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LeavesNoTrace's avatar

I want a break but not a "break" with my partner. How can I make him understand without freaking him out?

Asked by LeavesNoTrace (5674points) February 13th, 2017

So here’s the dealio:

My SO is the love of my life and a great source of joy. We have a beautiful relationship, full of love, laughter, and amazing chemistry.

However, I’ve noticed we’ve been getting on each other’s nerves a little bit lately. Nothing serious or insurmountable but we bicker a little more than we used to. Now, this may be a natural result of the “honeymoon phase” coming to an end and getting somewhat more comfortable. However, the other day, I realized something: in our entire relationship, we’ve never spent more than 2–3 days apart at a time.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy spending most of my time with my partner, but I also admire couples who can be apart for a week or two now and then and be okay with it.

In the past, when I’ve gone to visit friends on my own, he won’t outright ask me not to, but he does get a little weird about it. And recently, a childhood friend of mine has mentioned wanting to take a 1–2 week trip together to a region of the world he has no interest in visiting (he’s not as much of a travel-lover, and that’s fine).

When I brought it up, he didn’t forbid me from going, but he brought up a bunch of gripes about my “safety” and spending too much time apart. Mind you; I lived in three countries before I met him and traveled around the world. He’s never left the U.S. except to visit the Caribbean and Mexico. I told him he’s welcome to come along, but that if he doesn’t want to go, I fully intend on taking the trip anyway and enjoying myself.

I love this man with all my heart and want to marry him, but I don’t want to limit my travel to destinations of which he approves, which is a rather restricted list by my standards. Also, I wish that he would occasionally be more comfortable giving me some “space.” We’ve never had any issues with fidelity, and I have no interest in screwing around and also trust him 100%.

How can I deal with this and reach a compromise?

Also, please don’t comment “break up.” It’s a total cop-out I’m not throwing out a healthy relationship because of one hiccup that I think is entirely resolvable.

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17 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

I definitely wouldn’t tell him you are taking a break. It should be fine for you to rake a trip with a friend. I’m assuming girlfriend. I can see how two weeks might feel very long apart, but it’s not that long.

As far as wanting a little space because you have been bickering. I think you should keep the vacation and the break as different topics in your mind. If you both have been a little short with each other then maybe planning time apart here and there might be good. Anything from going shopping to visiting a friend for a couple of hours. However, you have to couple it with purposely communicating with him about how you both can work together to make things better. How you can talk to each better and find out what specifically is getting on each of your nerves.

Checking out of a relationship and avoiding time together for days or weeks is not the answer.

You know the saying distance makes the heart grow fonder? I think there is a fine line, and distance makes the heart realize it can be just fine on its own.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

@JLeslie Thanks, you hit what I’m feeling on the head. It’s not a “break” or distance I want, per se, but a little breathing room would occasionally be nice. We adore each other—and genuinely like one another too! But I also gotta be me, ya know?

We are apart during working hours, but we do play in the same social sports league and happily cohabitate so we spend probably about 50–60% of our waking hours together. Which is fine but sometimes I do wish I could go off on my own a bit and see a bit of the world that interests me but he would find off-putting. (He’s a big fan of creature comforts and hates plain rides that are + 5 hours long.)

The friend I’d like to travel with is a female friend I’ve known since age four and is like a sister to me. She’s taking a job abroad and would like me to meet her in a neighboring country. I briefly mentioned it to my partner, and he was very put off of the idea of such a long plane trip to such a decidedly non-first-world and non-air conditioned country.

Also, my career is developing, and there’s a chance I could be booking work that requires travel, and with his work schedule, it’s unlikely he can come with me every time.

I wouldn’t say he’s jealous, but he is a little possessive at times. Not to mention he was a victim of infidelity from a previous partner who traveled a lot for work and used it as a convenient ruse to sneak around. But if I ever insinuated that his experience perhaps makes him a little insecure, he would probably be frustrated and deny it up and down.

I feel like I need to tread with caution to avoid potentially hurting/alienating him.

funkdaddy's avatar

There’s a lot of thought in the question details, and honestly a lot of topics there which I’m guessing don’t necessarily run together in your actual relationship, but maybe are connected in your mind? I’m asking because only you can know for sure.

Just for clarity, the trip won’t fix the bickering, or spell out how you see your life going for the next 50+ years, or answer any of his questions, those things need to be handled separately, right?

Saying you want to take the trip to spend some time away from him will hurt him, almost certainly. The same goes for saying you’re going with or without him being on board. But explaining to him how important the trip is to you, for the experience, for the friendship, because traveling is part of yourself that you’re proud of and want to continue, is a lot different and probably closer to your true feelings.

So tell him how excited you are about the trip, tell him you’re totally comfortable in the country/region and then ask how he can be comfortable with it as well, because you want him on board. Then listen, don’t argue your side, just let him spell out what he’s concerned about, even if it seems ridiculous to you. You’re asking for space, let him spell out why he’s hesitant, and it’s probably fairly simple at that point to address his concerns together.

