But we were on a break!

By • Aug 26th, 2008 • Category: Breakups

It’s a classic line from the show “Friends”. Ross and Rachel broke up and Rachel finds out that Ross had slept with another woman. When confronted, Ross says “But we were on a break!”  Since then, this phrase has become a part of popular culture. This situation rears its ugly head over and over again. What exactly are the rules on a break? Are both partners supposed to be loyal or are all bets off?

The first thing to understand is what exactly is meant by the term “break.” A break could actually be a “break up” in which both partners agree to call it quits, or it could be a decision by both partners to take some time off and then get back together. For more of a take on the differences between “breaks and “break ups” click HERE.

Let’s take the second scenario first. If both partners agree to take some time off to reassess, they must be very clear and communicate about what exactly the terms of the break up are and what they expect from each other.  It is absolutely necessary to have this kind of communication so that there are no misunderstandings or heartbreak. Some things to discuss are how often both people should contact each other and obviously, whether or not they are allowed to see other people.  If this kind of understanding is not reached, then both partners are at fault for not making clear guidelines and should take responsibility for the repercussions. In general, however, I do not recommend seeing other people on a break. When people take a break to see other people, it almost always leads to the end of the relationship. As I mentioned, in a previous article, breaks almost always lead to break-ups.

What if the break WAS actually a break-up, where one or both partners agreed to call it quits. In that case, all bets are off.  I’ve seen cases where one of the partners decided to break up and the other person ended up hooking up with another person in a week or less and the person who left found out and was upset about it. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Sure, maybe most people would argue that it is too early to hook up with someone else a week or a month after the break-up of a relationship, but what is the actual limit when it become alright? You can’t control other people’s behavior and you can’t control how other people react to a break-up.  Whenever someone initiates a break-up and then is upset about what their ex does, it is for one of two reasons: 1) they still have an emotional connection and/or 2 the break-up was a bluff intended to manipulate the partner. Either way, when one partner initiates leaving, the other person is free to do whatever they please without recrimination or judgment.  If the “breaker” wants their partner to be loyal, they wouldn’t be initiating a break in the first place.

What if both partners agree to a reconciliation after a break-up and one or both of the partners had sexual relations with other people while on the break? Best thing to do is to have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in place. In general, a good rule of thumb is to never ask any questions that you cannot bear to hear the answers to.  If your partner continues to want to find out what you did, if you know it will hurt them, don’t tell them. I know many people will disagree, but it shouldn’t be the other person’s business anyway if it was during a break-up.

Remember, the answer to this difficult question depends on the situation. If it was a break with plans to get back together, communication is the key. If it was a break-up, all bets are off, and neither party has absolutely any responsibility to the other person.

2 Responses »

  1. I have read your artical. My current partner and I broke up in June 2010. His works on the oil rigs, mostly off-shore but whilst we were away he went on-shore to Baku. I agree with your comment that a break means he is free to do as he pleases and that is fair enough. Whilst he hasnt told me, I know he has been with another woman while we were not together whilst he was in Baku, emails I have read suggest he had a whale of a time.

    We got back together in September 2010 and to be honesty, he hasnt put a foot wrong, is showing all the right signs of a good relationship and I feel so much better than I did last time we were together.

    He his done 2 trips now off-shore to the north sea. His next trip is now back to Baku. I feel sick. I feel sick that whilst I am going to be sat here like a lemon waiting for him (under the spotlight of his friends and family), he will be back in slutville having a whale of a time

    He has assured me that this wont be the case but I am really struggling here to trust him. Who will no? No one. So whats to stop him?

    I really need to gain so trust here but I am struggling


  2. DP,
    I’m a professional pilot and I travel alot. Every once in a while I have to do an overnight somewhere. Often times us crewmembers like to go out to eat dinner, and maybe do some extra curricular activities, and then off to bed for another round the next day. While traveling without one’s mate
    can be difficult, I’m proud to say that most men, who are truly in love with their mates will not
    cheat. Others on the other hand, will do as they please. Hope this gives you a little hope 🙂

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