The Luv Doc: A Break Is a Break

Regardless of what the book burners will tell you, more science is always better than less science.

The Luv Doc: A Break Is a Break

Dear Luv Doc,

My boyfriend recently said he wants to take a "break in our relationship." I was shocked and hurt when he said it so I tried to be cool and basically agreed with him that it was a good idea. Now I am regretting it because I don't even really know what he meant by taking a break in our relationship, and now I am too embarrassed to ask. So what does it mean when someone says they want to take a break in a relationship?

– Potential Ex-Girlfriend


One of the toughest things to learn in life is that most people are horrible communicators when it comes to relationships. I think I can speak for most of the known universe when I say that what your boyfriend is trying to tell you – and this is the best-case scenario – is that he would like to have sex with some other women but also keep you around just in case that doesn't work out, otherwise he would have tossed around terms like "polyamory" or "the priesthood" or "juggalo," none of which, it turns out, would make the phrase "a break in our relationship" less painful. If anything, they might only make it worse.

Now, there is a statistical probability that I'm waxing pessimistic. Your boyfriend might be about to go on a manned space mission to Mars, which, by all reasonable estimates, would take a minimum of 21 months. I would call that a break in just about anyone's relationship. He might be in the military and about to ship off to Iraq or maybe someplace with better beer like Germany. Either way he's out for six months minimum. Maybe he's headed to the Antarctic to research climate change. Good for him! Regardless of what the book burners will tell you, more science is always better than less science. That said, if he's doing a shift on the South Pole, he's probably down for a minimum of three months, which to most reasonable people is a break in a relationship. I am sure there are some other possibilities that might make a break in a relationship seem more acceptable, but none of them are optimal.

So yeah, I truly hate to be the one to tell you this, but for all practical purposes, you just got dumped. I know that sounds discouraging and maybe you were secretly wanting me to tell you that you should calmly discuss the parameters of this break so you're both on the same page, but if you were both on the same page, you wouldn't have felt shocked and hurt. That said, if you need a sense of clarity and or closure, by all means, grill him about his intent, but I think you're reasonably safe to read between the lines here. In your heart you probably already know what to do. It doesn't really matter if he's decided to devote all his time and energy to his faith in Christ or his prog rock concept album, he has just told you you're not the most important thing in his life. Listen to him. That's at least 50% of any communication, right? Maybe 45% if you're looking at your cellphone.

Anyway, now is a pretty great time to focus completely on yourself and your opportunities and desires, dating and otherwise. Don't waste a lot of time worrying about your misinterpreting your boyfriend's real intent and possibly hurting his feelings. If he were truly concerned about that he would have painstakingly detailed how he would like this break to go down. Instead, he left it up to you. Therefore, you should take the most liberal interpretation available and not deny yourself anything on his behalf. You owe it to yourself – and more importantly to him – to find out what options are available and pursue them wholeheartedly, without regret or remorse. After all, a break is a break. He didn't ask you for a hairline fracture or a slight bend.

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