You probably know the phrase ‘taking a break’ from Ross and Rachel’s much disputed relationship break, and it’s likely you don’t have a very positive idea about it. Why not just break up, right?
When things aren’t going well in our relationship we think that there are only two options: break up or try work on things while you push through the dark times. There is a case to be made, however, for a third option: taking a break.
Before you boo and hiss at the idea hear us out. If you and your best friend were spending all day every day together eventually you would be at each other’s throats and silently agree to spend a bit of time apart. You wouldn’t just dump your bestie and there’s no reason why you have to dump your bae just because things are rocky.
Many people are of the idea that ‘taking a break’ shows weakness in your relationship, and you should stick it out together like you do everything. Pride has no place in a healthy relationship so let that take a backseat. All relationships require work, and sometimes that work is better done alone. Maybe you need some time to heal after a betrayal, maybe things are feeling stale, or maybe you just need some breathing space. That’s okay. Here are some tips on how to successfully take a relationship break, from women who have actually done it:
Think about your reasons You need to be sure that you don’t secretly want to break up and are using a break to ease yourself into it. Have a good think about your reasons for wanting a break and not a break up. If you genuinely want some time to think about how you two can have a happier relationship then that’s great. If you just want a week where you get to let loose and not answer to anyone it’s possible your relationship is holding you back and you should end things.
‘My boyfriend and I took a break for a week because things were stale and predictable and we both wanted to feel excited about our relationship again. It did work somewhat but I knew deep down that what I really wanted was to end things and I was just too terrified to. I eventually did (two years later!) and although I don’t like to live with regret I do secretly wish that we had called it then instead of taking a break.’—Michaela, 26
Approach ‘The Talk’ with care If you guys are fighting a lot then your S/O shouldn’t be blind-sided by this conversation anyway. Remember you aren’t asking to break up, you are asking to take some time to be better at being in a relationship. If anything they should be pumped for this break (okay, that’s asking for a lot but hopefully they will be able to see the positive). Use the word ‘we’ rather than ‘I’ so that they don’t feel attacked or excluded from the decision.
‘I was *so* scared to ask my boyfriend to take a break but I knew we were both unhappy so I generated an organic conversation that naturally led to a discussion about it. We were just hanging out having supper and I said “I’ve been struggling a bit lately and I think you have too, am I right?”. He agreed and we both felt relieved to be on the same page, even though it was sad and scary to admit it. Taking a break was a decision we made together, and it was the best thing we’ve done because we’re still together years later.’—Bea, 30
Expect resistance It’s very possible that your bae won’t see that you’re coming from a place of love and will just hear ‘I want to break up’. Reassure them by explaining how much you love them and how much you are wanting to work on things. If they react angrily or irrationally to you speaking your mind and being true to yourself, or if you feel genuinely scared to bring up something like this with them for fear of how they will react it’s not a great sign TBH. You deserve someone who will hear you out and react with kindness.
Set a deadline Everyone has their own opinion but generally breaks last between a week and a month. Longer than a month could mean your life changes so much it’s hard to slip back into things and trust each other again.
‘My boyfriend and I took a break for 10 days. We agreed to not contact each other *at all*, not check up on the other person’s social media and avoid each other in general. It was super weird to go from speaking every waking moment to not at all. When we met up again I felt butterflies for the first time in ages and while obviously relationships have their ups and downs ours has improved significantly since the break. The main take away was to be more mindful when we speak to each other. We challenge ourselves to speak about interesting and exciting topics, not just laundry and whose turn it is to initiate sex.’—Bev, 29
Be productive with your time apart Now that you’ve been brave enough to take some time to focus on you and what you want to work on you better do it. Don’t immerse yourself in re-watching every Harry Potter film (twice) for the week to avoid all the pain. Do take the time to write down what you love about your partner, what you want to work on together, what you want to change about your relationship and work on a strategy to do so.
Communicate your boundaries Lastly be very, very clear that neither of you will be using this time to get with other people. If that’s what either of you want then rather end this thing (unless you’re polyamorous in which case good for you and how TF do you do it please teach us?).
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