Ryan Chartrand

They call it “spring quarter” because it springs up on you so fast.

Last week was much-needed to recover from the academic ordeal of winter quarter. Some of us are still recovering (others are recovering from spring break itself). In any case, I wouldn’t have complained if break had lasted just a smidgen longer.

All of a sudden we’re back in the swing of things, and we’re expected to pick up the pace and dive in again with gusto. We must study hard and work quickly, not just to stay on top, but to keep up with our own aspirations.

At the risk of sounding blasphemous to our sacred work ethic: sometimes, isn’t it best to just take a break?

If we’re talking about your average chronically-afflicted workaholic, yes. (If only we could learn a thing or two about siesta from Europe.)

But what if we’re talking about a relationship? What does it mean to “take a break”?

I give credit to “Friends” (sitcom royalty of sorts) for popularizing the expression. For those of you who grew up in caves and under rocks, the episode is appropriately blatantly titled “The One Where Ross & Rachel Take a Break” (season three).

In brief: boy and girl fight. Boy thinks they’re “on a break” and gets with someone else. Girl gets mad, slightly vindictive; boy is in big trouble. Boy’s and girl’s relationship is now on the rocks.

While “Friends” certainly has its instructive benefits, it only begins to touch upon the implications that the concept of “taking a break” raises. (Disclaimer: I wouldn’t rely on “Friends” for answers to all relationship questions; after all, there are only 10 seasons.)

The desire to take a break from a relationship can result from a number of different situations:

Sometimes the propulsion toward a break has volatile beginnings. After long enough, a heated ongoing fight about a serious issue, or incessant arguing about trivialities, can come to a head and erupt. Before long you begin to forget what it was like when you actually got along.

In contrast, it can also come from the abyss of boredom. It’s the same old thing, the same dinner-and-a-movie routine every weekend, the same unenthusiastic peck before you part. You get along just fine, with no significant spats – but “just fine” is the problem.

Another reason – one that seems particularly relevant to a college-aged group – is the desire to “see what else is out there.” You feel you’re too young, you haven’t experienced enough of the dating scene, and you haven’t gotten any definitive signs that this person is “the one.”

It all comes down to a state of partial dissatisfaction – partial because “taking a break” implies a desire for return and a wish to keep some thread of connection intact. “Taking a break” is temporary; “breaking up” resonates with more permanence.

But there are divided opinions as to what taking a break means. Some allow for seeing other people; some retain exclusivity. Some allow continued contact during the break; some want a trial separation sans communication. Some set a specific duration for the break; some deem it in place until further notice.

Ultimately, it is up to the individuals in question to decide the terms of the “break”; but remember, it was a lack of clarification that got Ross and Rachel in trouble!

Certainly, for some relationships, taking a break can be the healthy thing to do. If there’s a question about whether or not to continue the relationship, sometimes it is being away from a significant other that can help a person make the decision to stay.

Time away from each other in some form (and not necessarily a break) can strengthen a bond. You will think about how much you care for your partner when you find yourself wanting to share your thoughts and experiences with him or her, or to find out what he or she is thinking at that moment.

Absence can make the heart grow fonder . or it can make the heart go wander. For some relationships, the desire itself to take a break can be a red flag.

  • Taking a break because of constant fighting won’t magically resolve disputes. The underlying disagreements between the two of you won’t always disappear after time has passed; it may just come down to a personality conflict and incompatibility.
  • Taking a break because of mediocrity and stalemate might help to rekindle the spark and attraction that existed at the beginning; but if monotony has overtaken comfortable companionship, the relationship may not provide either person with anything but boredom.
  • Taking a break because of curiosity in “other fish in the sea” begs the question: “If I really wanted to be with this person, why would I want to take a break?”

    A friend’s parents have an interesting story to tell: after dating for awhile, he wanted to take a break and “date around.”

    She said that was perfectly fine with her. “But I won’t be waiting for you when you get back.”

    Sometimes you do really just need to take a break.

    And sometimes you only think you do.

    He thought about it . and stayed. They have been married for over 20 years.

    Sarah Carbonel is an English and psychology junior and Mustang Daily dating columnist.

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