Relationship discernment/taking a break


#1

I've been dating a great young man for about 4 years (we met my freshman year of college). He is my first relationship, though I am not him. I love him, he loves me, and think that I want to (and could) marry him in the future. He's handsome, smart, Catholic, and someone I can look up to (which is pretty hard to find, I think. And I don't think that I can find anyone better.) The problem is, of course, what's happening now.

I'm not ready to get married yet, and have some of those "what-if" and grass-is-greener type doubts. I'm worried that we've been dating so long that I haven't been able to step back and assess where we are and what we want to do -- to make an informed choice about us being together. (If I choose to 'forsake all others' -- in a marriage or even in a serious, leading towards marriage-style exclusive relationship -- I sort of want to know what I'm doing and who those others are and what that means). And I know we've gotten into some bad habits in our relationship (due to some rocky times in college, before I became Catholic and when neither of us was at our best) that will be hard to reset without stepping away from it a little.

I love him. I do think I want to marry him -- but all of these are just niggling doubts in my mind, that combined together make me feel like I have to do something. I think that if we stayed together for longer, we might get married anyways. But i never want to resent him, or think "what if I did this, why didn't I date other people" if we end up together. I sort of want to go on dates, not because I'm looking for someone else, really (because I don't think I'll meet anyone better), but to just put down the feeling of uncertainty I have about committing forever to the first person I've met, and to assure myself viscerally that I'm right that I'm not missing out on anything. (as a 23 year old girl living with a bunch of other younger girls in a big city for the first time out of college, there's a lot of conflicting pressure on that front--- intellectually, I know it's silly to be swayed by what is around me, but sometimes I just can't get my feelings to match up with my mind).

This is a long-winded way of asking: has anyone ever taken a break from a relationship to discern more about it? Or broken up with someone with the intention of getting back together down the road? I sort of think I need time away from him to pray and discern alone, figure out where I am in life and whether i'm ready to commit, think about him and me realistically without the distraction of him being a call away when i'm sad or confused or want to hang out, and go on a date or two to reassure myself that I'm not kidding myself when I say I think i've found the one. I am considering asking for a six month break with no contact except for maybe a check-in at three months, and deciding yes, we stay together, or no, we part ways for good at the end of this time. I don't think it would be fair to shunt him off to the side and try to do this while also staying in a relationship. Is this a terrible idea?

I've talked to my boyfriend about this some, and to some extent he understands how I feel, though he doesn't want to break up with me. I don't want to lose him and know it would be selfish to try and "shelve" him while I sort things out and talk to other guys and expect him to be there when I get back. At the same time,I don't want to stay together and 2 weeks before our wedding (or worse, after it) think "oh my gosh, why didn't I do this and take the time to sort myself out" -- both because it would stink for me and it wouldn't be fair for him.

Any advice? Especially from those who have married, married young (ish), or have been in similar situations.

also, sorry this is so long. :blush:


#2

Sounds like you have a great relationship, so what more do you want? In other words, can you put your finger on things you want that you dont have? things you want to improve? are these big things or small things?


#3

Are you bored in the the relationship? This is why I think long courtships are a bad idea...people tend to get bored with the status quo. If you're not ready to get married you're better off being honest about it and maybe stepping away for awhile is a good idea. It sounds like you want a bit of freedom to try your wings which isn't a bad thing at your age. Better to do in now then marry the guy and decide years later that you have to do it. If it were me I'd take a break from the relationship and maybe dating all together. Alone time can sometimes be refreshing. Keep in touch. If it's meant to be it will be. But it's not fair the string the guy along or keep a hold of him while you go out and do what you want. Have you tried maybe just taking a vacation from each other. Maybe go on a road trip with friends. Just a thought.


#4

You do not sound ready to commit the rest of your life to this young man, no matter how much you love him now. He deserves a 100% from you and I don’t think you are ready to give him that. There is nothing wrong with wanting to meet and date other people, while you are still young and single. Marriage is a total commitment on the part of both parties and wondering what could have been, will not see you through the bad times. You two could agree to start seeing other people for a period of time and then meet again to see if you really want to move on or if your relationship is ready to move up to the next level.


#5

[quote="ivycath, post:1, topic:247795"]

I'm not ready to get married yet, and have some of those "what-if" and grass-is-greener type doubts. I'm worried that we've been dating so long that I haven't been able to step back and assess where we are and what we want to do -- to make an informed choice about us being together. (If I choose to 'forsake all others' -- in a marriage or even in a serious, leading towards marriage-style exclusive relationship -- I sort of want to know what I'm doing and who those others are and what that means).

[/quote]

I think your main question boils down to asking

"How do I know if this is the one? If I did not choose this person, is it possible that I would find someone better down the road?"

If I were in your position, the following will be my thought process:-

1) Are we compatible?

So here I will consider whether we have similar values. Whether we agree on our pursuits. If both of you are Catholic and pursue Catholic values and want to be better followers of Christ, that is a good common ground. The other person might not be morally perfect. You might not be morally perfect. The important thing is that you both agree that you want to work together to change those specific imperfect things about each other. So that will be your common ground.

