Y me?: 'Time off' seems like an automatic 'game over'

Posted 8:56am on Wednesday, May. 16, 2012

A friend of mine who recently came to town is going through a rough time. His long-term girlfriend recently asked that the two take "time off" from their relationship. That has happened to me a couple of times, and I've never really understood it. It's like relationship limbo: You're not technically broken up, but you're not spending time together either.

If, like my friend and me, you've ever been on the wrong end of that "let's take time off" conversation, then you know it's not a flattering feeling. Basically, the object of your affection is having doubts, and even if she/he decides to jump back in, it doesn't exactly bode well for the future of the relationship. My friend's furloughed gal pal basically just told him he's not knocking her socks off.

So, can a relationship recover from time off? What does it really mean? And are there benefits to taking time off from a long-term relationship? To answer these questions, I tracked down one of the girls who asked me to take time off, and her answers cleared up a few things.

Tracy and I were going out several years ago. She was my boss, and that made our relationship a lot more complicated. It never seemed right having to sneak around to see each other, but it did add an element of excitement. When she informed me that we were taking time off, I knew it was our death knell. But she was one of those rare breed of women -- one willing to sleep with me -- so I hung on for dear life.

I'll spare you the full transcription of our conversation, but she had suggested we take time off because ours was one of those relationships that blossomed quickly, and she never had time to step back and evaluate whether it was going anywhere.

"We were spending every waking moment together, since we worked together and were dating," she said. "I'm older than you [by five years], and I was looking for something a little more long-term, whereas you were happy having someone to go out with every night."

While everything she said was true, we never once discussed our long-term prospects until the day she stomped on my heart.

When she suggested time off, I felt like she had made assumptions about what I was looking for from her. In retrospect, she and I were in fact looking for different things, but I would have never been able to admit that.

We got back together, and our relationship was over less than a month later. We never got back on track, and she never took me seriously as a candidate for a long-term partner (thank God). I was always curious why she decided to strike up the band again after our time off, and why she didn't just break up with me in the first place.

"I think it's natural to have doubts," she said. "I didn't want to break up because I enjoyed your company and I cared for you. I didn't want to see you hurt. We were having such a good time, I could have gone on like that indefinitely, and that's not fair to either of us.

"Obviously, knowing what I know now, I would have just broken things off instead of dragging us both through all of that turmoil."

That's a little dramatic, but I appreciate the sentiment. I've heard of only a few relationships surviving after taking time off, but I guess it's better than constantly breaking up and getting back together. I've been down that road, too, and all I did was wonder who my on-again-off-again woman was sleeping with.

I'd like to hear from you on this one. Are you now or have you been in a relationship that survived the dreaded "time off"? Or are you like me and believe that it only delays the inevitable?

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