When a couple has been together a year or so, usually questions will be asked about their long term future together and the possibility of marriage and a family. However, sometimes one or both of those in the relationship are unsure about making such a commitment to each other. Additionally there are cases where some people are generally commitment phobic or just want to date other people. All of these and more are reasons why people ask their partner to take a break from their relationship. The question is whether or not such a break will be helpful to the long term health of the relationship or not.
Typically the answer lies with what is the motivation for asking for the break from the relationship in the first place. If it’s to take some time away to contemplate the future of the relationship and to gain some perspective and clarity, then taking a break from each other can often times be very helpful. If it’s because one of you are commitment phobic, again taking a break can be very useful as it will give the person time to deal with their fears and be able to put them into a more rational context. It is where the person asks for a break because they want to date other people that there may be an issue.
For couples who met at a very young age, prior to formalizing their relationship through marriage or some other mechanism, it is not uncommon to suggest taking a break due to the fact they haven’t had much opportunity to date other people. There is a curiosity and a desire to reassure themselves about their decision to be with their partner. They want to make sure that their partner is who they truly want to be with and not a case of simply choosing to be with the only person who would date them back in high school. Taking the break is just as much about reassuring fears as it is about making sure that they and their partner are right for each other. There is always a tendency to second guess ourselves, and in a lot of ways taking a break from the relationship is a way for some people to confront those doubts. While communicating with their partner can sometimes alleviate some of those, for many the only way is to go off and discover the answers on their own.
If the request for taking a break from the relationship is simply a desire to be able to date other people (rather than the scenario described in the last paragraph) you are probably looking at a prolonged breakup or a case of your partner hedging their bets. In either case the future of the relationship is not the best as you are seen as simply someone to settle for if they can’t find somebody better. Your gut instincts will tell you if this is what is going on; and if you suspect this is the case you should sit calmly down with your partner and bluntly tell them. If your partner cares about you at all they’ll admit to it. If not, observe the body language of your partner along with what they’re saying. A refusal to look you directly in the eye or a tendency to dart away from your gaze is usually a good indicator of how truthful they’re being. This will be a very emotionally charged conversation, but the more calm you’re able to stay, the more you’ll be able to figure out what’s going on and what the future of your relationship will be.
Another reason for asking to take a break from a relationship is if you and your partner have been fighting or arguing over the last couple weeks or months. In this case your partner is suggesting taking a cooling off period so that each of you can take time away to first separately look at your problems and then come back to the relationship with more healthy and constructive attitudes. This sort of break in a relationship can be very healthy for its long term future as some problems need distance in order to solve them. Once you’ve had that time away you’ll find you’re both able to come back refreshed and ready to try new approaches to the problems that have been bedeviling you.
Occasionally one person in a relationship will ask to take a break when their partner has been regularly hurling accusations of infidelity. The accusations are usually about a friend. Under these circumstances the person in the relationship is asking for the break because they feel only with some time away will their partner be able to look at the situation in a more objective fashion. Usually when such jealous accusations are occurring, intimacy in the relationship will suffer because the other person will not feel comfortable being vulnerable around their partner. Instead they will feel that if they let their guard down, their partner will simply repeat their accusations and an argument will ensue. A break can be healthy and constructive, if both people are able to come up with new ways of communicating with each other, and being sensitive to each other’s feelings. Yet, for this to effectively work, relationship counseling is usually needed in order for each partner to be able to see the other’s point of view. You need to be able to understand why your partner feels your accusations are wrong and unfounded. Your partner needs to be able to understand what is causing you to make those accusations. Both of you need to learn new and more constructive ways to communicate to the other; and your partner may have to change how he/she acts around the friend in order to be more sensitive about how you feel. Change will be needed from both of you if the relationship is to survive.
Sometimes a partner will ask to take a break from their relationship because of pressures from other areas of their life. It is debatable if taking a break in this instance is constructive or not as it is during the difficult times in life where it’s important for each of you to be present to support the other. However, if you, or your partner, have been facing a pressure that is temporary in nature it may be a case of just needing some time to get through the difficult period. Where it becomes an issue is when one of you is asking to take a break from the relationship every time a problem rears its head. At that point taking a break from the relationship has become an unhealthy crutch. What is required here is a balanced approach where you and your partner recognize you may at times not be able to devote as much time to each due to other priorities in your life, but are there to support each other as much as possible.
Often, someone in a relationship will ask to take a break when infidelity has occurred. This is absolutely critical as usually it’s the person who was cheated on that asks for the break. While the partner who did the cheating might want to immediately work through the problems in the relationship, the other person deserves the time away to think about things. Make no mistake when a break is asked for here the partner is looking very critically about whether they want to stay in the relationship and whether they think it’s possible to move past the fact they’ve been cheated on. This is something, though, that the person who was cheated on is entitled to and their privacy should be respected until they’re ready to talk.
Taking a break does not necessarily mean that the relationship is going backwards. As a matter of fact it is often absolutely critical in order for the relationship to enter its next phase of a long term commitment. While there are exceptions, taking a break should be seen as an opportunity to re-examine not only your relationship, but yourself, and what you want for your future. So while the initial suggestion of taking a break might be hurtful it can often be the healthiest thing for a relationship.