A while ago, I was faced with the possibility of taking a break from a long-term relationship. We’d been going around in circles over the same problems and something had to give. The thought of losing him was devastating but we knew we needed to take some breathing room if our relationship was going to stand a chance. Surprisingly, it ended up being the best thing that could have happened to us.
You have to be completely on the same page, no exceptions. When the idea of a break was suggested, I was absolutely against it. I thought it would be the death of us. Still, the more we talked about it, the more I realized we really did need some space from the relationship itself and each other. We set boundaries that we both agreed upon (how frequently we’d talk and if we were to see other people, which was a no) and then both clearly stated that while we wanted to be together, we ultimately might end up breaking up. We both had to be prepared.
It gives you time to find yourself. So often, I lose my identity when I’m spending all of my time with another person. I slowly stop maintaining my own hobbies and my own life. I took the hiatus as a chance to start going to yoga again and rediscovered my love of reading. Hell, I binge watched every terrible ’90s sitcom I could! I found the things again that made me who I was. That’s why my boyfriend fell in love with me anyway. We’d lost ourselves in our issues so much that I really wanted to become the person I was before all of that again.
Quick fixes may not be enough. We tried all the standard band-aids and still found ourselves in a cycle of fighting and making up. It got to be so repetitive that half the time we were fighting just to fight. We knew we truly loved each other and didn’t want to break up over something small, so taking a breather seemed like our last resort. We needed some good time and space between us at this point because all the other go-tos hadn’t done the job.
A calm mind is a clear mind. I tend to get a little emotional at times, and when I’m emotional, I don’t think straight and I say things that I don’t mean. I can push and push to get my point across until it hurts and that can backfire so easily. Having some space between us gave me the opportunity to calm down and see things rationally. When we did talk, I was able to make my points with a mind that wasn’t cloudy. In turn, he was much more receptive and we kept it brief as to not spiral into another fight.
It helps re-evaluate compatibility. When I’m in the middle of a whirlwind romance (even if we’re fighting), I often look for ways to justify why I’m still there. I think of all the things we agree on, but rarely do I think about the things we are fighting about and what they really mean. I realize this sounds like I’m trying to focus on the bad to move on and get past it, but really it just helped me to pick my battles. Do we get along where it matters? Do we have the same goals and morals? I found the answer to be yes on the big things, so I was able to let go of the fact that sometimes he fell asleep and forgot to call me every night.
Absence actually does make the heart grow fonder. I rarely had a chance to miss my boyfriend. It seemed like every minute we could spend together, we did, so when all of a sudden I would go days without contact, I really felt awful not having my best friend right there. It gave me a chance to remember what that felt like and reminded me to never take people for granted. It really put things into perspective. Speaking of perspective…
It can help you gain some new perspective. Honestly, I had to consider something I really didn’t want to face: am I here just because I don’t want to be single? Am I still in this relationship because it’s convenient? All completely valid questions. In my case, I wanted to be with him. I wanted to invest all the time and effort I possibly could to make this work and the hardships were worth it for what it would eventually bring us. I saw that from the beginning, which helped me to agree to the break in the first place. Of course, I risked the fact that he may not feel the same way, but I was truly confident in us.
It taught me a lot about jealousy. One of the things I didn’t exactly prepare for was being jealous of my boyfriend spending time with, well, anyone. We did agree not to see other people, but even if I’d know from social media or mutual friends that there were women in his group outings I would feel insanely jealous. I couldn’t be with someone I couldn’t trust, so I had to really think about if I trusted him or not. I did, so I had to stop worrying.
I recognized my own mistakes instead of focusing on his. With all the fighting and bickering, I could pick apart any little thing he did. Being on my own helped me figure out my contributions to the break because it wasn’t all him. We were in different places somewhat and I realized some of the expectations I’d set for him, he couldn’t realistically meet. I definitely knew I needed to be a little more understanding. I wasn’t going to revert to being a doormat anymore, but it’s all about compromise.
It really motivated me to put everything I had into making things work. After some good, thought-provoking time apart, I realized that I wanted this. I was going to do everything possible to work through it and face it head on. Luckily, so did he. When we got together to talk it all out, we both realized what we needed to bring to the table. We promised to make an honest effort to do our best and really listen to each other. We knew it wouldn’t be easy but we both continued to show up and over time we were able to get into a routine that was a lot more loving and a lot less draining.
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