We asked an expert to weigh in.
Friends star David Schwimmer and his wife Zoe Buckman recently announced that they’re taking a break from their relationship after six years of marriage.
"It is with great love, respect, and friendship that we have decided to take some time apart while we determine the future of our relationship," the couple told Us Weekly in a statement. "Our priority is, of course, our daughter's happiness and well being during this challenging time, and so we ask for your support and respect for our privacy as we continue to raise her together and navigate this new chapter for our family."
It’s interesting that the couple didn’t say they there were separating or divorcing—rather, they’re taking “some time apart” to figure things out. People do this when they’re dating (hello, David’s onscreen alter ego Ross famously did it with Rachel on Friends), but is this a good idea for marriage?
Licensed clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., author of Should I Stay or Should I Go?, says it really depends on the couple and their relationship. “Sometimes some distance can help people sort out complex feelings without feeling they are in a crucible, and frankly, in some cases, to find out if the grass is indeed greener,” she says. “But it really depends on the nature of the difficulties a relationship is having.” For example, Durvasula says a couple that feels they've stalled their careers for a relationship and want to spend more time exploring ways to find a balance may benefit from pressing pause on their marriage. However, if one person feels that the other is drifting away or engaging in a flirty relationship with someone else, Durvasula says it's not a good idea to take a break so the flirter could have a fling.
She also points out that a “break” is more likely to be effective if both people are on board with the idea vs. one person who is pushing for it. In that case, “it likely is not a great strategy,” she says. If only one person wants it, it could indicate that only one person calls the shots in the relationship, which is not good, she explains. It can also leave one person feeling as though they have to endure the break while the other person "gets his or her way." Taking a break could also result in the couple avoiding an issue that could be worked out instead of addressing it.
The couple should discuss the terms of the break, like whether or not it’s okay to date other people or sleep with someone else and whether there should be communication during the time off. But Durvasula says it’s a good idea to rope in a therapist who can help the couple see all the angles and potential ramifications of their decision. Like, you may think you’re totally cool with your partner dating someone else during your split, but with it comes the risk that they’ll fall for another person—and vice versa.
This isn’t a totally foreign concept though. Durvasula says she’s witnessed married couples taking breaks before and the results of that breather have gone both ways. However, she points out, “I have seen more couples who take a break decide to end the relationship.” There may be one perk, though: If you feel like you’re headed for divorce, and want to slowly ease into the idea, Durvasula says a break “may be a sort of ‘hyperbaric chamber’ where the couple gradually uncouples.”