Monthly Archives: October 2021

How to Deal with Taking a Break in a Relationship

Set the ground rules for success.

By Valerie Nikolas October 21, 2021

For many of us, our first exposure to the concept of taking a break in a relationship was Ross’s “we were on a break!” outburst. Through high school, college, and early adulthood, we saw our friends go on breaks with their significant others, or went on them ourselves. Breaks can be messy and emotional, but sometimes they are a helpful option for evaluating the future of a relationship.

A break is like a time out for a relationship, where both people agree to pause the relationship for a period of time. What does taking a break mean for your relationship? Is it warranted? Or just a pit stop on the road to breaking up? It depends on the situation, but experts say that breaks can be beneficial for both personal mental health and the well-being of a relationship—when done correctly.

When should we take a relationship break?

“An important time to take a break is when we feel we’ve lost touch with ourselves or our own compass,” says relationship expert Karen Bridbord, PhD, a Gottman-certified therapist. “A break is ideally for when you feel you don’t know what you want or are confused.”

This confusion can come from interpersonal tensions, the stress of long-distance, or outside factors like work, school, or family that are putting strain on the relationship. Breaks typically work best for couples who have feelings for one another and are still willing to continue the relationship once the issue is resolved.

Breaks are less likely to work if there is a glaring incompatibility or dealbreaker, or if one partner needs has an untreated mental health disorder that is placing stress on the relationship. “Taking a break is usually about connecting with oneself and doing the work that needs to be done within a relationship and with one’s self,” says Bridbord.

Even if you feel you have the best of intentions, it’s important to know if you are taking a break for the right reasons. “Try to assess whether you’re being avoidant,” says Bridbord. People with an avoidant attachment style tend to pull away from romantic partnerships, especially once conflict arises, rather than seeking resolution. While there are times that conflict means you should step away from a relationship, no relationship is impervious to conflict and sometimes they just need some troubleshooting.

Feel like you need space from your partner? Here are some tips for approaching a break in a healthy way.

Have a strategy.

Going on a break is an opportunity to both see and do things differently. “The point of a break is to see things from a different perspective,” says Bridbord. “In order to have a different outcome, you need to develop deeper insight.”

Reflecting on the reasons for the break, both on your own and with your significant other, can help you determine what you want to get out of it. “You need to have a strategy so you can achieve success,” says Bridbord. Maybe you want to determine if you were with this person because it was convenient, or maybe you want to work on yourself outside of a relationship. Determining what you want and how you will get there will set you up for success.

Lay some ground rules.

Before initiating a break, have a discussion with your partner about ground rules, preferably in person. Be clear on what your break will look like and how certain rules will contribute to your shared strategy. Will you follow one another on social media? How often will you communicate, if at all? “Think about whether you can meet your goal if you’re having constant contact,” says Bridbord.

Set boundaries.

During your initial discussions, make sure to set clear boundaries about what is considered an absolute deal breaker for you, such as dating or hooking up with other people. “I think a lot of couples struggle with boundaries in breaks,” says Bridbord. “Conflict often comes from crossing boundaries.”

Work on yourself.

To get the most out of a break, it should be a time of personal reflection and self-care. This could include therapy to help you work on your wants and needs in relationships, as well as any personal issues you may be struggling with. As Bridbord says, “Your relationship to someone else can only be as strong as your relationship to yourself.”

Even with the most careful and open planning, breaks can be a time of stress and uncertainty. Be gentle with yourself. “It’s definitely a time to break out the fuzzy slippers,” says Bridbord.

Give yourself time.

“Taking a break should allow you to assess how you feel being away from your partner,” says Bridbord. “Are you feeling relieved or are you missing them?” Sometimes it can take time to really assess how you feel spending time away from the relationship.

If the point of a break is to achieve a certain goal, it should give you enough time to meet this goal. Personal reflection and working on yourself can take time. Going into a break with a set time limit can actually contribute to feelings of pressure and stress, so it’s best to be open-ended and establish check-ins to discuss how you’re feeling as the break goes on.

You may naturally feel the break coming to an end as you start to realize you either want to stay together or go separate ways for good. The more you follow these guidelines, the more certain you may feel about making the right decision for you and your relationship.

