What does the phrase “We were on a break” remind you of? If you are a fan of classic sitcoms, you probably memorized this line from the cult comedy series ‘Friends.’
The character of Ross, played by David Schwimmer, repeated it again and again to his on and off girlfriend on the show, Rachel, portrayed by Jennifer Aniston, as a defense for cheating on her.
Their relationship seemed to unravel after they decided to take a break from one another. However, the exact definition of what it meant to go on a break was never discussed. As a result, each one had a different idea of what it actually meant to take a break.
So if you or your partner wants to take a break, don’t go about it like Ross and Rachel did. Both of you need to first figure out what taking a break means for your relationship.
What is ‘taking a break?’
Although there are nuances to be considered when this phrase is being implemented in a relationship, it basically means that you’ve decided to take some time off from each other. Most people misconstrue it as essentially breaking up or ending the relationship. That is not the case.
So the next question that arises is, why take a break at all? Taking a break is not always a bad thing and does not imply that your relationship is heading in the wrong direction. It enables you to gain a fresh perspective on how your bond is developing and reflect on the same.
Taking a break enables both you and your partner to use the time away from one another as an opportunity to reflect on your relationship. Both of you can use the opportunity to reassess your feelings for one another. You can then decide if you want to resolve things in your relationship and be with each other or call it off.
“Taking a break doesn’t mean it’s the end of a relationship,” Janet Brito, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and sex therapist in Honolulu, told Women’s Health Magazine. “It’s just a designated amount of time where both people are consenting to limited communication.”
When is it right for couples to take a break?
Sometimes couples face lows in their relationship when they think they cannot get past challenges, difficulties, and/or doubts, but they don’t want to end things right away or give up on their love for each other.
Another circumstance can be where you are not sure about your feelings about your partner or vice versa in terms of building a future together, but you are still hopeful that you have something real going on.
At these times, taking some time off allows you to avail yourself of the space you need to look at the bigger picture and reevaluate what’s best for you and your partner. You can then use the alone time to figure out exactly what you want.
When is it not a good idea to take a break?
Even though taking a break can be useful at times, it can invariably lead one further down the path to a real breakup if taken at the wrong time. So it is important to know when taking a break could be dangerous.
- When there is no trust: If there is no trust left from either side in your relationship, taking a break can do more harm than good. It is exactly what happened with Ross and Rachel in ‘Friends,’ and we all know how that turned out. However, it does not mean that you guys can’t take a break. But in the absence of trust, you have to vow to actively work on your relationship while on a break and explore the reason behind the breach of trust.
- When one of you is sexually or emotionally vulnerable: If any of you are struggling to control your sexual or emotional needs, there is a greater chance for you to fall prey to temptation from outside influences. At the time, if you are attempting to take a break, then you might get distracted from analyzing your relationship goals, ultimately propelling you and your partner toward a breakup.
- When you secretly want to break up: If all you really want is to break up and have no intention to work on your relationship, taking a break would be useless. Even though you might subconsciously want to do it in trying to ease out of the relationship by staging a break, it is not the wisest thing to do as it might make the situation more painful for your partner by delaying the inevitable and giving him the false hope that everything will work out.
What to do and not do while taking a break?
Before you decide to take a break in your relationship, make sure you discuss the dos and don’ts of the brief period that you will be switching your relationship off.
- Do discuss the break-in person: Since it is a pretty important decision in any relationship, the call to take a break in your relationship should happen face-to-face and not over the phone or text, or worse, email. Even though facing your partner can be intimidating while having these tough conversations, as the virtual medium is less intimidating, having a physical conversation helps lay the ground rules better.
- Do set ground rules: Here is something were the “one shoe fits all” doesn’t apply. So the rules that might work for one couple might not necessarily apply for you and your partner. As a result, it is important that you sit together with him and discuss extensively about the rules you want to follow during the break. It is absolutely essential that both of you are on the same page about each and every rule that you lay down. For example: “Will we talk or chat during the break or pull a cold turkey?” and “Are we allowed to sleep with other people during the break?” are some of the more important questions.
- Do explore the causes of the break: Both of you need to ponder on exactly why you are taking a break. Successfully finding an answer to the question is the only way to finding a resolution during the break and eventually making the relationship work after the break.
- Don’t engage in unrealistic expectations: It’s important to have realistic expectations about the future of the relationship, when going on a break. If you are under the impression that taking a break will miraculously solve the problems in your relationship without you or your partner making an effort to use the time off constructively, you are daydreaming. You need to brace yourself in case things go south.
- Don’t use this time vindictively: If you had a huge fight with your partner before taking the break, it is imperative that you don’t try to get back at him by sleeping with others unless you have opened up the relationship while laying the ground rules.