for you to figure out what you want, both within the relationship and as an individual. When a breakup can feel or seem too permanent a break is almost like a trial period to see if breaking up is truly the best step for the relationship.
Breaks can often be perceived as awkward or not clear enough, but I think very open and honest communication is the best way to combat these problems. Establishing what exactly a break means to the both of you and what will be considered okay and not okay is important.
You also have to face the reality of the issues facing your relationship that made you consider taking time apart if you really want to take a break. Are these issues truly fixable by spending a little time apart or are they too looming or not really worth a break in your opinion? While some relationships not working may be based on timing, location, or schedules, there are just some relationships it's best to truly let go of.
If you couldn't tell from all that, I typically lean towards the idea that a break can be a good thing, but it all depends on the situation. Coming to look at your relationship with a critical eye can be difficult for a lot of us, but finding the problems that may be there and the healthiest way to combat them is what is really important in order for us to grow. None of us want a breakup like the infamous Ross and Rachel fallout so truly decide what it is you want from ending or continuing a relationship, and avoid having the, "We were on a break," argument as best as you can.