Are 'Breaks' Good For A Relationship?
Is A Relationship Break One Step Away From A Breakup?
Is taking a "break" one small skip and a hop away from a breakup? Or could it be the thing to save your relationship? 💋
Taking a break in general is often seen as a good thing, but in relationships it can be a mixed bag. The truth is every relationship is different, and what works for one might not work for another.
It is up to us to decide the rules of our own relationships so at the end of the day the only real question is--Is it right for us? Here are a few ways to tell if a break in your relationship is love lost or gained.
Are The Boundaries and Intention Clear?
One way a break can very quickly turn into a breakup is when the boundaries and intention of it aren't clearly defined. For example, are both parties allowed to see or date other people? Is there a time frame attached? Are there boundaries around communication? And probably most importantly-- is there a clear intention behind the break?
A clear intention could be to allow someone space to finish their medical residency, for people to have some time while they enter individual therapy, for someone to have some independence during a time of travel. These are all clearly intentioned with time frames attached. If the goal is to improve the relationship or ensure it lasts in the long term, then the intention will be clearly defined and the boundaries outlined.
"One way a break can very quickly turn into a breakup is when the boundaries and intention of it aren't clearly defined."
When intentions and boundaries are clearly defined, taking a "break" has a much higher chance of succeeding then if these types of things aren't discussed. If the response is something like "I need a break from us/you/this relationship" you can see why that might be more of a breakup than a well intentioned break.
It is also important to determine boundaries during the break that both parties are comfortable with, if one person is open to seeing other people and the other isn't, you can see why this too, might cause problems and hurt the relationship.
The goal of a break should be to improve the relationship, if it isn't... then it's truthfully more of a breakup at that point.
Does It Feel Like A Step Forward Or Back?
Sometimes a "break" can feel like a lateral stop along the relationship road but in truth it should never feel like a step back. A "break" should pause the relationship where it is, not take it further back.
For example, I had a client who was living with her boyfriend, when he decided that they should take a bit of a break. After living together for a year, he wanted to move into separate apartments. He did not end things with her, assuring her that he still very much wanted to be in a relationship but just wanted to live separately. To her it felt like a massive step back, and in truth, it was. The separate apartments quickly turned into separate lives and he began seeing other people. Eventually he ended things with her after months of stringing her along and seeing someone else. He and the new person moved in together shortly thereafter.
"Trust your intuition, if it feels like a step back it is. If it feels like something to avoid a breakup, it is."
Here is an example of when a break, is just a loophole to a breakup. One big indicator is if it feels like a step back. Putting a pause on a relationship while someone finishes a medical school residency for example, is really just a lateral step. It is allowing someone to put focus where they need to, for a dedicated amount of time, without feeling the weight of unmet relationship expectations. Then when the residency ends, the couple picks right back up where they left off and hopefully moves forward. That is an example of one of the few times I have seen "taking a break" work.
Trust your intuition, if it feels like a step back it is. If it feels like something to avoid a breakup, it is. If it feels like a loophole. It is. If it is going from engaged back to dating, if it is going from living together to separate abodes, if it is from a relationship to a situationship, these are all indicators that the break is most likely going to end up being a permanent one.
It is ok for relationships to move laterally but ideally they should always move forward and they should almost never move in reverse.
Is It What You Want?
Now I know what you may be thinking here. You may know a friend of a friend who did something similar to the above example and it worked out. Or you know someone who took a break from a relationship, the pair saw lots of other people but then they ended up deciding they loved each other and getting married. Let me be clear. These situations are the exception--not the rule.
"If a break is not what you want then say that!"
Not only that, simply being in a relationship or marriage is not the goal, being in a healthy and happy one is. There is no gaurantee that that friend of a friend's marriage will be a happy or long lasting one, especially if it took speed dating other people for the pair to realize they loved each other. Taking a break is not always a deal breaker, but it is often used as a loophole to a breakup, and that is where hopefully you are beginning to see the difference. Yet between all the advice and stories and what if's here's the big question-- Is It What You Want?
If a break is not what you want then say that! You don't have to agree to anything you don't want to, even if the other person wants it. You have a choice. You can express that is not something you are interested in. It is not giving the other person an ultimatum it is simply expressing what you genuinely want. If you feel pressured to go along with it, you can make the choice to walk away completely. I know it may not be the ideal, but neither is getting dragged along for months just for something to ultimately end anyway. Think about it...
The girl from my example-- What if instead of agreeing to something(lots of somethings) she didn't want she had just said " It's ok if you want to live separately, but I am interested in a relationship with someone who wants to live together and move forward. If that is not where you are then it's probably best we just go our separate ways." Months and I do mean months of heartache, being dragged along, and having to watch someone she loved date other people right in front of her, would have been saved. She would have been able to use that time to begin to move on and get clear on the type of person and relationship she did want.
It's also ok to change your mind. If you agree to a break then decide it isn't for you, that's ok too! Just be honest with yourself, is it what you really want out of the relationship? If not, then it's ok to speak your mind or simply walk away completely. You deserve so much more than crumbs, and if that is what you feel you are being offered, please say no.
To Sum It Up....
Every relationship is different, which means it is entitled to make up its own rules.
If you feel a break is truly in your relationship's best interest, then who cares what anyone else thinks!
Yet if it's really not what you want, and it gives you that tightening feeling in your tummy, it's probably not what's best for you. Breaks can be tough and more often than not they do usually end up being the first step to a breakup. Yet that is not always the case, so it's up to you to decide if it's a deal breaker or the saving grace of your relationship. Hopefully these concepts help you decide! 💋