Get Well

When You Learn Love Isn’t Black and White: What Taking a “Break” in a Relationship Means

by Maggie Suszka

“Don’t pick up the pieces, just leave it for now, they keep falling apart.”

I don’t particularly love to quote Drake for the start of an article about being lost in love, but this line is more than fitting. Those words perfectly demonstrate the breaking point people often reach in relationships that call for a break – that it’s time to just leave it for now.

I’ve watched my friends take breaks. Admittedly, they scared me. In my mind, a break meant a break up – in one less word.

There’s a strange set of unwritten rules, and online written rules, you should follow, and then another entirely separate strange process of what to do with all those feelings – and the definite decision of whether or not to let them go. And if you don’t end it, how are you meant to actually grow during the break and do the thing it is meant for? (Which to me, means letting all of that love flow back into yourself).

All of those things only become more complicated once your family, friends, apps, subreddits, social media, and anything else gets involved. Transparently, I’m currently on a “break” with my S.O. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that love isn’t black and white. No matter how good and beautiful the love you share is, life can and will get in the way, and there’s no stopping that.

Circumstances define what the break is about and who the break is for. My old S.O. often reminded me that we are always feeling the same way – a unique connection I’ve never felt with anyone else. So taking a break, and my feelings during that break, drove me nuts because I wanted to know if that was still the case. I wondered if he was experiencing the confusion I was, or if he was even thinking about it at all.

I also caught myself doing something, that I’ve now learned is called “mental review,” where you play back all of the memories, little moments and conversations – all of the collections of your mind – and play them back, dissecting the words, the nonverbal cues and reactions and actions. I played back my reckless decision to give him a turtle, or how the first time I made him dinner was a plate of my specialty: Captain Crunch chicken.

As I said, I watched my friends take breaks. I watched as their relationships with their S.O completely crumbled and their relationships with themselves unbelievably flourished. Honestly, I had tried a “break” in a previous relationship, it led to relations with someone else and complete mistrust in the relationship moving forward. The break hadn’t “worked” for either of us. This was an experience I had completely scrubbed from my memory. But this current “break” feels different, and I’ve learned in life that people and things can change.

I reached out to a few Chill Times readers to learn what a break in a relationship meant for them, and if it led to the ultimate breaking and/or reconciling of the relationship. Here is what I learned.

“It broke our relationship. I tried to create boundaries (rules) like “Ok, well, we cannot see other people, otherwise that’s a break UP.” They decided that was what they actually wanted under the guise of a “break” so no, I wouldn’t do it ever again. If you need a break from me, we should just break up!” – @cnmone

“Breaks never work if you are monogamous. I’ve done it before and it’s always a soft open to an actual break up. Taking space is important and you always need alone time to reflect but that can be done without a “break”. If you communicate and assert your needs [in the relationship] and still need to take a break, then it never works out.” – @morganbirman

“I have been on a break in one of my relationships and it was one of the best and worst things I’ve done. It was the best because I was able to end a relationship I was unhappy in and the worst because I lost someone I loved. During the break, I met some cool people to see what else was out there and then when my ex messaged me asking to rekindle things, it was harder to then separate our old relationship and friendship since I had moved on. I think the break was more so for me to see what I really wanted from him and what I was missing. In the end it’s been a tough road, but worth it as I’ve been able to move on and be happier as I hope he is too.” – @mamonek98

“I’ve never been on a break but I would consider it. Right now I’m in a four year relationship with a touring musician and to be honest, a three week long tour can feel like a break, especially if he is really busy and doesn’t have time to call me every day. It makes me miss him a lot, but also reminds me that I am happy on my own, too. I worry that a real break would make me question whether or not I “need” him, but maybe needing is bad and just actively wanting is the healthier choice?” – @julieblandrews

“No I wouldn’t condone a break, unless the “boundaries” are set right away. I waited a week [after I initiated a break] to ask my boyfriend if we still considered each other boyfriend/girlfriend, and he said, “YES of course.” Meanwhile, I find out a month later he started seeing another girl. We in no way said this was time to test the waters with other people. Luckily, my time wasn’t wasted because I was working on bettering myself during our break.” -@alxfara

Feature Image via Victoria Morris

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