Taking a break or breaking up? Are they the same? Depends on who you ask. According to characters Ross Geller and Rachel Green in the Gen-X sitcom, Friends (yeah, they’re all middle-age now, too), the answer is YES. And NO. Though they didn’t invent it, Ross and Rachel popularized the concept of this relational time out with their famous on-again off-again romance that consistently reminded us how tricky modern dating can be.
“Maybe we should just take a break,” Rachel blurted out to a confused and blindsided Ross one night in one of TV history’s most memorable moments.
The audience sat stunned. Ouch. We all know how that feels. Most of us have been there, i.e. as dumper or dumpee, at one time or another and neither spot feels good (although arguably it’s always a little better to be the dumper).
Yet the break doesn’t spell all bad news for a troubled couple. There are advantages for both dumper and dumpee to stepping back from a relationship before officially calling it quits. I offer six on either side of the relationship playing field.
1. Get out of Dodge
For the dumper. It was too much too fast. How did this happen? You thought you knew what you wanted at the time. But now… you’re not so sure. So you leave. The good news? A change of scenery can often bring new perspective.
For the dumpee. It’s not your road trip. So don’t ride shotgun with a driver who’s deciding which direction YOU are headed. Stay back in Dodge because out of sight can very well equal out of mind and you’ve just been given a free pass for absentmindedness.
For the dumper. You have countless obligations. Everyone is tugging at your coattails asking something of you. At the end of the day you have little left to give. You’re juggling but there are too many balls in the air. So you drop one. Simplify. Figure out if this new combination brings the balance you need. If it does, that break is officially a breakup. If not, remember practice makes perfect.
For the dumpee. Your current relationship is emotionally bankrupt. So what better time to reorganize? Sort your thoughts. Re-evaluate. Was the person you were dating right for you? Were you happy? Could you be happy? If yes, restructure. Prioritize YOUR needs in a relationship. If not, close up shop and look for new opportunities elsewhere.
3. Put ‘em on ice
For the dumper. You like the person you’re dating but aren’t sure if there’s someone else out there you may like better. You haven’t played the field to your satisfaction. So you bench the person you’re dating without officially cutting him or her from the team. There he or she sits, on the sidelines, waiting to be put back in play. You score.
For the dumpee. Don’t be afraid to call foul. Yes, you’ve been injured. But never allow another to put you on ice. Call your own shots. Begin rehab immediately and get yourself back in the game. The clock is ticking.
4. Take the easy way out
For the dumper. You pride yourself on being a nice person. So you let your S.O. down easy. But by not being completely honest, by offering false hope of reconciliation, you keep the other person wondering what your true intentions really are. Is there a chance? Or did you not have the guts to cut ties completely? Using this technique to break up with someone you once cared about is nothing short of uncaring and only easy for you.
For the dumpee. Think he or she sent a mixed message by taking a break? Think again. Understanding this message is easy. When you’re wanted you’ll know. When someone tells you he or she need a break from you, the only message you should receive loud and clear is goodbye.
5. Allow absence to make the heart grow fonder
For the dumper. A break will help you determine whether you miss the person you were dating now that you’ve created distance. If you long to see her smile or hear his laugh, you may want to consider that break only temporary.
For the dumpee. Absence can also harden a heart, causing it to turn stone cold over time. Feelings of hurt and resentment are helpful reminders we want and deserve better.
6. Create an open door policy
For the dumper. No longer a S.O. but not officially an ex either, your relationship status is now undefined. With room for interpretation and no formal closure, the door is conveniently left ajar for your spontaneous return.
For the dumpee. A door stays open only as long as you hold it open. Close it. And lock it behind you. The person who wants you will find a way in. And who knows? That window he or she will be forced to climb through to win back your affection may just end up being the window to your soul.