How to make a break in a long term relationship work?
February 11, 2006 2:29 PM   Subscribe

My fiancee and I are taking a break after four years, how do I best make this break work?

My fiancee and I have been together for four years, and engaged for two (we were waiting till after college to get married.) For the past year or so, things have been downhill and today, finally, I found the nerve to actually talk to her about it. The short of it is that we rushed into things, and while we still want to be with other it would be best if we did some growing on our own. This is the first serious relationship for both of us, so dating other peope for the experience is appealing at this point. Basically, we need to grow up and be able to stand on our own and this is the only way we can do it.

There are no hard feelings, and we are actually closer (and happier) now than we have been in a long time. My question is what sort of experience have you had with taking a break after a long relationship, and how did you make it work? We are currently still going to date each other, but casually. We also live together, but do have our own rooms and beds (I know, straaaange.) No time to get back together has been set, so we agreed that when we both felt that we were ready to be with each other again that we would.

My email will be in my profile in a second, so if you'd rather not post feel free to fire one at me. Thanks, gang.
posted by Loto to Human Relations (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Taking a break is generally just an extended breakup. One or both of you will not be able to handle the jealousy once other people enter the equation. If you want to date other people, go ahead and break it off. If it's meant to be, you two will reunite later, but be prepared to lose her forever if she meets somebody new.
posted by Roger Dodger at 2:43 PM on February 11, 2006

You need to move out. You can casually date other people, sure, but there's no way you're going to form a serious relationship with someone when your fiancee is still sleeping across the hall.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 2:51 PM on February 11, 2006

I don't have any advice on the taking a break bit, but with regards to the separate bedrooms thing - the author Dodie Smith (wrote 101 Dalmatians, amongst other things), had a separate bedroom from her husband for all of their many years of marriage, and she attributed a lot of their happiness to that.

Having said that, they never dated other people whilst still living together.. could you really handle trying to fall asleep at night knowing that your partner was quite possibly in her room having sex with another guy? And yeah, by "dating other people" you may not mean sex, but if you're talking about experience, sex is a part of that.

I agree with Roger Dodger - if you're going to break up, break up. You can always get back together later.
posted by Lotto at 2:55 PM on February 11, 2006

It sounds like no matter what happens you two could/should/will remain close.

Having said that, though, you have to be comfortable with the possibility that you might never get back together.

Because the only way "time off" will be beneficial is if you're not saying to yourself "We're taking this break so I can do such-and-such and then everything will be fine and we'll get back together." You can't possibly know that's what will happnen, or that's what's best.
posted by elisabeth r at 3:50 PM on February 11, 2006

We are currently still going to date each other, but casually. We also live together, but do have our own rooms and beds (I know, straaaange.) No time to get back together has been set, so we agreed that when we both felt that we were ready to be with each other again that we would.

You need to make everything in the paragraph above NOT TRUE. Stop dating, stop seeing each and for god's sake, stop living together. If you really wan to experience this, you two NEED to actually break up. If you're going to grow up and stand on your own then do it and quit trying to keep each other as a backup in case things go wrong.

Also recognize that you two might not get back together and you guys don't know what's going to happen.

But first, get your own apartment. It's hard to get any action when your fiancee is sleeping down the hall.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:44 PM on February 11, 2006

Okay, so, my ex and I tried the living together, but still taking a break thing and we nearly destroyed each other. (We also had separate bedrooms.) Seriously. It was sheer hell. I'll quadruple what everyone's said and say if you're serious about the break and to remain on good terms with your girlfried, then move out.
posted by Zosia Blue at 7:04 PM on February 11, 2006

I agree with elisabeth r and Brandon Blatcher. It's going to be next to impossible to have the experiences you want and need with this arrangement. You have to be able to do things without worrying about what you have with her, and how your actions will affect your relationship. Otherwise, you aren't really putting yourself out there. If you both really care about each other, do not use one another as safety nets.

Take some time and make sure that you really want to do this. If so, make a clean break and make sure there is closure on this chapter of your lives together. Keep in mind that you two may grow up at different paces or grow in different ways during this break, so it may not be possible to make a mutual decision about anything once you are truly on your own.

In my experience it is near impossible to cling to the past and attempt to move forward. Good luck with everything.
posted by ry at 9:19 PM on February 11, 2006

I had an experience that was somewhat like this in the past, and also had a friend who had a similar experience. My suggestion is that you're in this situation because both of you don't want to hurt the other, and neither of you is strong enough to just end this relationship definitively and gracefully. It's over, with almost zero chance of it ever coming back, but neither of you wants to admit it or realize it.

This is a difficult time. For your own health, I strongly recommend a clean break. Move out and change your social habits so that you're not tempted to interact with her on any significant basis (e.g. take up a hobby, a long-ish vacation, etc). You need the kind of perspective that comes only with physical and emotional distance.
posted by frogan at 9:25 PM on February 11, 2006

Maybe time for one or both of you to go travelling. If not possible for now, just knowing it's planned could serve as a valve to make living arrangements less, erm, eventful. Seing a date in the calender rather than at the door may even draw you together as time gets closer and you start missing each other before you're apart.
posted by Kino at 9:48 PM on February 11, 2006

If you want to learn about breakups, see How to Dump a Guy: A Coward's Manual.
posted by russilwvong at 11:22 PM on February 11, 2006

If and when you guys decide to get back together, make sure that you both want it- you're both ready to be back and exclusive- or else one (or both) of you won't be as happy as before.
posted by hopeless romantique at 9:04 AM on February 12, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the advice. Right now, moving out would be impossible. Well, not impossible, but neither one of us has anywhere close to the money needed to even put a security deposit down on a place. I will, however, still try to find a new place. I agree with all of you that this will needlessly complicate things.

The clean break is also good advice, but I honestly don't know if that is what I want right now. But, seeing all these responses it looks like that might give us the best chance. Oi, this whole relationship thing is too damn complicated.
posted by Loto at 9:26 AM on February 12, 2006

Will you be alright if you don't end up getting back together? Will you be alright if she gets physical with someone else? I understand te entire idea of growing through being alone, because I'm in the middle of it, but I think the entire growth process was started by the pain of losing that person permanently, not the idea of growing for growth's sake.

I think one of the main things is that you'll get into the pace of the relationship, rather than the rational pace you have to have to look in from the outside and make objective decisions.

I don't know what to tell you about going on break, besides the fact that when I was forced into it my relationship ended a week later. If you both really love each other and want to be with each other, you'll work things out, if you can find an objective view.
posted by mhuckaba at 11:09 AM on February 12, 2006

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