Having a fallback plan is a good idea for many things. After all, you aren’t guaranteed that you’ll sell your screenplay for a million dollars, so maybe it’s best to keep your day job until it happens. Or maybe you’ve chosen a major in college but you’re thinking about choosing a second in case you can’t get a job in that field.
But what about relationships? Is it a good idea when you find someone you really like to hold on, even when you would like to date other people? Does the grass on the single’s side always seem greener to you when you’re in a relationship?
Or maybe you’ve been with your current partner for a long time, and you just want to see who else is out there. What’s wrong with a little break so you can explore your options?
When couples talk about “taking a break” from each other, I tend to cringe. Not because it isn’t a valid idea to find yourself or explore other options, but because it’s like having your cake and eating it, too. You’ve allowed yourself to become a consolation prize to your boyfriend or girlfriend if it turns out grass on the other side isn’t so green. Before you decide to take a temporary leave of absence, it might be a good idea to ask yourself: in the future, would you like to return to the way things are now?
Instead of wishing things were different or issuing a temporary break-up, I think it’s better to figure out what you really want and communicate it to your partner. A state of limbo in your relationship can lead to misunderstanding, heartbreak, and emotional turmoil. There are a lot of things to figure out in navigating a temporary break. For instance: what are the rules? When do you decide whether or not you get back together? If you live together, does one of you move out, or do you endure your significant other bringing home new prospective girlfriends?
If you are debating whether or not to take a break from your SO, ask yourself the following to help figure things out:
Has this feeling of disconnect been going on a while? If you’ve felt ambivalent about your sweetie for a couple of years, then there’s a problem and you should ask yourself what benefit you’re getting from staying in the relationship. But if you’ve grown a little bored with your sex life recently, or you find yourself suddenly picking fights? Chances are you need to communicate your feelings a little better. What do you need that you’re not getting? What can you give to your partner that will help your relationship?
Are you prepared to move on? If you’re not sure whether or not you still love your SO, it’s best to flash forward and picture him with a new love interest. If this makes you uncomfortable, then ask yourself why. Is it because you’re afraid of being alone, or that he moves on before you do? When you picture yourself with someone new, are you nostalgic for your ex? Before you take a temporary break, understand that it could become permanent, and be prepared.
Decide on a clean break. Instead of keeping someone on the back burner “just in case,” I think it’s better to make a clean break and move on if you’re unhappy. There are no guarantees in life, and when you break up, even temporarily, anything can happen, so it’s not really insurance. Be willing to take some risks for yourself and your own happiness.