Dear Dr Nikki,
My boyfriend and I have been together for two years and we have hit some tough times.
We are just arguing a lot and finding that living together is a bit of a struggle.
After we spoke about it, we decided to take a break but also wanted to make some rules about what that break means.
We have decided to not have any contact for two months, but I also feel that it will be so hard to do. What are your thoughts and rules on taking a break?
Taking a break can be a scary word as it does sound close to the words breaking up. In some sense it is nearly a trial breakup to see if you could live life without each other, but it can be a great way to get some space from the issues you might be facing and work things out. It can be sometimes a great way to save a relationship that is struggling. But, like with all other relationship issues, you need to communicate and be open with each other as to what you want during this time and consider why you are taking the break and what that break is for. If there is no purpose, you might find yourself slowly slipping apart. You have said it is to think about what you want, but then you need to identify why it is that you can’t do that whilst together. Is it because you both feel suffocated, that you want to see if you really miss each other and couldn’t live without each other? Make sure you are both really clear as to what this time is for.
And I do believe that rules are important. The most important is of course dating other people. Some people want to date others to get that chance to see if they miss their partner nearly by comparison. Others feel that it’s too close to breaking up. Whilst opening up a relationships during a break to include others can be therapeutic to some, it can also open up a relationships too much with a couple finding it hard to go back or feeling hurt at a connection with another.
I am concerned about the no contact however. It might be a good idea to pull back on talking and texting throughout the day, but you also don’t want to torture yourself or each other. This break, if being used to fix the relationship, will also need you as a couple to support each other through this time. It doesn’t mean that things should be the same as they are, but no contact for two months might disconnect you to a point where you can’t get things back on track. I would suggest pulling back on contact but also using physical distance as a way to sort you stuff out, but using phone contact as a way to get to know each other again and rebuild your relationship. When you start a relationship, you usually start with texting and talks. Why not eventually go back to that time when it wasn’t daily tasks and who is cooking tonight that were the conversations that were had, but discussing your day and what’s on your mind and even those sweet, “ I miss you” texts. If the intent of this is to get you back on track, then don’t let so much distance between you occur that you both start to focus on life without the other.
I would also suggest being careful of who you inform of this break. You by all means can tell those close to you that you are both giving each other a bit of space to work things out, but when others hear of the word break, they go into the mode of break up, possibly saying things that are in line with if the relationship has ended, making you nearly feel like it has. If you know the rules of your break and what it is there for, those rules and intents don’t have to be shared with others, but you also don’t need to not hind that you are going through a tough time.
Good luck on your break and remember that sometimes these things have a way of working out if you give them a little breathing space. But you also might need to find that balance of breathing space and working on a future, if that’s what you both have in mind.