Time heals all wounds.
Or does it?
You've hit that relationship breaking point. That turbulence. Where you have to decide if you want to hang on, or go out for cigarettes and never return (and you don't even smoke). It's that moment where you can't take it anymore. When your fights begin to feel like reruns of the season finale of your favorite show. Uh, this again?! When does the next season start?
And then one day, when you're questioning why your significant other feels the need to go to clubs on a Sunday to "network," you just blurt out:
"Maybe we should take a break!"
And then you do. Is this a goodbye or a see you later? You don't know. It's complicated.
Do breaks work? Well every relationship and situation is different, but there tends to be two kinds of breaks:
- The breaks that lead to making up
- The breaks that lead to breaking up
How do you know which break you're in? Typically you don't find out until the break is over. But maybe a look at why breaks don't work will help. Here's the issue with breaks.
When the Break Is Undefined
You never set rules or boundaries. You never defined if the break is a break from each other or a break from dating as a whole. The more successful breaks tend to be the ones where it's from dating. Just ask Friends.
The TV show, that is. Remember Ross and Rachel? It's fine — binge-watching Friends on Netflix is basically equal to hanging out with real friends. Remember the one where Ross and Rachel take a break (that's also the name of the episode). And then Ross gets with that girl Chloe with a pixie cut who works at the Xerox place (#TBT). But then Rachel takes Ross back. Only to find out that on their one-day break he slept with another woman, which she considers cheating. Ross, on the other hand, does not consider it cheating cause according to him: WE. WERE. ON. A. BREAK. This then becomes Ross's catchphrase for the series.
Image Source: NBC
In the case of Ross and Rachel, breaks work. Same with Carrie and Big or Lorelai and Luke . . . I could go on.
While you're not on a TV show, art does imitate life, and there is a similar factor here.
No, you don't own your partner, and your partner doesn't own you. But there is that feeling of belonging in an exclusive relationship. At one point this was your boyfriend or girlfriend, and now they're not. According to Anthony Recenello of the Celebrity Online Dating Concierge Mervyn Bunter:
". . . [breaks] are also a good lesson in owning the person you're with. When you take a break, you give up your ownership of the person."
Owning the person as in owning the relationship. Like calling someone, "your person." And no, this is not limited to being Facebook official (which almost always backfires, unless you're married).
But then you hear of the breaks that do work. When I told my co-workers about this article, a lot of them chimed in with, "but my parents went on a break and they've been together forever."
Usually these are BSM couples. No . . . that's not a Fifty Shades of Grey reference, that's "Before Social Media."
Let's say you agree to go on a break. And by break you mean you're going to see other people (as much as that kind of kills you).
But you're optimistic that it will work out. You have a sick new selfie that will kill it on Tinder. But then the fear sets in. If you're on Tinder . . . are THEY on Tinder? THAT'S NOT FAIR (it actually is).
Then you find out that they got with that blonde. Or at least that's what you've determined after stalking your former lover's Instagram and seeing he or she liked a selfie of this blonde whose account is private, so you can't even determine if this blonde is actually better looking than you. BECAUSE THERE'S ONLY THAT ONE PHOTO! Oh, the humanity!
Which brings us to . . .
Communication is key to any relationship. As a JSwipe date put it to me over moscow mules one Wednesday night, "a Rabbi told me there are three qualities needed for a relationship to survive: mutual attraction, shared values (moral, religious, spiritual, political), and the ability to communicate when times are tough."
If you are in a relationship, I'm going to assume the attraction and the acceptance of each other's beliefs are aligned. Or maybe the lack of beliefs is why you decided to take a break?
Whatever it is, communication is the basis to any relationship.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
But maybe a break is just what you need. Maybe you need a timeout to reflect and be alone. And maybe going on dates with others will only make you realize you need to be with the one you took a break from, like that feeling of coming home after spending a semester aboard. (Home is wherever I'm with you . . . OK, I'll stop).
Maybe not being completely open about how that time was spent can help you. Ignorance is bliss, no? As long you can accept that the past is the past and be in the moment, then a break can work.
At the end of the day, this decision is between you and your partner. No dating advice article is going to have the answer. Listen to each other. Communicate. Define the break. If meant to be, it will work out.