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Parallax - Advice            July 10, 2000

   They want a little break to be more social

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I have been going out with this woman for the last two years. We're both in college and this fall we start our junior year together. We are both in love but we have decided that we need to become more social and integrated into school life, we're both afraid we'll miss out on meeting people and making valuable friends because we spend so much time together. So we've decided to take a break for one semester, not necessarily to date others, but just to try to live our lives separately for a while. I think we're both committed but I am worried that we are making a mistake. Are we?

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Her view:

Dear Juniors,

The word mistake is all relative. It's true you can't have everything all the time - but there is always room to dabble. I think taking a little break because you spend all your time together is perfectly appropriate for a twenty-something. If taking a break makes you miserable then simply go back to the tried and true. But do give it a fair shot (i.e., more than a week). If it's a dreadful failure then just forget you ever came up with the stupid idea.

Philosophically, I think a break is good. If you spend most of the time with one person (even if you love them) you become less well-rounded and balanced. College is the perfect time to get exposure to a wide variety of people. If you can't seem to do that together, a small whirl apart may be just the thing. Why don't you try half way? Spend half of your days together and see how that goes. Make a concerted effort to join groups and clubs so you can socialize with others in your non-couple time. You may be able to have your cake and eat it too.

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His view:

Dear Juniors,

I think it is a mistake - but not the idea of a separation, just your proposed execution of it. I believe what you're trying to do is very healthy: nothing wrong with making a few really good friends during college, and enjoying more than just each other. If you don't do it, you will look back and wish you had spent more time socializing and partying.

The problem is that a 'break for a semester' is fraught with pitfalls. Two likely scenarios. In one, the less bad of the two, neither of you is willful enough to pull it off and you end up not separating at all, returning to your comfortable lives together without any real change.

The second is that one of the two is more successful, and happier, breaking apart. If this imbalance occurs, the other partner will be resentful and will begin pushing for a return to the older, happy days.

The only way this project will work is if you break up completely, with no set time for a return and a firm commitment to not see each other at all, for a while. I know it sounds artificial - but if you're serious about changing your lives, it's going to take more than just a small adjustment.

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