Relationships: He Wants a Break, What Do You Want?
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By Chris Armstrong, Certified Relationship Coach, Featured DM Blogger - March 11, 2016

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One friend to another: “Mike says he doesn’t know what it is, but he’s going through something and he needs time to himself for a little bit.”

Girlfriend to boyfriend: “I’m not saying we’re not going to work, but I need some time to figure me out first.”

Boyfriend to girlfriend: “I’m just not sure I really want a relationship right now, but I really hope we can still see each other.”

What do you do when someone tells you that they want a break? Do you give it to them?

What if they want a break in the relationship but still wants to you from time to time?

What if your partner wants a break in the relationship but doesn't know for how long?

I do not expect you to have simple answers to these questions. If the head and the heart were logically connected, then this next statement may not be true: “You take it on faith, you take it to the heart, the waiting is the hardest part”—as sung by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

When one person liked the chemistry and progress of the relationship and gets hit with the “I need time” or “I need to figure myself out first”, the real issue isn’t the sting to the ego, the existing emotional attachment, or the confusion that can come with not being able to understand their partner’s issues. Really, it’s the combination of these things as they weigh on the mind through the duration of the waiting.

Assessing Your Ability to Take "A Break"

If you’re that person being asked to understand and wait, you must think through just how significant the weight is going to be before walking this road. If you know and are honest with yourself about your pride factor, your insecurities, your attachment to your partner, and the jealousy issues that could linger, etc., then you should make an assessment with all of those factors considered.

  • If you’re going to say yes to a break or a slowdown but will not be comfortable about what your role and allowances are, the relationship will break on its own—pun intended.
  • If you’re going to keep calling and texting and initiating times to see each other, then it’s not really a break or a slowdown, and that won’t work for the person that requested it. Eventually, the relationship collapses.
  • If by sheer virtue of ego or pride, you’re going to stew internally about being what you may construe as marginalized or back-benched, it’ll make you bitter towards the person that requested the break or slow down, and that obviously does nothing for the future of the relationship.
  • If you understand and buy off on their logic/rationale, and feel confident in your ability to get through it, that’s great but it should not be based solely on your feelings for the person. Yet, at the end of the day, this is what I see happening so much.

Knowing What a "Break" Means For You

We want to fight for the one we love and for the sanctity of the relationship, but if we really sit back and think about what that means, is it really the best idea? Being the person that agrees to the break or the slowdown because you don’t want to give up on the relationship can be fruitless. You can say no to a break and a slowdown without giving up on the relationship. In short, don’t hold on and don’t let go -- just be. Why?

  • You won’t know the blueprint, and you’ll be frustrated and frustrate them in the process: What is the permissible communication and visitation frequency? What about physical? Do you still go out on dates, and if so, how often and who initiates?
  • You can find yourself the one of many: When someone requests a break, it’s not unrealistic that they may see other people. When you participate in the break, someone’s having their cake and eating it too, and it’s not you.
  • Sometimes love just ain't enough: You may love them and they you, but that isn’t always enough, no matter how much you try and hang on. Someone did call for a break or a slowdown, and that wasn’t just because the sky was pink when they woke up. Fighting too hard when there are potential scars that need to be explored will make someone blind to the existence of the scars. Let the scars be explored. You don’t have to fight for something that is still there. If it’s not still there, you fighting for it won’t make it exist.
  • They called for a break and they hold the cards: Don’t put yourself in a position to be seen as the lesser partner because you’re sticking around despite the issues or doubts they may have. Display the confidence in yourself and in the potential future of the relationship by just telling them they can explore what they need to explore and you two can revisit later. Otherwise, you’re hanging on to someone because they asked you to, and that puts a stamp on the relationship that’s hard to replace, even if the relationship gets going again.

Bottom Line: Don’t hold on and don’t let go -- just be. There’s too much weight in waiting. If the relationship is going to last, it needs to do so on the basis of both sides coming back together on equal footing instead of having one person play the waiting or slowdown game solo. And yes, you are solo because you didn’t request it, and thus, you don’t know the blueprint and you don’t know their full mindset. Just by virtue of you agreeing, you have little to no control or equity.

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