When things get heated in our lives, we tend to opt for taking a step back; we shut ourselves off for a while and take a break from things to re-evaluate the situation so we can ultimately move forward with it. Generally speaking, this method works. We gain the ability to look at things from a different perspective simply by giving ourselves a break from it.
The big question worth asking is this: does this theory work when you apply it to a relationship?
Everyone seems to have an opinion on what a break means; including what you can and can’t do on a break, and whether you should class yourself as still being “in a relationship” when you’re on one. So, given the amount of complications they seem to lead to, is going on a break from a relationship actually a good thing? Or is going on a break simply the prelude to a break-up?
I have a friend that would agree that going on a break is the first of many signs that your relationship is coming to an end; after extensive personal experience, I am more inclined to argue that going on a break can actually save your relationship.
Obviously it isn’t as clear cut as my friend and I might like to believe, and there are certain circumstances that will change the goal posts of how effective a break can be. If you’re in the middle of an argument and one of you screams that you want a break, it can go one of two ways: it will do you both some good to hold off on the screaming, step back and re-evaluate; or, mid-argument and still furious, you’ll go out with friends and do something you’ll regret in the morning. Which brings me onto my next point, does being on a break mean you’re no longer in a relationship? In my opinion, no. Being on a break means you’re both taking some time apart to deal with whatever is going on, it does not give you right or license to sleep with the first person who buys you a drink. However the confusion of Am I still in a relationship? often leads people into the arms of another before they’re even sure of what’s going on.
When discussing this with a friend, I explained to her that sometimes a break isn’t anything to do with the relationship. Sometimes we need a break from everything, relationships included, to deal with a completely different section of our lives, without dragging someone else along with us. It is these circumstances that need to be defined in the event of a break because things like this is what will inevitably make all the difference.
A key feature of any break is for both of the people involved to identify why they’re doing it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be because you don’t want to be with each other anymore; although it also shouldn’t be used as tool to allow a fling with someone else, so you can later rely on the “We were on a break!” excuse: it didn’t work for Ross and Rachel, it will not work for you! A break can be to work out what you want from the relationship, where the relationship is going, how you feel without the other person around; alternatively, as I mentioned, it doesn’t even need to be related to the relationship! A break can be as simple as “I’ve got a lot going on right now, and I could do with a little time away”. It might be a hard pill to swallow when your other half says it to you, but surely it’s better than them throwing in the towel altogether?
When I’m wrapped up in a writing project and I feel myself losing patience, the most common advice that is given to me is this, “Walk away from it for a while, give yourself a break and start afresh tomorrow.” It’s generic, and sometimes extremely frustrating, but for the majority of the time, it actually works. So perhaps, with this golden advice in mind, we should stop jumping to the obviously inaccurate conclusion that a break is the lead-in to a break when actually, a break might be exactly what you need to build an even stronger relationship.