“I need a break”
The famous “we need some time apart” or “let’s go on a break” is a controversial topic in my sessions, bringing up different reactions and expectations around it.
- Is “going in a break” something bad or good?
- When is a break long-enough?
- What are my commitments to the person while we are in this space of separation?
- Can I go out with other people?
- Do we maintain communication?
These are some of the questions that come up in my session when we explore the topic of taking a break. And I thought I’d share my personal perspective on it. I am not saying that it is the only correct perspective or that I will feel the same way about it in three years, but it is how I currently feel about it.
A “break” in a relationship can be beneficial, as long as it is brief and has a clear purpose.
I want to say is that this perspective does not apply to infidelity, violence, or manipulation in a relationship. These circumstances require other strategies and treatment plan, including assessing the person’s safety and a therapeutic process to help process the lived experiences. I also won’t be listing the “right” situations for taking a break because I believe that it is different for each person, relationship, and the goals that the partners have. Instead, I will focus on some tips to be mindful of if you decide to go on a break.
HERE ARE SOME OF MY OBSERVATIONS:
- Don’t use the break as a way to manipulate or threaten the other person. This wears down the relationship as it tends to avoid problems instead of trying to solve them. Additionally, threatening to temporarily end the relationship so that the other person behaves in the way you want can create resentment, desensitize towards the situation, and the person receiving this message may decide to permanently end the relationship. Suppose the desire is not to end the relationship but instead to try to achieve a change. In that case, you there are healthier and more assertive ways to communicate needs or to explore if the relationship is still what you want.
USING “A BREAK” AS A FORM OF MANIPULATION IS ONE OF THE MOST WEARING TOXIC BEHAVIORS IN A RELATIONSHIP.
- It is recommended that the break has a clear beginning and a clear end. Indeterminate timelines in a break create a space of significant ambiguity and insecurity in the relationship. And many times, they can become a “comfortable” or “safe” way of not losing the other person while not taking responsibility for the relationship. Therefore, it is vital to determine when the time will start and when it will end. I also recommend that the separation time is not very long, not more than a month. If not, you can fall back into that space of vagueness.
- Use that time towards a specific purpose. I have heard many times that people say that they will take a “break,”; and they sort of hope that everything in the relationship will be solved in an almost magical way. The reality is that this strategy rarely causes a long-term change in the relationship. Therefore, if you decide to take a break, it is crucial that this time apart has a purpose. For example, to determine if the relationship will continue long distance or if it is time to end it. Personally, I think these decisions could benefit from working on them together as a couple. But suppose you really believe that you need space. Then I recommend for you to determine the question that you want to answer or the decision that you hope to make during that time.
MANY TIMES IT IS RECOMMENDED TO COMMUNICATE THESE ISSUES DURING A RELATIONSHIP, RATHER THAN MAKING SEPARATELY DECISIONS. BUT SUPPOSE WE HAVE DECIDED WHAT WE WANT TO REFLECT INDIVIDUALLY. IN THAT CASE, IT CAN STILL BE USED AS A SPACE FOR GROWTH, BOTH INDIVIDUALLY AND FOR THE RELATIONSHIP.
- Use this time to really think about the reason or reasons why you took the break. You can also use resources to help you take advantage of this time, like therapy, reading books about relationships, taking a workshop, or really using this time to reflect. You can also make the decision to not discuss this decision with the people around you. And it’s okay if you don’t want to share what it’s currently happening in your relationship. I encourage you to seek resources and spaces that help you clarify your thoughts in a way that is safe and compassionate.
- Have a conversation at the beginning and end of the break. Whatever decision you make, it is essential to inform your partner about it. It does not have to be to ask for permission or justify yourself. However, it can be a way to clarify needs, what has been learned, and even explain (if you decide to) what happened. By doing this, you can healthily close the process, or you can then start a new stage of the relationship with new lessons, and with clearer needs and objectives towards what you are trying to build.
SOME FINAL NOTES:
Here I share some last things to keep in mind if you decide to go ahead with your decision to take a break from your relationship:
- It is important that during this break you truly create some separation, including communication and spending time together. If not, it can become a “no commitments” type of relationship, and it can be challenging to get out of that space.
- Talk explicitly about commitment and trust during the break. Taking a break can become a very gray area, around dating other people or even having different sexual partners. Therefore, as a couple, it is essential to talk about how monogamy is expected to be handled (if that is the case in your relationship) during this time.
- Accept that the other person can choose not to wait for you. Many people decide to take time instead of ending things because of the implied belief that the other person will wait for them; this is not always true.
THE OTHER PERSON WILL ALWAYS HAVE THE RIGHT OF WHETHER THEY ACCEPT THE BREAK OR NOT. THIS IS A RISK WE MIGHT STRUGGLE RECOGNIZING OR EVEN ACCEPTING, BUT IT IS STILL A VERY REAL POSSIBILITY.
I hope this post will clarify some doubts about how to take a break in the relationship. I acknowledge that it is a complex issue, and I recommend exploring the history of how the relationship arrived at that point. This is not a way to judge or blame, but to identify some of the relationship’s more in-depth struggles. And to determine how to make lasting changes either for the relationship or for yourself. If you want to explore more about this topic in your particular case, I would love to hear from you, and we can work together to create a safe space in therapy in which to process this experience.