I recently met two couples, both well into their 30s, who announced that they were taking a break from their respective long-term relationships.
“Oh, you mean breaking up?” I asked.
“No, taking a break,” they clarified.
When pressed to explain what the difference was, they explained that they planned to return to the relationshipat some point. (Actually, in the case of one couple, they amended that by saying that they planned to return “if it seemed like a good idea” in the future.)
Apparently, they are far from alone.
In an informal poll of friends and acquaintances in long-term relationships, I found many couples had taken a break at some point or would at least consider it. The appeals are obvious and in some ways, a break seems like the best of both worlds: it’s an opportunity to be a singleton for a bit while still having a committed relationship waiting in the wings.
However, there is a downside—not the least of which is that the latter may not be true at all. Therefore, if you and your partner are considering a break, it’s important to discuss the following below before quitting each other for a period of time.
It may turn out that a break isn’t really what one or both of you want, and one person’s definition of the break may not be the same as the other’s.
1. Are we allowed to see other people? And what do we mean by “see”?
Be clear about the latter, especially if by “see” you mean “have sex.”
Some people can handle being with and/or allowing their partners have sex with other people, while others cannot. There is no right or wrong way to feel about this.
Even if both parties are okay with having sex with others, they still need to talk about safe sex and STD testing for if and when the couple gets back together. It may not be an easy or sexy subject, but it is absolutely necessary.
This leads me to #2.
2. How long will this break last?
You and your partner may not have an exact end date, but there needs to be some sort of general time frame (i.e., six weeks, six months, etc.).
If one or both of you feel that the break should go on “until it no longer feels right,” this may be a sign that at least one party really wants to break up for good.
3. Why are we taking this break in the first place and what do we hope to gain from it?
Much like the other questions, there’s no right or perfect answer to this. Rather, it is up to each couple to decide for themselves.
However, the answer needs to be honest even if it isn’t necessarily the answer your partner is hoping for or expects. Indeed, it may not even be the answer you’re hoping for or expecting. Still, if a break is going to work, honesty isn’t just necessary but a must.
In closing, some relationships survive taking a break and end up stronger than before, though others do not. There is no magic formula, nor is there any way to tell if your relationship really needs a break. A break may not even be what one or both of you really want once you ask yourself and your partner the above questions.
In any case, for those of you who decide to take a break, the process can be made a lot easier by taking the time to sit down and talk things out beforehand in order to avoid any potential confusion or misunderstanding.
You’re worth it, your partner’s worth it and your relationship is worth it—no matter where it all ends up in the future.
Author: Kimberly Lo
Editor: Evan Yerburgh