We all remember that Friends episode where Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) tells Ross (David Schwimmer) they need a break (The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break). After Ross assumes Rachel has feelings for her very attractive work partner Mark, Rachel’s patience with Ross is gone and she decides they should take a break. When Rachel finds comfort in Mark and Ross realizes that it’s Mark who came to her rescue, he falters and ends up going home with another woman, the infamous Xerox girl Chole (Angela Featherstone).
In the next episode (The One the Morning After), Ross wakes up with Chole in his bed. He realizes his mistake immediately and regrets his decision because he still has feelings for Rachel. When confronted by Rachel, he tries to justify his actions by saying, “WE WERE ON A BREAK!” And I’m here to say, I hear you Ross and you’re right, but you’re an idiot.
What happened in that episode is exactly why I don’t like the idea of taking breaks. I decided to agree to a break one time and it turns out during that three-week period he hooked up with my best friend on multiple occasions. I was furious at the time and in my eyes I had every right to be. Who was he to cheat on me when we were just on a break? We were still together; we just needed our space, right? Looking back on it now, I had no reason to be angry because I had unknowingly given him permission to do whatever he wanted for three weeks.
Now here’s the part where I explain why this is all sorts of wrong and why I feel that breaks should just be done away with. It comes down to one aspect that a lot of people, including myself way back when, have forgotten about. It’s one of the most important areas of a relationship, but for some reason it’s become lower on our list of requirements for happiness.
That word is respect. This encompasses not only respect for yourself, but also respect for your significant other. There is nothing more disappointing to me than seeing very good people, both men and women, get pulled into a relationship where respect is nonexistent. And even though respect is a broad term, I want to use it to focus directly on the idea of breaks.
Let’s think about it this way. You and your significant other just hit six months together, and you couldn’t be happier. Everything is amazing, you’re virtually inseparable, and you think this is the real thing. Then, just a few days later you find out that your significant other has cheated on you. Chances are you break-up with them because you know better than to let someone do that to you.
If you have the respect for yourself to end it when you feel like you’ve been cheated and used behind your back, what makes taking a break any different? Let me explain.
Regardless of whether or not the person cheats while on a break, let’s think about the bigger picture here. I don’t like to feel as if I’m being used or only needed when convenient, and when I hear a friend tell me they are taking a break with their significant other that’s what I hear. I see someone who has told himself or herself it’s okay that someone thinks they can use them whenever they feel like it; that they can be picked up and dropped off at any point. Not only does it make you worry and stress, but it also sends the wrong message to everyone else that you may never have intended to send.
Lastly, I want to talk about conflict. I get that every couple deals with conflict and it’s completely normal. Conflict is how we grow and learn about each other, which is why, when done right, it can be extremely beneficial to your relationship. Suggesting a break after a fight is the exact opposite of what you should do. It’s running away from the problem in hopes that when you get back together it’ll be blown over. I can tell you from experience that is not how it goes.
When you push off conflict by taking a break, it will only grow and fester, creating a pit of pent up anger. And when that pit grows too big, it’ll come bubbling to the surface and creating an extremely uncomfortable situation for both parties. Don’t put off your arguments, and if it seems like your fighting is only getting worse, don’t take a break, just break it off.
So that’s where I stand. I leave you with two pieces of advice: don’t be a Rachel or a Ross. Don’t be like Rachel and run away from problems by taking a break and expect everything to be better when it all blows over. And don’t leave someone hanging wondering if you really want to be with them or not. At the same time, don’t be like Ross, who waits around for your significant other to make-up his or her mind. You shouldn’t be someone they call because they’ve exhausted every other option. You deserve to be the center of their world, not the last option they always fall back on. And if you do decide to give each other space (against my very sound advice) don’t disrespect them by using it as a get out of jail free card to do whatever with whoever.