While it never hurts to try a break before officially breaking up, there are instances where it’s less likely to work, say the experts. For instance, “If one of you wants to date other people, because you think there may be someone better out there for you, it’s best to break up, not take a break,” says Birch. The reason? Quality dating takes time, and the first rule of taking a break is that you need to have an end-date in mind. In other words, you can’t give dating (The apps! The mind games! The excitement!) due diligence if you’ve got a note on your calendar to get back together with your ex. “If life leads you back to your partner in due time, that’s amazing. I’ve seen that narrative happen. But let the person go, free and clear. And then pursue other people,” says Birch.
Similarly, a history of cheating might be a red flag, both because serial cheating is a tough habit to break and more specifically because you might not be able to trust your partner while you’re in your no-contact period (unless, of course, that’s part of your arrangement). “You may just wind up anxious about them the entire time you’re apart,” warns Birch.
If you’ve tried a break in the past, it may also be time to call it quits. After all, “relationships do not have on/off switches, and you can’t keep checking in and out of someone’s life, loving them on terms that are convenient,” says Birch. “Being in a partnership means actively and consistently supporting someone through the ups and downs. If you can’t seem to stick together through the lows and need to constantly take a timeout, then that’s not much of a support system. One break can be really perspective-changing; many breaks is a dysfunctional dynamic.”