Is there a difference between a break in a relationship and a break up? This is an often asked question in my counselling room, usually by the person who least wants a break.
We all know what a “break up” means: it’s over, finished. Often heartbreaking and never easy but clear. A relationship “break”, on the other hand, can mean quite different things to different people. As with any ambiguity, therein lies the problem.
When I saw Rachel a few weeks ago, she was white with anxiety and emotional pain. Joe had called a break after a difficult time in their relationship, she told me. It was “just a break” he had said, he just “needed some space”. Rachel couldn’t tell me how long the break was for or what the principles of it would be. Would they be in touch? Would they agree see other people?
To be disingenuous is never okay and messing about with other people’s hearts by saying one thing, and meaning another, is cowardly and self-serving.
Calling a break up a break is not a way to create a gentler version of breaking up. And I had to wonder if Joe was seeking a “break” as an easier way for himself to leave the relationship.