If you’ve seen Friends, you know what going on a break did to Ross and Rachel’s relationship — mostly because we never heard the end of it. You’ve probably heard your own friends say the same thing: Going on a break from a relationship can be frustrating, scary and breakup-inducing. So is there even a point? Gottman Institute Certified Therapist Zach Brittle says that if you do it right, going on a break can be the best thing to happen to your relationship since that spicy date night.
How to Make Going on a Break Worth It
1. Separate with a goal in mind. The reason most breaks don’t end up well is because the couple decides to take time off with no results in mind. If you’re trying to explore beyond your relationship, then explore! If you want to work on your career or friendships, then use the break to do so, Brittle says. Knowing the purpose of time spent apart makes missing each other that much more worth it.
2. Be intentional. Understanding your motivations for taking a break is the first step to making that break successful, Brittle says. These motivations generally fall into one of two categories: Either a couple feels stuck in the same place, or one of them is attempting to escape some kind of pain. While a little time away can jolt a couple out of stagnation, it is no cure for bad feelings or tension in a relationship.
3. Lay some ground rules. How long is the break? Are you allowed to see other people? These are questions that couples pondering time off should ask, Brittle says. “Part of the reason that Ross and Rachel got into so much trouble after their break is because they had two completely different definitions of what a break means,” Brittle said. Avoiding this kind of confusion by honoring your commitment to the break gives you the best chance of success.
4. Opt for regulation over resolution. The Gottman Institute’s conflict method preaches regulation, which is setting certain boundaries — in this case, walking away with maturity and the intention to return, Brittle said. The intention to return, he said, is arguably the most important part. “One thing that can be really cool about a break is it helps you realize that you miss the other person,” Brittle said. “Pay attention to those feelings.”
5. Celebrate your relationship before and after the break. Think of taking time off from a relationship like you would giving something up for Lent or doing dry January: Bookend your fast from something with consumption of it. This means celebrating the end of your break (if it’s successful) with an awesome date or even a party.
Have any more tips for going on a break? Tweet us @BritandCo!
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