I am hoping you can help me define something. I have been in a relationship with a guy for a few months now. Recently we have been spending more time together because we are trying to keep our social circle smaller during COVID.
There have been several times that we have gotten into heated conversations and he asks that we “take a break” or “cool things down.” In most cases we talk the next day that things are fine. We are good at apologizing and both of us take responsibility when we are in the wrong.
With the extra amount of time that we have been spending together there have been more heated conversations and I don’t think it is anything that is going to end our relationship but it seems like we have less time to cool down before we find something to disagree about. Recently after one of the conversations he said he again wanted to “take a break” and left. It has been almost a week and every time I try to communicate with him, he says he isn’t ready.
Did we break up? Am I supposed to be considering myself still in a relationship? I am not sure what this break means because it feels different than other “break” we have had.
Do you have any advice?
It’s very rare that we get a letter that seems like it could be ripped directly from an episode of Friends, but here we are.
When we get into arguments or heated discussions with our partners it seems like there are two types of people in the world. There are those that want to talk it out right there and be done with it, and then those that want to take a minute to calm down and discuss it with cooler heads at a later date. You and your partner are apparently the latter. This is ok as long as this style of communication works for you. In our past when we have been in the beginning of a relationship, we like to actually discuss which style we prefer. For those that prefer to have the entire conversation in the moment it can be frustrating when a partner needs to step away and gather their thoughts. We don’t think that any one way is correct; they are just different ways that people interact with each other.
It is good that you both recognize the importance of apologizing and taking responsibility. If you hadn’t mentioned that we were going to start wondering why the two of you are even together. In your question you make it seem that in every instance that the two of you spend a significant amount of time together you end up in a heated discussion. This isn’t a bad thing, usually just a sign of two opinionated and passionate people that have in-depth discussions. As long as you continue to communicate and not fully shut down, you should be OK. This is where the problem lies in your current situation.
We speak a lot in this column about defining things rather than declaring them. We suggest that people define what their boundaries are, what an open relationship is, and what cheating is. These are all things that are very different for each individual person. You are in a situation where you need this definition for your mental health.
Our suggestion for you is to reach out with specific questions, not just asking if your partner is ready to talk. Write him a letter. You can send it through text, or email, or messenger with exactly what you want to know. What does this break mean? Is he wanting to end things for the time being and try again later? Perhaps what he needs is more clearly defined boundaries on how much time you are spending together. In general, people are really great but spending all of your time with just a few can seem stifling. With so little happening in the world right now, and meeting new people being unsafe and scary in the time of a pandemic, the people we are closest to can start to get on our nerves.
We think that if the person you are dating is as invested in this relationship as you clearly are, he at least owes you a definition of what this break means and a timeline of when he thinks he would be willing to discuss it. Ask him directly what is going on and we hope that he will respect you enough to give you a direct answer. We hope that this works out for the best.
Writers note. We received three more queries this week about financial insecurity in relationships. All three were basically the same story: Their partner made more money than them and they were wondering if a relationship could ever last if finances were so lopsided.
Our answer is that it can always be a success, but money conversations are some of the most awkward to have in any relationship. Money problems are also one of the leading causes of people breaking up. For those who make less money it can lead to feelings of insecurity and worthlessness when their partner is always able to afford things that they can’t or feeling like they are not contributing as much to the relationship.
We have found in most cases where this is the issue the partner that is making the most money is not aware of the problems because they are so grateful for other things that their partner does. Whether it is preparing meals, cleaning the house, or simply being a loving partner that listens and cares, they feel loved and supported and so they have no problem picking up the tab at dinner or paying more for the housing that they share. It all comes down to communication and making sure that everyone is on the same page as far as what is expected from each partner.
The Alaskans are a group of friends that like to help people with all relationship questions. If you have one, send us a letter to firstname.lastname@example.org