It is important that you have common ground for when difficult times come, it is these common ground that will keep you together. Having Religion as a common ground is especially nice since then both of you believe in indissolubility of marriage and doing their best without giving up on each other. Also, at the end of the day, if you pray together, no matter what fights you had, you will come together to pray for each other.

In short, this is why I think religion is a very good common ground for a marriage. If you two have that, then move to the step 2 in the process

2) Am I called to be his spouse?

Here I will think of whether I would care to sacrifice my happiness for my spouse. This is a decision I have to make. Not merely a feeling. Affection and desire have brought me to the point of making a choice. The choice is now mine to make. I will pray about it and arrive at my decision. At the same time, the other person has to do the same.

Basically, both of you will be considering whether each is called to marry the other. In other words, are each of you ready to sacrifice your happiness for the good of the other.

At this stage, you will answer the question "Can I do better if I wait". You accept that you might do better if you wait, but you decide to go with this person because you are the best person for him, you want to be there for him AND he feels the same.
If the answer is YES to the above, I would marry :)

If one of you does not feel the same, then definitely don't marry each other.

Please note, the above reasoning is assuming you have no impediments to marriage or other moral obligations to satisfy.

Also, the information in this article might be helpful to you as well.

ewtn.com/library/MARRIAGE/MORMAR.txt

God Bless :)


#6

[quote="ivycath, post:1, topic:247795"]
This is a long-winded way of asking: has anyone ever taken a break from a relationship to discern more about it? Or broken up with someone with the intention of getting back together down the road? I sort of think I need time away from him to pray and discern alone, figure out where I am in life and whether i'm ready to commit, think about him and me realistically without the distraction of him being a call away when i'm sad or confused or want to hang out, and go on a date or two to reassure myself that I'm not kidding myself when I say I think i've found the one. I am considering asking for a six month break with no contact except for maybe a check-in at three months, and deciding yes, we stay together, or no, we part ways for good at the end of this time. I don't think it would be fair to shunt him off to the side and try to do this while also staying in a relationship. Is this a terrible idea?

[/quote]

What do you expect him to do for six months while you're "sorting things out and talking to other guys?" Sit at home by the phone waiting for you to call?

If you're having serious doubts, do both him and yourself a favor and break it off. But don't do it thinking that you're going to get back together and everything will as it is now. Maybe you guys are meant to be together and would eventually find your way back to each other. There's no guarantee, however, and it won't ever be the same.

Good luck.


#7

I’m no relationship expert ChiRho but imo it doesn’t sound like you’re really in love with him, your mostly comfortable with him and wondering… ‘is that all there is?’

There’s nothing wrong with that…be thankful your not in love. Your time will come, a break is a long established protocol smart thinking couples employ to step back and remain friends.


#8

I agree with Rick.. you can't possibly take this break and do it with the expectation that he will be there waiting for you with open arms when the 6 months are up. Even if he says and believes he will, you might be surprised the changes HE goes through while apart.

Are you willing to take that chance? If so, then maybe you should take a shot at this plan. I think the very fact that you feel compelled to do so is enough to advise against marriage, at least for now. You've got to be sure. You both deserve that much.

If my fiance wanted to test the waters for 6 months and try out a few other women "just to be sure", I'd know with certainty that he wasn't the man I was intended to marry.

Good luck and God bless


#9

[quote="ddarko, post:5, topic:247795"]
I think your main question boils down to asking

"How do I know if this is the one? If I did not choose this person, is it possible that I would find someone better down the road?"

If I were in your position, the following will be my thought process:-

1) Are we compatible?

So here I will consider whether we have similar values. Whether we agree on our pursuits. If both of you are Catholic and pursue Catholic values and want to be better followers of Christ, that is a good common ground. The other person might not be morally perfect. You might not be morally perfect. The important thing is that you both agree that you want to work together to change those specific imperfect things about each other. So that will be your common ground.

It is important that you have common ground for when difficult times come, it is these common ground that will keep you together. Having Religion as a common ground is especially nice since then both of you believe in indissolubility of marriage and doing their best without giving up on each other. Also, at the end of the day, if you pray together, no matter what fights you had, you will come together to pray for each other.

In short, this is why I think religion is a very good common ground for a marriage. If you two have that, then move to the step 2 in the process

2) Am I called to be his spouse?

Here I will think of whether I would care to sacrifice my happiness for my spouse. This is a decision I have to make. Not merely a feeling. Affection and desire have brought me to the point of making a choice. The choice is now mine to make. I will pray about it and arrive at my decision. At the same time, the other person has to do the same.

Basically, both of you will be considering whether each is called to marry the other. In other words, are each of you ready to sacrifice your happiness for the good of the other.

At this stage, you will answer the question "Can I do better if I wait". You accept that you might do better if you wait, but you decide to go with this person because you are the best person for him, you want to be there for him AND he feels the same.
If the answer is YES to the above, I would marry :)

If one of you does not feel the same, then definitely don't marry each other.