Originally published in Wedding Wire

What Is Chemistry in a Relationship? Learn How to Recognize the Signs

Figure out whether the spark is truly there between you and your partner.

by Valerie Nikolas Carson
Updated Oct 04, 2021

We’ve all experienced chemistry in a relationship at some point. Maybe you felt an instant, inexplicable connection from the first date. Perhaps when you thought of them, there was a fire in your belly. The connection could even defy reason. Still, something drew you to this person like a magnet.

Wondering whether you have chemistry in your relationship? Keep reading for the inside scoop.

What Is Chemistry?

“Chemistry is energy,” says relationship coach Jaime Bronstein. “It’s an energetic connection you can feel.” Some indicators of this connection are body language cues like butterflies in your stomach, a rapid heart rate, smiling and prolonged eye contact between the two of you.

Many of these biological processes are caused by a rush of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone, and serotonin, the mood regulator. “There’s so much going on biologically in the brain as people fall in love,” says Karen Bridbord, a Gottman-certified therapist. “It’s like a drug.”

While many of us equate chemistry with the heart-pounding, energetic feeling people get when they first meet someone they click with, Bridbord says that’s actually limerence, the feeling of infatuation that appears during the initial stage of a relationship.

Bridbord and Bronstein agree that true chemistry is much deeper and more complex. “Being with this person feels like home, and you feel peace in your heart,” Bronstein says. “There’s a feeling of being understood, seen and heard without the need to explain yourself. It’s innate.”

3 Signs of Chemistry in a Relationship

Bronstein, who hosts the radio show “Love Talk Live,” says the following three types of chemistry make for a healthy long-term relationship.

1. Physical Attraction

Physical or sexual attraction is often what first comes to mind when people think about chemistry, and it’s passion that stems from finding the other person attractive. Sexual chemistry is influenced in large part by pheromones, chemical signals present throughout the animal world that communicate between two members of a species. Bronstein says physical chemistry is, “either not there, or it’s on fire. With the person you marry, you want it to be on fire.”

2. Intellectual Chemistry

This type of chemistry comes down to communication. Two people who have mental chemistry should feel like peers. The conversations you have with this person should stimulate you and leave you energized. “You want to be intrigued by this person,” Bronstein says.

3. Emotional Connection

When two people understand each other’s wants and needs, they form a strong emotional connection. Bronstein describes this as a back-and-forth flow of energy and understanding.

The hallmark sign of an emotional connection is good communication. Openness, empathy and vulnerability are all necessary to build an emotional bond. “Building an intimate friendship is really important for chemistry,” Bridbord says. And for a long-term relationship, that includes learning how to be close friends in addition to romantic partners.

While all the types of chemistry are important, many experts consider emotional chemistry the most significant part of an enduring romantic relationship. “Emotional connection is a key marker of good chemistry,” Bridbord says.

Chemistry vs. Compatibility

There are distinct differences between chemistry and compatibility, but both are essential for a healthy relationship. Unfortunately, they don’t always go hand in hand: Some people have great chemistry, but poor compatibility, and vice versa.

“Compatibility is what’s on paper,” Bronstein says. This can include more logical considerations like age, race, religion and academic achievement. However, those who seem compatible on paper may not always feel chemistry with one another.

Likewise, people who have great chemistry may not be compatible for a long-term relationship. Bridbord says some couples find out this is the case when they move in together. “If people are incompatible, it’ll affect chemistry,” she says.

Can Chemistry Change Over Time?

You might be wondering whether a lack of chemistry initially can mean a relationship is doomed.

Opinions differ on whether chemistry can make or break a relationship. “True chemistry does not increase over time,” Bronstein says. “True love increases over time.” According to her, chemistry is a reflection of individual personality traits that either work together or don’t.

Bridbord disagrees. “I believe you can develop skills to hone chemistry together,” she says. “I’ve seen some couples start as a slow burn and others as a big fire.”

Regardless, initial feelings of limerence tend to fade in a long-term relationship, so it’s important to keep cultivating chemistry by maintaining open lines of communication and respect. “In order to preserve and protect the chemistry, you need to do the emotional work together,” Bridbord says.

One important thing to remember about chemistry is that looking inward is as important as looking outward. “Self-care is really important for cultivating chemistry,” Bridbord says. “Your relationship with your partner can only be as strong as your relationship with yourself.”

Originally published on The