Dear Neil: My boyfriend and I have recently been having communication issues, and he suggested “taking a break.” What exactly does it mean to take a break? We talked about seeing other people and figuring out where each of us is headed. He also suggested we could get together in a month to talk about whether we wanted to continue the relationship. Is this normal, or is he trying to distance himself so that the breakup is easier? What do I need to work on before we get together again and talk about it?
Taking a Break in Longmont, Colorado
Dear Taking a Break: He could be testing you. When he says “let’s take a break,” do you protest? Do you say you couldn’t go that long without him? Do you declare your everlasting love and devotion to him? Some people feel insecure, and they say “let’s take a break” or “let’s break up” as a way of gauging how committed you are to them. Also, your boyfriend may be testing himself and how he feels about you. Does he miss you after a month? Think about you when he’s not with you? He could be testing how he feels without you, and how devoted, committed or attracted he is to you.
However, he might have someone else in mind and would like to test the waters with another while still keeping you on the line. If the other relationship works out, then he will presumably call it off with you. If it doesn’t work out, he is in the position to come back to you.
And yes, your guess could be correct—he could be leaning toward breaking up with you. He might be saying that he just doesn’t feel close or connected enough to remain in the relationship with you, and a month off might give him the perspective about whether he wants you or not. A month off will likely make the relationship feel more distant or further away, and therefore easier for him to call things off if he so wishes.
What you can do during the month is to carefully look at how you feel about him, and whether you think this guy is a good choice for you. How devoted or emotionally attached are you to him? This month-long break is not just about how he feels toward you, it’s looking at how you feel in a relationship with him. How close do you feel to him, and how compatible and connected are the two of you? Do you think this relationship has a promising future, or does it exist as a port in the storm or primarily to relieve loneliness?
If you want this guy, clearly express that to him. If you feel so-so about him after a month, you have a decision to make. Do you want to attempt to deepen this relationship, or let it go?
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder, Colorado. His column is in its 24th year of publication, and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777, or email him through his website: www.heartrelationships.com. He is the author of the new book: “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Keeping the Flame Alive.”