Please note, the above reasoning is assuming you have no impediments to marriage or other moral obligations to satisfy.

Also, the information in this article might be helpful to you as well.

ewtn.com/library/MARRIAGE/MORMAR.txt

God Bless :)

[/quote]

This is the best advice IMO. :thumbsup: To ivycath:

I 'm young and not married, but I feel like I can give some insight here (though ddarko seemed to cover most of it), If I were you, I would talk to your boyfriend about seriously discerning whether you two are called to be married or not. In order to do this, remove everything sensual from your lives for a while (hugs and light kisses are ok, IMO. Beyond that, don't do anything). Then pray, Pray, pray, pray. Pray. Go to Mass, say the Rosary, go to Confession, say Novena's, go to Mass. And have your boyfriend do the same thing. Marriage is one of the biggest decisions of your entire life; if made correctly, it could be the best decision of your entire life. If made incorrectly, it could lead to misery. Therefore, remove anything that blinds the decision making process. Become chaste while trying to figure this out (and afterwords too. Can't hurt :o). Pray and pray some more.
But do not go on a break (again, my opinion). I don't think you two need time apart, at least not in the form of a 6 month break. What you guys need, however, is time to think, independent of sensual influences that so often cloud the decision making process in relationships. So don't go on a break. Your boyfriend might be hurt and could lose some trust in you (or be confused. All this is my opinion). Don't put him through a waiting game. Make the decision to get married (or not) together, not separately. That is probably one of the most important things to do in this situation.

Good luck. If you need more advice, everyone here at the forums is willing to help :D


#10

Ivycath,

You're in a similar position as I was. I met my now husband when we were freshman in college. I had been on a couple of dates in high school, but nothing remotely serious. Still, I was pretty sure I wouldn't find anyone better than him. He is smart, handsome, Catholic, and very kind. But before we got engaged I remember have similar questions and fears: Am I really called to get married so young (23)? Do I really want to give up the possibility of being a nun? Of being a missionary? Of having a focused career? Can I see myself having kids so soon?

I did a novena which put a lot of these fears to rest. If you haven't tried that already, I'd recommend it. We also had several periods of a long-distance relationship, when I travelled abroad my junior year and a summer I spent abroad after college. Especially since you've formed some bad habits in your relationship, some distance might not be a bad idea.

All that said, I would have been really hurt if my husband had wanted to date other women before proposing to me, even though I knew he hadn't dated anyone before me. I think it's possible to get to know other people without dating them. In my case, I knew guys from college classes, I knew my husbands' college roommates and guys from his dorm, I had befriended enough other guys in college to feel confident that I wouldn't find a better guy than my now husband. There's nothing magical about the act of going on dates. There's nothing you can learn from going out to dinner with a guy that you can't learn from working on a school project or chatting with him after class or in the normal course of your life. If you really think this man is the one, I would caution against telling him you want to "try on" other guys just to be sure.

So where does this leave you? I think you need time, distance, space, but NOT other guys. If you're able to get away for a summer or a couple of months or even just a week retreat, I would do so. Make it a time of discernment and prayer and talking with trusted spiritual advisors. But discern marriage with one person at a time. It's not fair to ask your boyfriend to wait while you try to discern marriage with other guys too (which is what dating essentially is). Make it clear that your time apart is about him and praying about your future. If during that time you can't shake the feeling that there's something better out there, then make a clean break with your boyfriend and have no regrets.

God bless.


#11

I would strongly recommend the book The Exclamation: The Wise Choice of a Spouse for Catholic Marriage by Patricia Wrona.

This book helped me tremendously in the process of discernment with my boyfriend (now my fiance!) The author gives you a lot to think about and a lot of good advice, and you can take it and apply it to your situation. The best thing I learned was to rely on figuring out what God wants for me and looking at the big picture.

Also, I did end up taking a short break. Not a breakup, but a break from the relationship so that I could have some peace and distance. It lasted about a month, and gave me a lot of clarity. But the author suggests tactful, respectful, and sensitive ways to bring this up with your boyfriend/girlfriend- I really think you would find it a very helpful guide. :)


#12

Hey ivycath; it’s been a few days. How’re things going with you and your boyfriend? :slight_smile:


#13

Thanks for asking!

All of your advice was really helpful (I read "The Exclamation" in one sitting, for one thing), and has given me a lot to think about. Re: ddarko's two points: I think I'm clear on #1 and will need to decide on #2 pretty soon.

My boyfriend and I did decide to go on a break: not for six months, but for 60 days. We'll both be free to do what we think we need to do during that time (including go on dates with other people if that comes up) but we will meet at the end of the period and really talk about where we think our relationship is going, or if it is to be continued at all.

I plan to do a lot of thinking over this time period, as well as a LOT of focused prayer (I'd appreciate any of yours as well!). I'll let you all know how things turn out.


#14

Yes, please do keep us updated. I wish you two the best of luck over these next 60 days.


#15

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