When I hear the word "break," the first break that comes to mind is a snack break. True life: I love snacks. In fact, I prefer a snack to a meal. Give me cheddar and crackers over a ricotta gnocchi any day. Snack breaks are the lifeblood of making it through a long work day. Snack breaks are and have always my preferred form of procrastination while studying. (Am I hungry?) Other admirable breaks: coffee breaks, dance breaks, winter break. However, when it comes to taking a break from a relationship, I barely know how to define the concept.
What even is a break when you are dating someone seriously? Is it a trial period for you to figure out what would happen if you were to break up for reals? Is it just a "snack" break, or, a hall pass to cheat on your SO while you are apart from each other for a period of time? Or, is a break the long term relationship version of breadcrumbing? (Can't stop referencing food.)
There is a multitude of reasons a pair could choose to take a "break," and winter — whether you are still in school, or simply have the week between Christmas and New Year's off — is a prime time for doing so. Holiday season feelings are complicated, and New Year's is just an existential crisis dressed up like a sparkly party. Elite Daily spoke to professional life and love coach Susan Winter about how to take a productive break — if that's even possible. Here's what she shared.
Healthy Breaks Require An End Date, So Maybe A Winter Break Isn't Such A Bad Idea
I will go ahead and share this not-so-hot take: I think a break with no deadline in sight is a cop-out from a person who is too scared to hurt their partner's feelings by actually breaking the f*ck up with them. It's hard to end a relationship, and I can't imagine there's any non-socio out there who actually enjoys doing it. A break seems more legitimate to me when there is an actual, established "check-in" date in the near future.
"In order to have a break be effective (because this is very tricky territory), you have to have joint agreements, end-goals and timeline markers in place," says Winter. So when it comes to the holidays, if your partner is heading home to California for the month, while you'll be solo backpacking through Peru (lucky you and also, be safe) then maybe this is a good time for you to both reevaluate your relationship. It's also important to establish guidelines for the break: will you date other people? What are the rules? Then, when you're back on campus, you can decide whether you want to be together or not.
However, Breaks Are Rarely Seamless Solutions
"[Just] taking a break doesn't heal or fix. It freezes the problem where it is, and nothing is changed," says Winter. True, distance makes the heart grow fonder, but if you take a break without discussing your relationship issues, you can't expect to come back to an entirely repaired partnership. Those old issues will creep back up. "It's better to communicate, open up with each other, and try to work things out as a team," Winter adds.
Unfortunately, my pessimism in regards to breaks is not entirely off base: Winter admits that "often, taking a break is the coward's way to back out of the relationship." She explains that if you are feeling uncertainty about your relationship, it's time to start asking the tough questions, rather than simply walking away. "Getting vital information is what is required. That means making it safe for your partner to tell you how they really feel — even if you don't like what they have to say," explains Winter.
Just as every relationship is a unique snowflake, so is every relationship's end — or pause — button. I would say that there are three very important things to ask yourself before deciding to take a relationship break over the holidays — which are, admittedly, one of the hardest times to be single: First, ask yourself, "Do I want this break too, or is it my partner's doing?" Second, "Am I looking to take a break simply because I'm too scared of being alone?" Third, "Am I truly happy with this person?"
If you are at an age where you still have winter breaks, chances are that you are super young and should be absolutely unafraid of breaking up and taking chances on new people. College and grad school are not the time to settle. In fact, there's no time in the one life that you are given when it's worth it to settle. If you're looking to move forward, do the right thing and have a conversation about breaking up with your partner. Don't torture them with a "break" just so that you don't have to be alone over the holidays. Remember, you can always get back together.
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