The question of whether a relationship can survive a "break" has occupied our minds since Ross and Rachel's break on Friends, and it's returned to the public eye since David Schwimmer and Zoe Buckman announced they were taking a break in real life. I've only been on one break, so I can't answer that question. But based on my personal experience, I do know a "break" can be a euphemism for a breakup — and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Chris Armstrong, a dating and relationships coach tells Bustle that taking a break in a relationship typically happens for two reasons 1) someone needs time to reflect internally on things like commitment or insecurity issues, or 2) they need to evaluate externally on whether this relationship is right.
When my college boyfriend broke up with me, I was completely heartbroken. After losing my dignity pleading with him to take me back, he suggested a compromise: How about we just take a break and then see how we feel after a month or two?
In hindsight, I regret trying to change his mind. If someone wants to end a relationship, it's pushy to try to convince them otherwise. I didn't understand that at the time, though, and arriving at the "break" agreement allowed me to stop pleading with him and get on with my life. Over the next few weeks, when I started to reminisce on how much he meant to me or panic at the thought of a future without him, I reminded myself: This was just a break. It may not be so final. I stayed calm.
About a month into the "break," I was surprised to find I was crying once a week instead of once a day, and I didn't wake up every morning desperately wishing it had all just been a terrible nightmare. If I could survive a break, I thought, maybe I could survive a breakup. Another month in, I found myself excited about the thought of dates with other people again. I started thinking about all the ways my ex had failed me as a boyfriend. I saw incompatibilities that weren't visible to me when I was so invested in the relationship. If this break never ended, I realized, it may be for the better.
Finally, three months in, we talked on the phone. He apologized for the negative things he'd said when he broke up with me and told me he'd been going through some personal issues. With some distance, it felt like we could finally be honest with each other. Then, we talked about politics, animals, and all the things we used to talk about. It felt right. "I think we were always better as friends than lovers," he IMed me after we got off the phone.
We didn't even need to discuss our break. We already knew it would never end. But just the fantasy that it might be over one day allowed me to get through it. Instead of being quickly and painfully ripped, the Band-Aid had slowly fallen off without us even noticing.
Maybe sometimes, a break is just a way to postpone a breakup. But maybe that's OK. Perhaps we need to stay in denial that a relationship's ending until we can admit to ourselves that it should.