I recently visited India for the first time. It was an amazing adventure. The first week I was in Delhi supporting one of my favorite non-profit organizations ASHA. We visited several slums where I was able to see the transformation in the health and happiness of many families as a result of the work that ASHA has done over the last 31 years to empower women and children.
Over the next three weeks I was blessed to be immersed in the culture in several cities by staying with friends of friends whom I traveled with on this journey. In India food is a love language. I gained so much knowledge about the food, the land, and the people. And I gained some weight as well!
We visited sacred sites and temples of worship as well as old and new shopping malls. The final week we attended a destination wedding in Goa. This traditional Indian wedding was both impressive and exhausting. Three full days of rituals, ceremonies, dance performances, and endless amounts of food, drink, love, and laughter. During the final events my friend leaned in and said, “Now you know why Indians don’t get divorced!”
Most of us look forward to taking time off or taking a vacation to recuperate and break up the monotony of our busy work lives. When we do, we come back refreshed and often with a brand new perspective. It was certainly true for me as I saw first-hand how patriarchal structures still stifle the education and freedom of women and girls in India. For all the faults we may find with our country, it was eye-opening to see clearly how much there is to be proud of in the progress we have made as a nation on issues of inequality and education. Of course there is much more work to do. Yet we can and should be grateful for what we have.
Couples may sometimes need a similar “time off” to take a break in the relationship, and come back with a renewed sense of gratitude and a fresh perspective.
Not every relationship is perfect. If you find you have deeper, underlying issues which each partner needs to address, sometimes a full reset is what is required. Taking a break may allow both partners to gain more perspective. It can be easy to point fingers and blame one another for these issues. However, a healthy break gives each person time to take inventory on their contribution to the relationship as a whole. This is sometimes called a healing separation.
A break may be needed due to both partners feeling as though they spend too much time around each other. This is quite common, as some couples may begin to feel smothered or lose their sense of individuality because of the excessive amount of time spent with one another. A healthy break can help reestablish each partner’s individual identity.
Breaks can also be beneficial if partners feel that they can’t provide enough emotional support at the time. Perhaps their other priorities take away from the ability to give consistent emotional availability. Regardless of the reason, here are some guidelines to follow for couples wanting to take a healthy break in their relationships.
Agree Upon Rules
Couples should always set rules as to what is expected of each person during this separation. These rules may include that neither partner engages in dating other people and making a commitment solely to focus on self-improvement. A healthy break is primarily so that couples can try to become better individuals, making their union healthier as a result. By setting clear rules, neither partner will be crossing any boundaries that could potentially jeopardize the future of their relationship.
Establish the Reason and Goal
A reason why you want to take a break and an end goal should be established to make the most out of time away from one another. Assess what changes need to be made. For instance, if one partner needs to work on emotional trauma tied to their childhood or past relationships, this should be emphasized during the discussion of a break. Also, a plan of action to accomplish these goals needs to be addressed. For example, if a partner needs help with their mental health, then this conversation should also include a plan to schedule time with a therapist.
Set a Deadline
A healthy break means that the time away is relatively short. Both parties should set a time-frame that they can agree upon. This gives each individual a reasonable amount of time to figure out exactly how they feel, address the things they need to change, and what should happen next. Healthy breaks typically last for a couple of weeks to a month or so.
Whether you choose to push the reset button or not, being honest about where you are in the relationship and prioritizing its health is essential for the long-term.