It seems that the go-to advice for many people when dealing with someone unsure about whether to continue dating someone is: “Take a break in the dating to see how you feel about the other person.” Does this really make sense? Will a break in the dating really add clarity? Will a couple of weeks of not seeing someone magically answer the questions that are getting in the way? On the other hand, perhaps taking a break will allow someone to gain some perspective? Perhaps some times away from their date will enable the person to evaluate whether they have an emotional connection?
Give me a break
Let us be a little clearer about what we mean by “taking a break.” It does not refer to a pause from the search for a spouse, as in when someone says, “I put everything into my last shidduch; now I need a break from dating.” Rather, we mean that someone has reached a critical juncture in their dating when they are struggling to make up their mind whether to move forward with the relationship. Often, people are advised to take a break from dating to clear things up in their head.
A break in dating typically adheres to the following principles:
- Both parties see significant potential in the shidduch
- One or more parties are unsure about something significant
- The break is agreed by both parties
- Parties agree on a break for a pre-set amount of time
- By the end of agreed timeframe, the parties will decide whether to resume dating
- Neither party will date anyone else during this time period
- Minimal to no communication will take place between the two parties
Does it make sense to take a break?
Sometimes. Taking a break during dating is not a panacea. If you are uncertain or confused about whether this shidduch is for you, you most probably would be best discussing the matter with an experienced and intelligent person. If you are stuck on something and don’t know why, you are probably best getting the input of a dating professional.
However, there are occasions when you genuinely need space to figure things out, and that is when a break may be helpful and necessary. You completely see why someone thought it would be a good idea for you to meet this person. Indeed, there is much to commend this shidduch and you are broadly positive about the date. The problem is that you have one or more meaningful misgivings or uncertainties and they are not getting resolved by more daing.
So you approach your advisors (mashpia, parent, shadchan, etc.,) and express your frustration that you “feel you are banging your head against the wall.” You know that you get along well, and you know that you like the person, but you are torn on more or more issues, and you don’t seem to be getting any closer to making a decision. That is when you may be advised to “take a break.”
Feeling break and thinking break
If you need to check if you have emotional feelings towards the person you are dating, you may benefit by taking a “time out” to evaluate things. We’ll call this a Feeling break.
If you need time to gain clarity of mind, to think through an issue, you may benefit by gaining some distance from your situation by stepping away from active dating for a short while. We call that a Thinking break.
The Feeling Break
Rarely will simply taking a break solve anything, but there is one key exception: the feeling break.
A feeling break makes sense when you are clear about compatibility. You know that you match up on all key criteria – all that is left is the question of emotions. Despite all the time you have spent together during dating, you are unsure that you have strong enough feelings towards the person you are dating. Moreover, you kind of feel stuck, as you have not seen much shift in this regard during your last dates.
The aim of this break is to see whether you miss your dating partner. Do you think about him? Do you find yourself wanting to share something with her? Is he on your mind? Is the thought of spending time with her tugging at your heartstrings? The idea of taking this kind of break is to see what happens when you are separated from each other. Do you miss your date? Do you not want to be without her?
For you to become convinced that this is someone you want to get serious about, you don’t need to become overcome with love. But you are hoping that you will detect sufficient pull that will suggest you have potential to grow into an emotionally healthy relationship. You hope to be able to answer the question of whether there is enough “there” to make pursuing marriage with this person a viable option. It is therefore important that you have a total break, with no intermittent contact, so that you can really assess your feelings.
Please note that some people struggle with connection, and it should not be automatically assumed that if there are issues with feelings that this means the shidduch has no potential. If you have seen this happen before, there is a reasonable chance that you struggle with emotional bonding. We discuss this here.
The Thinking Break
You would consider taking a thinking break if you have strong feelings towards your dating partner, but you are struggling with a key question of compatibility. What if you are getting seriously attached when you discover that he has serious financial problems, or you discover that she has a significant disability. You are faced with a tough decision.
In most cases, the way you would deal with this type of question is through dating. You have the full opportunity to raise your concerns and to “talk it through.” If you are still left confused or uncertain, you would be advised to speak to someone who can help you to think it through and gain the clarity you need.
However, there are some relatively rare occasions where you may feel that your emotions are getting in the way of clear thinking. You may be advised to step away from your dating interactions to properly process your doubts and deliberations. If you have discovered issues that give you significant pause and raise meaningful questions about whether this is something you are ready to go for, you may benefit from taking a decision on the matter before getting deeper into the emotions of the relationship.
If you are on a thinking break, it is important to strictly adhere to the no-dates policy. However, unlike with the feelings break, with the thinking break minimal communication (say a “good Shabbos” text message) is unlikely to cause any harm.
How to broach the idea of taking a break
Proposing to take a break is a very delicate matter. The other person may find the idea difficult and hurtful. They may understand that you are struggling with some aspect of the dating, but why do you have to take a break? Why can’t you resolve within the dating process?
So, you need to be super understanding and caring as you bring up the idea. Here are a few pointers to help you go about this in a sensitive and considerate manner:
- Emphasize what you like about the other and the relationship
- Explain honestly what you are struggling with
- Explain what the break is intended to achieve and what you plan to do during that time
- Invite and pay close attention to input from your dating partner
- Take ownership of the situation by acknowledging that it is not necessarily a problem with them but an issue you may have within yourself