I Don’t Understand This “Taking A Break” Business
You take a break at work when you need a latte. You take a break while working out to catch your breath and take a swig of Powerade. You might even need a break from your kids when you feel like it’s either a criminal record and jail time or closing your door for 10 minutes so you can locate your maternal instincts. But relationship breaks I don’t understand. Taking a break from your boyfriend is like inviting miscommunication and infidelity into your relationship.
Long before Dwyane Wade and Ludacris were creating love-children outside of their long-term relationships, Ross from Friends was the reigning king of “We were on a break!” If his relationship with Rachel serves as any kind of warning to women, it should be that men don’t interpret breaks the same way we do. To most men, a break equals a break up with perks. It’s a fall back from the relationship itself, which indicates that there will be no more regular sex, daily phone calls and other things that serve as proof that you’re committed to someone. Most men aren’t going to freely admit, “I’m lonely and insecure. I got used to having someone next to me every night and you just up and cut that off. In the meantime I’ll substitute you with someone else.” It’s not necessarily that they’re able to move on quickly, they’re just great at making it appear that way. Naturally, it’s easier for men to compartmentalize their emotions; to them you’re either together or you aren’t. When you start playing the “it’s complicated” game, it gets easily misconstrued and that’s when feelings gets hurt. It takes a lot of maturity to successfully navigate a break and make the most of it to improve a relationship. It’s a level of maturity that most people don’t possess.
You have to be clear about exactly what the break means and what you hope to accomplish with it. Do you get to see other people? Do you get to sex other people? What exactly can occur in this pseudo-single lifestyle? This is where breaks get pointless to me. It’s one thing to need a couple of days to cool off, but if you think you’re trying to prove a point by putting a man’s pen*s on punishment for a month, you’re probably playing yourself.
Long before Ross was creating catch phrases, I had a best friend in high school who damn near invented “the break”. After sleeping with a guy who then turned clingy, she promptly told him they should fall back and go back to being friends for a while and then work their way up. I remember thinking of how pointless (good game, but pointless) that was then and I still feel the same way now. What the hell is the point of taking a break and not just going your separate ways? I’ve been in a relationship for more than 7 years now and I can testify that sometimes turning off your cell phone, retreating to your own place and bashing your man with your best friends (or in a good journal) does a relationship good. There’s nothing wrong with taking a few days to calm yourself down so you can focus on why you fell for your partner in the first place. But taking weeks or months to push re-occurring problems in your relationship to the back burner does nothing but make them eventually boil over. If you and your partner can’t have a clear conversation about conflicts in the relationship, taking a break does nothing but put a Band-Aid on it.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There are too many women that believe being in a relationship means being up under your partner 24/7. When you start to dance on one another’s nerves (which inevitably happens) and folks start taking each other for granted, you then feel like a “break” is needed. In all actuality, all you ever needed was a healthy balance of alone time invested into your separate lives.
Still, there will be couples who think that breaks are beneficial. Fine, but then there is this whole recklessness of carelessly creating kids and bringing them into situations that grown people couldn’t even get together. It’s immature, cowardly and unfair to everyone involved. I mean, how much can you possibly care for someone if you didn’t have sense enough to use a condom correctly? I don’t know all the details of these celebrities’ indiscretions, but it appears to be messy. Relationships can be as messy as you want them to be without you pro-creating and adding more issues to the pile.
At their best, breaks allow a couple to realize how special what they have really is, but more often than not, couples use them to avoid problems that they should be working on or to soften the blow of the inevitable. Choose your breaks wisely, because too many of them or even just one taken at the wrong time and without clear communication of what is expected just might make the whole thing fall apart.
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.