What Is a "Clean Break"?

Malcolm Tatum

Sometimes presented as a clean break, "making a clean break" is an idiom that is used to describe a situation in which specific circumstances have been resolved and a party involved in those circumstances has chosen to completely move away from that situation. People make clean breaks in a number of situations, including moving on after the end of a romantic relationship, moving to a new city or town and leaving all connections with the old location behind, or even terminating employment and securing new employment that has nothing to do with the previous job. Often, the clean break is seen as a way to make a new start that is not fettered with any negative aspects of what has gone before.

Some people try to make a "clean break" at the end of a romantic relationship.
Some people try to make a "clean break" at the end of a romantic relationship.

To make a clean break and get away from a situation that has become highly negative, people will normally determine what ties they actually have with the negative situation, and take steps to sever those ties. For example, in the event of a romantic relationship that has become toxic, simply ending the direct connection may not be enough to break away completely. In addition to ending the relationship, someone may choose not to go to places in which the former partner is highly likely to be encountered. Avoiding places that conjure up strong memories of that relationship, such as a restaurant or a certain stretch of beach, may also be necessary in order to make that clean break.

For the most part, a clean break is seen as an opportunity to move on from past issues that caused some type of hurt or other discomfort. Along with getting away from connections to a failed romantic relationship, people who have made poor choices in other areas of their lives may also choose to completely sever ties as a means of putting the past behind them and trying for a new start. At times, this may mean moving to a new town as a way of creating a new social circle that has no connection with the old one. Typically, a complete break of this type offers the chance to move forward without the negative aspects of the past influencing the prospects for the future.

A clean break may be necessary for a number of reasons. The approach makes it possible to end relationships that are dysfunctional and potentially harmful. This type of life change also permits people who have made serious mistakes in the past to start over and build a life that is free from those mistakes and the temptation to repeat them. While making a complete break is rarely easy, this approach often makes it possible to heal quickly from older hurts and move on to a life that is significantly better.

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