Can Relationship Breaks Be Valuable?
The other day, a friend of mine and his significant other, decided to take a break in their relationship.
He asked, what my opinion of breaks were in relationships?
1. Breaks can be valuable
I think anytime you’re dedicated to something, it’s about having a healthy amount of dedication.
Sometimes, when you’re overmedicated, you do lose your identity of who you are.
That’s why you sometimes see artists/actors/athletes take breaks/“retire” after working hard for a number of years in a row.
Whether it’s burn or overworking or just ignoring a lot of other needs in their life due to their dedication to their craft, the break can help them take a step back and look at other aspects of their life and how they’re defined outside of their craft.
In this way, I think breaks can be valuable. While relationships aren’t exactly like professional careers, they’re similar in terms of the dedication given and that sometimes you can lose your own identity when you’re dedicated to this we identity.
2. Why don’t breaks work?
Breaks often don’t work because things are ambiguous.
One party in a relationship may just want to take a step — see who they are without the relationship or refill their cup because they feel like they can’t give anything right now, but how long it may take for them to recover is not known.
It’s not like, it’ll take me 4 weeks to decompress and then I’ll know whether I want to continue with this relationship or not.
So I think, the main thing, if you want your relationship to have a chance, is to define what a break is.
Example questions you should talk about:
- Are we defining how long this break is?
Is it a month and we’ll come back and reflect? Or is it indefinite and we don’t know when we’ll come back and reflect?
- Are we together? Are we allowed to see other people?
Are we still a couple, just taking time off? Or are we a couple and we’re allowed to date other people? This is hugely important. Define this. Don’t let this be undefined.
If you watch Friends, there’s a funny scene where Ross says “We were on a break when commenting on a girl he hooked up with while he thought he and Rachel were on a break. Rachel felt it was inappropriate that he was with someone else.” The reality of the situation, however, hysterical, is that the break terms were not defined.
Communication needs to be clear when setting up a break.
3. Understand breaks are hard
Breaks are not easy because you’re not fully moving on. You’re both taking time to reflect and you’re in this gray area.
4. There can be positive outcomes from a break
You can come out of a break and say I need this, this and this for us to continue in our relationship.
And it may just be simply, instead of seeing you 5 times a week, we need to down to 2–3 times a week.
Or instead of both weekend nights with you, I’ll 1 weekend night with you and 1 with my friends.
In conclusion, I would say, while hard, breaks can be valuable. It’s just really about communicating, deciding terms and then going from there.