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Saturday 23 August 2014

How to take successful time out: the psychologists' guide

Published 17/06/2014 | 02:30

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Five tips for a successful sabbatical

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Agree expectations

It is vital to work out what you both hope to gain from the break, says relationship psychologist Francesca Moresi. "If your reasons are not clear to your partner, they'll feel vulnerable," she warns, "and your request could seem like rejection." Taking time out because you've forgotten who you are outside the domestic grind or to reignite feelings that have become buried under an avalanche of stress are valid reasons, she adds.

Make a contract

If one person is thinking "a couple of weeks at mum's" and the other is envisaging a year in a Portuguese finca, things could get sticky. It's essential to draw up an agreement which details the exact parameters of the sabbatical. "Agree on how much contact you intend to have – daily, weekly or less – what the rules are, what the budget will be, and what you both hope to gain," says psychotherapist Rachel Morris.

Consider it early in the relationship

People may assume a sabbatical is only useful for bored couples who have been together a long time. However, Moresi says, a break can be just as beneficial early on. The younger a couple is, she adds, the more useful a sabbatical may be.

"Young adults may still be discovering themselves," she says. "A sabbatical can help to nurture their identity as separate people."

Ensure it's not a trial separation

"A sabbatical is not a separation; it should be about two people investing in each other's needs to make the relationship better," Moresi says. "Whereas a trial separation is for when being together is not working, and you're working out how to live apart." It is important not to pretend a break is a sabbatical when one of you is already planning a solo future, she warns. "It might be more of a trial separation if the partners fail to communicate regularly, want to start seeing other people or lose the desire to return."

Try a compromise sabbatical

Not everyone can afford to escape the daily grind for a long stretch of time. But most of us can manage a day. "A day that's committed to helping the relationship, once a month, can make a huge difference," advises Morris.

Irish Independent

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