Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I just recently stopped a courtship of almost two years. We had become the best of friends, and I have always been able to picture us spending the rest of our lives together.
However, I felt that the two of us had become overly dependent on each other, to the point where it was practically impossible for us to grow in areas we needed to individually. His need to grow to become more independent can be better developed with less of him being attached to me. Likewise, I need some time to deal with personal issues and overcome them myself.
The other reason I wanted us to take a break is to make sure that I felt he was "the one" I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, without any hesitations or doubts.
So given these two reasons, I've put things on hold, and we've agreed not to talk. Should we not communicate until I feel ready to commit completely? Or should we maintain contact while agreeing to set useful limits?
Please help, because I feel torn about this.
We think that you had very good reasons for breaking up. Each of you needs to feel comfortable with your own personal development before you are ready to make a commitment to each other. At the same time, it seems that you both care about each other and hope that you will get back together after each of you gains some clarity. For that reason a complete break might not be the most productive.
We often recommend a "dating diet" for couples who have "overdosed" on each other and not allowed themselves enough personal space. The "diet" involves seeing each other only once or twice a week, and limiting phone calls and emails during the times they are apart. This allows each person to pursue their own interests, cultivate friendships, take care of day-to-day affairs, and maintain their independence. This can continue for a few months, and you can reassess the situation at that time.
When we recommend this, some people ask us, "If we are going to end up marrying each other anyway, won't we be together constantly? What good will your suggestion do?"
Our answer is two-fold. First, married people are not together 24/7, and a good part of the first year of marriage involves learning how to balance each person's independence with the new identity as a married couple.
Second, courtship is very intense emotionally, and the two people involved need a great deal of personal time and space to allow themselves to process all that is going on. When they are together too much, they don't allow this process to occur.
In addition, in your own case, as with many other couples, there is another component: Each of you needs to be sure that you are being true to your own value systems and aspirations for the future. You want to make sure that you are right for each other, rather than changing your values or goals in order to accommodate the other -- and then regretting it in the future.
If you don't think our suggestion is practical (i.e. your emotional attraction will make it too difficult to keep to the guidelines), then we recommend making a clean break. Allow yourselves to pursue your independent development, and get back together in six months to see where each of you is holding. At that point you can decide whether to renew your courtship, to take more time, or pursue different directions in life.
Wishing you the best,
Rosie & Sherry