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Holidays can be an occasion for planned relationship breaks

Posted Nov 15 2010 12:00am

Footprints in sand Whether we like it or not, relationships sometimes go in the tank.  They sink like a lead balloon, leading credence to the saying, "What goes up must come down."  It is possible to outgrow a relationship. There are many many reasons why this happens. 

When one person changes at a pace greater than the other person it can put a strain on the relationship, and taking a planned break can help save it.

Sometimes ongoing underlying funkiness in a relationship can become too much to bear and the relationship can blow up over seemingly trivial matters. 

In relationships where there has been a difficult power imbalance, the person in the more submissive role tries to see the person with the power in better light than they warrant.  When this too-rosy picture begins to dissolve, change begins to happen.

Whatever the reason for needing a relationship break, the holidays can highlight these issue in ways that can't be ignored.

There are two ways to take a break from a relationship, planned and reactive.  For example, we have all been in situations where we say, "I have had enough of that person.  She is so bossy or selfish or something else.  I want nothing to do with her."  Then we cut that person out of our life, or at least try to cut them out of our life.  This is harder to do with family members, where guilt and obligation can ruin the best of intentions to stay away from that person.

The problem with reactive relationship breaks is that they involve a whole lot of negative energy within us that we then have to carry around, like buckets of coal draped across our shoulders.  This anger and negative energy are great anesthetics to the hurt and pain in our hearts from the relationship, which will stay put until we deal with it, which we must if we want to a lead happy health life.

Planned relationship breaks can be a useful tool when it becomes obvious that relationship change needs to happen in order to try and preserve the relationship.
It comes in a few different forms. 

  1. Changing your behavior in the relationship in real time, so that the other person has to eventually change in order to relate with you differently. 
  2. Taking time away from the relationship for a certain period of time to clarify your feelings, determine what, if any, changes you want to make and to develop a strategic plan for relationship change.

Here are some tips*:


Take time to reflect and think about what it is about the relationship that isn't working for you anymore.


Define your own wants and needs in the relationship.


Try to understand how you may be contributing to the problem.

Sanerfacebullett33 Try to make the changes you want by talking with the person, first. Use 'I' statements. When we use the word 'you' the other person always gets   defensive.  Nobody wants to be told about themselves,even if there is some   truth to it.


Keep your relationship goals in mind, always.


Understand that most people are just bumbling through life, doing the best they can.  Often their difficult behaviors are not malicious in intent.


Know that grief underlies most relationship changes.  Even though people can be aggravating and hurtful, it is often the case that you may miss and long for the relationship.


Understand that when you change how you have been in a relationship the other person will always try to get you to stay the same. This is called the 'change back' reaction and you have to hold on tight with your changes until the relationship resets, if it can.


Remember that change is scary and that is why people resist it.  Even though what you have may not feel good, it is familiar.  Change means new and different and that can feel scary in the beginning.


Get support from trusted friends and family, from a mentor, coach or therapist.

Sanerfacebullett33 Make a self-care plan, which could include journaling your thoughts and feelings, going for long walks, taking warm baths.

*If you are in a domestic abuse situation, some of these tips may not be appropriate.  Please seek help as you can .

When you've lost that loving feeling take the time to assess, assert and heal.


Click here for more tips on taking a planned break and example letters .

Click here to read Part I in this series.

Click here to read Chris's Tips for Holiday Sanity .

Click here for a good book resource .

Click below to hear Chris read her post aloud.

Losing that loving feeling can make the holidays funky




photo credit: Ley photography, Ley Dallimore, flickr



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