A couple I know recently decided to take a break from one another to think things over. Although as a rule I avoid getting close to both parties in a relationship, as it happens I'm close to both of them and therefore have heard (at considerable length) each of their thoughts about this break - what it means, what they hope to accomplish, what is permissible behaviour during the break. Since I don't want to divulge their business on the e-streets, suffice it to say I've never seen such a huge disconnect between two people who are supposed to be travelling down the same road together. Jesus be a steering wheel.
All of this talk and confusion has me thinking a lot about breaks. Being that I’m a bit of a relationship novice, this is largely new territory for me. My only experience with taking a break is the one Snickers and I decided to take – and if you’ve been reading my blog a long time ago you know that was not the move. That’s it. Well, that and Ross and Rachel’s infamous break. Also not the move.
Like many people, I’m a bit iffy on the concept of relationship breaks. A big part of me thinks that a break is just a pussy’s break up – it’s what people suggest when they secretly want to end things and just don’t want to be that person. So they suggest that you “slow down”, “take some time”, “think things over” in the hopes that either the other person will say “why don’t we just end it?” or things will fizzle out and die when all this breaking is going on.
When I think of it that way I think breaks are a bunch of bullshit.
But on the other hand, I know from personal experience that sometimes we rush into things. Sometimes we get so caught up in our feelings for someone new that we just want to….consume them. We want to be around them all the time. This person is all we think about. We’re so fixated on this new person and this new relationship that we don’t pace ourselves and then suddenly you look up one day and realize it’s only been a few weeks but you’re somehow embroiled in this big relationship. And that’s a bit overwhelming so I can understand the concept of wanting to take a step back and reset before moving forward. It’s not that you don’t feel the same way, you just need to let some time and distance get in there so you can regain perspective.
When I think of it this way I think breaks can be a great thing.
I guess, like so many other things, whether breaks have value in a relationship can really only be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. What is a necessary and helpful cooling off period for one couple is just postponing the inevitable for another. Maybe. Or maybe breaks are just unilaterally bullshit and if you really wanted to be with the person you’d stay close to them while you worked out your issues.
What is even more interesting about breaks is how the rules for behaviour change when you’re on one. That’s where shit gets real, isn’t it? I’d bet that for every person who thinks that a relationship break is a free for all where you’re allowed to act as though you’re single while simultaneously being attached to someone, there is another (probably corresponding) person who thinks that you’re supposed to act as though you’re still in the relationship. To some people, being on a break means you’re free to bone the copy girl, while to others it means you’re supposed to be sitting at home thinking about your partner while not speaking to them or fucking them.
The truth is, there’s a middle ground somewhere between going balls to the wall and cloistering yourself when you’re on a break. The greater truth is that it’s probably nearly impossible to define that middle ground. Is it that we’re allowed to date other people while we’re on a break but not allowed to fuck them? Kiss them? Perform oral sex on them? Tell them our deepest secrets? If we date while we’re on a break, do we owe it to the outside person to let them know that there is a relationship looming over our head? Are we being disrespectful to our partners if we don’t divulge that? When the break is over are we supposed to confess all of our breaktime activities? Or do we invoke a don’t ask/don’t tell policy?
And while this break is going on, are we speaking to our partner or are we keeping our distance? Do we still talk, but less frequently or do we stay the hell away. When we do talk, are we allowed to pepper our conversations with I love you’s and I miss you’s or is that too manipulative and guilt-inducing?
And then there are questions like how long is a break supposed to last? If Mr. Max and I decide not to speak for four days, is that really a break or just a lull in the conversation? Are we supposed to be pre-defining how long the break lasts or do breaks take as long as they take? If we go on a break for 6 months, is that really still a break? Or is it an ipso facto break up?
Relationship breaks are killer for a chronic over-thinker such as myself. So many questions! So I put it to you, dear readers.
What do you think about relationship breaks? Have you ever taken one? Did it accomplish what it was supposed to?
Are breaks really just postponing the inevitable break up?
What are the rules of engagement while on a break? Do you think we should be free to act as if we’re single or should we be honouring our commitments to our partners even while we’re running away from them?
Do relationship breaks work?
Speak your piece in the comments.