“I think we should take a break!”
It’s the phrase that everyone in a relationship dreads to hear from their girlfriend or boyfriend, and rightly so! Going on a break is rarely as innocent as it sounds and is indubitably the result of one or more problems manifesting in a relationship.
If a couple are going through a bad patch in their relationship then going on a break seems like an easy temporary solution for a confusing situation. As this article will explain, it can end up being either the inspiration for rectifying the relationship or it can be the immediate demise of the relationship. It depends solely on how it is approached and the real reasoning behind it.
This article will list a few common reasons for wanting to go on a break along with advice for both people involved before offering some alternative routes of action that stem from more assertive behaviour than what going on a break represents…
Reasons for going on a break:
The ultimatum of going on a break is rarely a mutual decision, but it is often a mutual feeling! At the very least it is evidence of someone taking control over problems in the relationship. Even if there is one notable event that acts as a catalyst for the decision, the thoughts and feelings of going on a break have probably been brewing for some time.
Below are some of the most common reasons for couples feeling the need to take time away from each other. Although the reasons listed may seem unique in both their cause and sentiment, they all derive from the same overall feeling: dissatisfaction with the current relationship setup.
Constant arguments or negative feelings:
Arguments and negative feelings in a relationship are something that, theoretically, can be flipped in an instant. Once you get into the habit of arguing, it is very hard to rewire your internal feelings and not let them affect your future interactions. Although going on a break provides time for reflection, once back together again it usually isn’t long before a couple slip back into their old way of behaving.
Some ideas to solve these issues more proactively are listed in the article Dealing with arguments in a relationship.
Seemingly unsolvable problems in the relationship:
These problems refer to extensions of the arguments and negative feelings mentioned above. These problems can be characterised by an apparent incompatibility or by inconsolable differences.
Once again, reflection and time apart can help two people understand what a relationship means to them. The important thing is that if two people are to get back together in such a situation, both people need to realise that they are equally responsible in making the effort to implement changes.
Below is a clip from the popular American sitcom Friends that highlights many of these factors. Sometimes it is easier to recognise problems in your own relationship by analysing those in others.
The relationship simply isn’t working:
The relationship not working for one or both people is another common reason for going on a break, but it is rarely explained or even understood as the cause by the instigator.
I have seen many instances where someone knows deep down that they should move on from a relationship, but they think that going on a break might achieve one of two things: they think it will inspire the relationship to suddenly be more fulfilling; they simply don’t want to fully lose the investment of a relationship until they have some future dating options lined up. Either way, it is unashamedly ignoring the ONLY reason to stay in a relationship.
The short advice to give here is to never date someone due to convenience or a lack of options. Doing so is a surefire way to head down the path of the number one relationship killer!
Unsure of the foundations of the relationship:
This is not such a common occurrence as the other examples but is still one that happens occasionally, whereby someone feels that their current relationship is in some way holding them back, either from experiencing other aspects of life, or discovering their life purpose. Perhaps it could even be that someone is happy in their relationship but still feels deep down that there could be someone more perfect for them.
This is something that was specifically brought to my attention by a reader who recently emailed me asking for advice in her relationship. I have received her permission to paraphrase her email here:
“I have been with my boyfriend for four years now and most of that time we have been very happy together. The problem is that we are each other’s first serious relationship and I’ve recently been thinking whether I am missing out on experiencing other relationships while I am still young. There are many times when I don’t feel I am fully happy in our relationship at the moment but I don’t know any different. Before settling down and having kids etc I want to know this relationship is really the right one for me. How can I know that if I have nothing to compare it to?”
I personally replied to this person in great detail but the overriding point is that a decision must be made if you ever feel yourself caught in limbo with your relationship. No one wants to feel regret for having potentially missed opportunities with love, yet it is illogical to reject something that adds happiness to our lives, however slight. This particular example highlights that going on a break achieves neither of those things!
The psychology of going on a break:
The main point behind going on a break is that there are doubts about the relationship. Doubts in a relationship are never without substance and it is the uncertainty and indecisiveness behind those doubts that will affect the relationship whether you stay together or not.
Something to remember if you do find yourself on a break is that just like shortly after a break-up, you will invariably feel the loss of being newly single. Keeping the relationship in perspective during this time and understanding the reasons for the break are what is going to be the success behind reconciliation.
There are obviously many cases of couples who have successfully reconciled after time apart – I work with couples where this is the case all the time – and the key component is that they always use it as a learning experience and employ awareness and constructive communication to make sure the things that need to be changed actually get addressed.