You might also want to talk about how you really value being two whole people who love spending time together rather than two parts of a whole, but that’s probably best left to another conversation.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

If my husband said “I need a break”, I’d be really upset and I would feel our relationship was in jeopardy. If he said “a friend asked me to go on a trip with him, and I really want to go”, I would have a very different response. I wouldn’t even bring up that you’re bickering etc. Again, that would signal to me you’re feeling unhappy in the relationship. Just tell him you want to go on a holiday with your friend.

I also think you need to look at why you’re feeling dissatisfied with your relationship (the bickering etc.). That’s a symptom of something not being right. It could just be, as you suggested, a transition period from the honeymoon phase to a deeper relationship, but I’d spend some time considering how you can resolve whatever is happening between you. I’ve been with my husband for 17 years and I never feel like I need a break from him. We have disagreements, but I don’t feel I have to be away from him. Take some time out together to talk about how things are. Think about seeing a relationship counsellor – not because I think you are going to break up imminently, but because it can be a wonderful investment in your relationship and in finding ways to keep it fresh and avoid any future resentments.

Zaku's avatar

Don’t call it a break. Think of the times where you know you’ve treated him not so well because of always being around and apologize for those and explain what it was about, and what you think will help. Say the things you’ve written here about how you value the relationship and how it’s in no way wanting to detract from that but that it would actually help if you had a bit of time physically away sometimes.

If you want more help, I recommend the book How To Be An Adult In Relationships, which has much good advice and insight and this sort of topic is a major theme.

Seek's avatar

I mean, in this situation I would simply inform my husband that I’m going on a trip and would he like to join us or stay?

Bye, hon, see you in a few days. You know my number if you need me, frozen pizza is in the freezer.

Cruiser's avatar

If as you say you are coming out of the honeymoon phase than I might surmise you and your S/O have spent most if not all your free time together. It sounds like you are overdue for this vacation apart and perhaps both of you need to find a better balance between together time and alone time.

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ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Introverts need space. I need a day or two to myself periodically to keep myself centered. She is very extroverted and in the past and when I wanted time alone it would hurt her feelings a little. She understands a bit better now. Don’t call it a break, just say you need some “me” time or something to that effect.

janbb's avatar

As others have suggested, keep the two – or maybe four – issues separate. There is nothing wrong in a relationship in having separate vacations at times as long as it is negotiated. I think it’s healthy and allows you to be two whole people. However, if you frame it as needing a break from him and the relationship, of course he’ll feel threatened.

If you are bickering and testy, work on that together first. Frame the possible trip as a positive for you and reassure him of your love and commitment to the relationship.

My Ex was a sailor and I’m an artist. He went on sailing trips with his friends and I did some wonderful painting trips. They were great for both of us. It was only when we stopped enjoying the time we spent together that the marriage foundered.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Can you plan a special trip for the two of you? It would not have to be exotic, just, away.
Here is what I am thinking; seperate travel, seperate accommodations, same destination.
You could plan certain events together, and leave soe times blank, for what you each would like to do alone.
It would be an adventure. It would be dating again. It would be some breathing room, but he wouldn’t feel ditched. Maybe he could then look differently at this other trip you wish to take.

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funkdaddy's avatar

Expecting your partner to only explore the interests that overlap with yours or meet your approval seems really crazy to me. I understand that was the expectation in relationships for a long time, but can you imagine framing any friendship like that outside of a marriage?

I want my wife to explore what makes her happy and I want to have the freedom to do the same. As long as we’re both honest about it, and supporting each other when needed, that seems absolutely preferable to making her give up things that I don’t want to do or dragging me along for activities I get no enjoyment from.

I hope we respect each other for more than the sacrifices we make for the relationship.

@LeavesNoTrace – I remembered this last night… my wife went to Greece back when we first got married with a group from college. It was planned way in advance, she was excited that she made it happen, it totally fit her interests (art history minor), and was a great trip. The part that hurt initially was she didn’t get in touch for the first week of the trip. She didn’t take a cell phone and had trouble figuring out how to get a call through from hotel phones, and it just wasn’t the #1 priority. Cool, but… a week? So we learned what was too long early on and made that clear. Two nights, no problem, third night, better figure it out by phone, email, or smoke signal.

Maybe do that with your partner before you go. What are his expectations as far as getting in touch and then make that happen.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

@funkdaddy Thanks for sharing your perspective. You seem like a great partner who understands the meaning of trust and space. Bravo! I’m sure your wife appreciates it.

I agree that a week is a long time even though at the time she was traveling communication may have been harder. However, in the year 2017, I can purchase a temporary international mobile plan that will allow me to call, chat and even Snapchat with my love while I travel. :)

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