“We were on a break!”
Those words, uttered by an exasperated Ross from Friends, served as a storyline on the show for many, many seasons. It caused the ultimate “will they, or won’t they?” questions to fans who hoped to see them get back together.
But ultimately, it served as the reason for the two beloved characters being apart and all because Ross didn’t follow the rules that should be applied when taking a break from someone like, ahem, not sleeping with someone else.
So, to avoid receiving a 10-page letter like the one Rachel wrote, one that outlines all the wrong things you did while you and your significant other were on a break, read these tips instead.
Take part in minimal communication
A break is just that… a break. Yes, we know it’s hard to go from your old routine of talking to them every single day, tagging them in hilarious memes on Facebook and looking forward to those “good morning” and “goodnight texts,” to nothing at all, but if you’re on a break, it usually means that there’s things in the relationship that need fixing.
And time is usually the best remedy for that. You need time away to breathe, to be alone, to think about what you really want. If a breakup is what needs to happen, it’s going to be hard to come to that conclusion if he’s hitting up your phone every five minutes.
Social media is another thing to nip in the bud. Stalking our exes on social media may be a favourite pastime, but when you’re on a break, it’s the last thing you should be doing. You have the fight the temptation to do so, especially when it reaches its peak while you’re sitting on the couch, alone, on a Saturday night and after you’ve had one too many glasses of rosé.
Since you may still be emotionally fragile, your mind will think the worst of everything you see. Maybe you’ll see that he liked another girl’s photo or you’ll see that he was tagged in a picture from a mutual friend’s party and—wait, is that a girl sitting there in the corner?! … See what we mean? Keeping tabs on your beau spells trouble, so either delete them off social media for the time being or enlist your friends to ensure you stay strong. You’ll be glad you did.
If you made a rule to not date or hookup with other people, stick to it
When many couples decide to go on a break, one of the first and most important things they will figure out is just exactly how single they are.
Like, for example, are they single enough that flirting with someone else is okay, as long as it doesn’t go too far; or, is hooking up with someone else while apart still the ultimate betrayal and essentially cheating?
The last thing you two want to happen is to get back together at the end of the break, only to discover that he hooked up with someone else while you were practically a saint the entire time. The only new relationship you entered into was with binging the new HBO show, Westworld. Just watch the “we were on a break!” Ross-Rachel episode and it should scare you into ensuring that the rules are clearly defined.
Taking a break from dating and be single
While some couples on breaks will still consider themselves “in a relationship,” others will consider themselves “temporarily single” with the intention to one day get back together. Whether you fall into the former or the latter, one thing is for sure: you need to act like you’re single.
We don’t mean going around hooking up with every Kit Harrington lookalike that you see (see rule 2), but you do need to indulge in that single part of you like you used to.
Go to a movie alone and revel in your independence, hit a morning yoga class because you actually had a goodnight’s sleep without having to hear your SO’s snoring all night, hit up a bar with your girlfriends just because and have an endless amount of “me nights.” You know, the ones that most definitely include lounging around in sweatpants, eating Chinese and binging on Gilmore Girls. Ah, those were the days.
Being in a relationship causes us to lose focus of taking care of ourselves the way we used to. Maybe we stopped hitting the gym in lieu of cuddling on the couch with your beau, or maybe your girlfriends’ calls went unanswered as you hit date night for the third night in a row. Either way, being single is all about you so regain that freedom, sista.
Stay attuned to how you feel
A break had to have come for a reason, so take this time apart to focus and really analyze how you feel. Maybe things in the relationship had been stale for a while and you both needed some time apart, or maybe someone had been unfaithful and while a clean breakup seemed a little too scary, a break seemed like a less anxiety-inducing solution.
Regardless of what caused it, take advantage of this time. See how you feel being alone. Maybe you’ll find that you don’t actually miss him or maybe your love for him will deepen as you realize that being single isn’t as glamourous as you thought it was.
You can track how you feel by keeping a diary (seems silly, but it works), vent it out to your girlfriends (with alcohol or without) or you could just go it alone and focus on how you feel.
For example, as you’re hitting a singles painting night, focus on how you feel as you enter the room, filled with strangers you don’t know and sit down. Do you feel sad as you enter the room and take a seat, with no one to talk to? Or, do you feel happy and excited as you summon the courage to move out of your comfort zone and befriend the girl sitting next to you?
In the end, though, trust your gut, more so than your heart as it may be a little wishwash-y in the midst of everything. It’ll serve as the guidepost in helping you determine if you want to get back together or whether the relationship really is kaput.
Pick an end date and actually stick to it
As we mentioned before, a break is just that: a break. An employee at McDonald’s doesn’t just go on their break, only to return two months later and announce, “I’m back!” If only, though, right?
Breaks are temporary. A blip in time. And regardless of what caused the break, they shouldn’t go on for far too long. If they do, you run the risk of putting so much space between you two that you get so used to being apart that a breakup becomes the next natural step.
Pick an end date at the beginning of the break. Write it down. Put it on your calendar. Whatever you need to do—maybe the break is already time sensitive if the break only happened while you were away on a summer exchange program. Regardless, the urgency of the time frame will also put more of a importance on taking this time apart seriously and truly figuring out what you really want.