What He Means When He Wants a "Break"

couple fighting with each other
(Image credit: iStock Images)

My friend's boyfriend recently told her they needed "to take a break." He said it would help him figure out if they were meant for one another. My question is: Don't you figure that out by spending time with each other?

Doing your own thing within a relationship is healthy separation, but taking time apart to figure things out is not good. If you love someone, you enjoy being around them and you would never think of being apart. If you need a "break" to "figure out" your feelings, chances are your feelings are not that strong.

There's a difference between "breaking up" and "a break." "A break" indicates the relationship is off temporarily, with the possibility of getting back together. "Breaking up" is a definite ending with no indication that you will ever get back together again. Therefore, a "break" is more unfair than 'breaking up" because it's less clear.

From a guy's perspective, a "break" usually hints at something bad. And, most of the time, a guy sugarcoats his reasons, saying it's ultimately for the best, or will help him figure things out. No relationship is perfect, and a break may help in some situations, but whenever there are questions/doubt about feelings, it can't be good.

Because it's so vague, it's tough to know what a "break" really means. Here are a few possibilities:

Incremental Breakup

Some guys are too chicken to break up in one shot. So, they do it in pieces. He might want you to take the hint when he doesn't call and disappears during a break. Even if you get through the break and date again, he may have attained his goal by planting a seed hinting at a breakup down the line.

There's Someone Else

Many of my friends describe their horrible behavior while they were "on a break" from their serious relationships. The easiest way to keep your boyfriend or girlfriend, while giving in to that meaningless temptation, is get it out of your system while on a break. And if there is not someone specific, the person who asks for a break may want the freedom to hook up with other people.

Wait for Me While I Play

If someone does not specifically say they are "breaking up with you," then you still have hope, don't you? And they may leave this opening on purpose because they want to return to you after they do whatever they have to do during this break.

My friend continues to say, "This is just a break and we will end up together." So, she's pretty much waiting for her boyfriend to get through the break period and return to her, after he "confirms" that he loves her. But she doesn't know what he's up to, and maybe he's never coming back at all. Hoping for his return prevents her from moving on, so he can come back whenever he wants to.

Let's See Other People

"Figuring out if you're meant for each other" might simply mean they want to date other people to see if there's someone better out there than you.

The "break" is an unfair because it's a middle ground: not broken up, but not together. The person who asks for a "break" is in total control: They are doing whatever they need to do, and you're left wondering what you're supposed to do, especially if your goal is to stay together. They don't have to pick up your calls, or see you. And they are pretty sure you'll wait around for them.

I don't condone waiting around for someone after they've asked for a break. The best thing to do is move on. Even if they still like you, they won't take you for granted if they realize they could lose you. So, instead of wondering and trying to predict, you should make the best use of this "break" time for yourself.

What are your thoughts on the differences between "taking a break," and "breaking up"? Do you agree that a "break" is vague and usually means something bad, and a break is not necessary to figure out if you like someone? Has a "break" ever worked out for you and your significant other? Do women mean the same thing when they ask for a "break"?

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