Will the people who’ve been on a break please stand up?
As a Gay best friend (GBF), if I had a nickel for every time I heard one of my friends tell me that they were on a break with their significant other, I would be rich. I’m not talking reality star rich. I’m talking Tesla-in-every-color rich.
There‘s breaking up and then there’s going on a break: the relationship equivalent to being put on hold with your credit card company. The concept was popularized by the television show Friends. If you haven’t seen Friends, you were raised wrong. Conversely, you can use this as an excuse for all the crippling mental problems I’m sure you have.
In any case, I’ll Cliff-note it for you...
Once upon a time in Greenwich Village, a waitress and a paleontologist found love in a coffee shop. From loving, turned fighting, and the couple got into an argument. The then-waitress, Rachel, suggested that her and the paleontologist, Ross, go on a break.
During the next 12 hours, Ross bumped uglies with a bartender. Rachel came back saying that she made a mistake only to find Ross with the waitress. Rachel calls it cheating, Ross thinks they were on a break, and the rest is 12 seasons of 90’s television history.
This historic event, rivaled only by Neil Armstrong's spacewalk, is what gave society the concept of a break, which I now lovingly refer to as the Ross and Rachel syndrome.
Let me just say this - I am not condemning breaks.
What works for some might not work for others and vice versa. However, where is the (pun alert) break down? Why does it work for some and leave others in limbo, duking it out like two equally-matched prized fighters?
As a professional GBF, unlicensed therapist, and through counseling a bevy of friends through breaks with their significant other, I have developed a cure. Bear with me I know this might be quite a concept for some - it’s called... Communication.
😱 Right? Shocking, I know.
Allow me to explain. The majority of unsuccessful breaks I’ve seen fall apart (thought I was going to pun again didn’t ya?) were due to a lack of communication. Moreover, an absence of a set of rules both participants must abide was missing.
Take Ross and Rachel: they got in a massive fight, let their emotions guide their decisions (their first mistake), and decided to go on break. The two promptly went their separate ways right after. If they took a breath, sat down and talked through the terms of surrender, they could have laid the foundation to possibly find their way back to each other sooner than they did later (no more spoilers, pinky promise).
Hell, they might have even gotten back together right then and there. Talking through the rules may have allowed them to visualize the other with someone else. Which in turn, could have been the incentive they needed to realize that they just wanted to be with each other all along.
Rules aren’t necessarily limiting; they can even be freeing at times. If you are going on a break or thinking about going on one, here are some concepts to think through to get the ball rolling. These are the Top 3 problems that couples NEED to talk about before going on a break:
Length Of break
Putting an expiration date on the break is crucial. If you don’t decide when it ends, it can’t end. It may seem like an easy concept, but, it is rarely taken into account. Setting an expiration date means that you can have a specific time to get back together to reevaluate if the relationship is still something you would like to pursue. If you don’t set an end date, you might as well break up because a break without a date, is a break that is up.
Amount Of Contact With Each Other During The Break
Decide if you will stay in contact or not for the duration of the break. Either way is fine, but deciding will help make sure that feelings are not hurt if one person thinks the other should be talking to them more or vice versa. While communication is key, sometimes all you need is some time to yourself to understand what you need so you can vocalize it to someone else.
Most importantly: CAN YOU SEE OTHER PEOPLE OR NOT???
My God people, choose if you can date around or not. This is the #1 way to hurt your significant other. Come to a decision on this that will make you both happy. You could date other people if you tell your partner, you could have permission to date other people as long as you don’t share details with the other person, you could not use names, etc. In any case, come down on a way that makes both people happy.
We are all unique. Breaks are not one size fits all, so don’t treat it like they are. If you take away one thing from the diamond mine of gems I hurled your way: set some rules and communicate. Do the work so that your break doesn’t become a break-up. Even though it’s called a break, it doesn’t mean you are done working on the relationship. Relationships are constantly evolving and changing. To sustain one, it takes two people who are passionate about each other, genuinely want to build a life together, and of course, lots of alcohol.