- My boyfriend and I have been together for over three years.
- Every two months we take a break where we each focus on our individual interests and needs.
- It took us a year to realize that what we needed to make our relationship work was a break.
“Did the two of you break up?” my friend Emily asks. We’re at a barbecue event, and Sam, the life of the party and my boyfriend of three years, is evidently missing.
“It’s just a one-week relationship break,” I respond while sipping my mimosa. “We’re still together.”
Emily’s inquisitive stare suggests she’s trying to dissociate a relationship break from an oncoming breakup.
“Don’t worry, we’re fine. We’re celebrating our three-year anniversary next week,” I say.
While a lot of people don’t understand our relationship breaks, for my boyfriend and me they are the only way we can fulfill our desires as individuals with clashing personalities.
We didn’t start taking breaks immediately
When Sam and I met, I knew our distinct personalities would prove challenging.
Sam is a typical extrovert, with a knack for spontaneously striking up a conversation in the men’s bathroom and sharing burgers with strangers on the bus. I prefer a quiet Saturday evening with a glass of sherry in one hand and a Beverly Jenkins novel in the other.
After a year of dating, we moved in together.
From the get-go our arguments centered on our personalities. Sam thought I was disregarding his emotional needs and failed to give him enough attention. I felt he could give me more space.
On Valentine’s Day, as other couples jumped on two-for-one restaurant offers and prepared for their romantic getaways, Sam and I were canceling our membership in another failed couples boot camp.
It had come highly recommended by one of Sam’s colleagues; the two-week program had rekindled his marriage that was on the verge of divorce. The grueling activities, one-on-one sessions with a therapist, and two-person saunas had done nothing to help us.
As I pressed the cancel-membership button, I knew our relationship was headed for a breakup.
A break was what we needed to stay together
“What if we took a relationship break?” I suggested to Sam, eager to see his reaction.
I had been contemplating the idea for a while.
If I wasn’t getting enough time for myself, and Sam wasn’t receiving the attention he felt he needed, pursuing our needs separately was our last resort.
As Sam processed what I had just blurted out, I worried about what our families and friends would think of this move. Christmas was around the corner, and we had planned to visit Sam’s family. I wondered whether our relationship would be the same after the break. But it was worth a shot.
A week after my break proposal, I landed a writing assignment over 100 miles (161km) away. It was the nudge we needed to go through with our plan.
We had prepared a list of what we weren’t supposed to do during the break: no calls, no emails, and no texts for two weeks.
Despite the occasional temptation to check up on each other, we forged ahead with our plan.
We came back to the relationship feeling happier than ever. Looking back, I realize we should have done this a long time ago.
Our relationship breaks are now consistent. We take one every two months, sometimes even sooner. Sam uses the breaks to catch up with his friends and family, while I use them for me time.
Even though some people have frowned upon this arrangement, seeing it as a cumbersome make-up and breakup routine, we couldn’t be happier, because we come back to the relationship with our needs fulfilled.
Now, whenever either of us notices the other needs some time off from the relationship, we simply ask, “How long?”