There are those couples that just know that they’ve met their soul mate the first time they lock eyes.
And then there are the rest of us.
We take our time getting to know someone. We obsess over their Facebook profiles and photos, giving them an enthusiastic thumbs-up on every post we deem worthy. We enjoy a plethora of meals and drinks together. We hold hands, kiss, and sleep together. We become entangled in each other’s families, friends and Twitter feeds.
Eventually, we fall in love.
But then what?
Soul mates get married, have kids, then usually blog about how lucky they are.
But the rest of don’t have it that easy. Even if we think we want a future with our partner, we aren’t 100 percent convinced. We are skeptical about putting all our eggs in one basket, even if it's the best basket we’ve ever seen.
We wonder: Is this really it?
Maybe it’s time for a break.
“Breaks are initiated because of restlessness,” says Steve Ward, a relationship expert and CEO of Master Matchmakers. “It’s the existential is-the-grass-greener-on-the-other-side question.”
People too often dismiss a break as the same as a breakup—or at the very least, a precursor to the end. In my experience, in fact, breaks have always led to breakups. But I wanted to get an expert’s take, so I reached out to Ward.
“The difference between a break and a breakup are subtle, but stark." he says.
"When on a break, individuals are free to act as if they had a breakup, with one exception: They must answer to their ex and be willing to discuss the progress of their break,” he says. When the dialogue or communication stops, then it's a breakup.
Are breaks good for relationships? “A break is often a welcomed reprieve from relationship and a useful inflection point,” he says. "It provides a valuable space for introspection and focusing on assessing your feelings within the relationship.
“Breaks are sometimes necessary to create space and allow someone to come to the realization that they are happier, more productive, and better off with someone than without them,” Ward adds. Ultimately, breaks allow people to spend time learning to compromise, sacrifice, and cooperate, which is beneficial for both parties in any type of relationship.
“In many cases," he says, "a little space will give them time to refocus and see that it’s up to themselves, not their partners, to create personal satisfaction and happiness."
Still, “breaks do come with their risks,” he warns.
“It’s quite possible someone can be scooped up right out from under you simply because they were receptive to it. Be careful what you wish for because it may come back to haunt you.”
In my experience, I spent break periods crying and wondering what I had done wrong in the relationship. Zero time was devoted to thinking about my needs or whether the relationship was fulfilling for me. In other words, I did everything wrong.
"A break doesn’t always lead to a breakup, but it often will," Ward says. However, “any couple that has ever had a meaningful relationship could reconcile at any time. There’s never a timetable for it: It could happen right away or years in the future.”
As hopeful as this sounds, I’m not sure I’d bet on reconciliation. My experience has been that once you make a break with someone, you’re never getting back together, except maybe for the occasional nostalgic hookup, no matter how meaningful the relationship was.
What's your experience been? Have breaks been good for your relationship?
Follow Steve Ward on Twitter @stevenbward
Follow me on Twitter @thisjenkim
Steve Ward is a published author, relationship expert and CEO of Master Matchmakers.