There are few sentences that doom a relationship as much as "Let's take a break." It's almost like saying, "We're on the way out, but neither of us wants to let go, so let's just do this painfully and slowly." It's like clinging to flotsam after a shipwreck in the middle of the ocean, knowing you'll likely drown but being unable to give up. Except, in the case of the relationship, instead of sinking slowly into a watery grave, you just get sad for a while and then date someone else.
So people know that, even if the idea of the "break" has the best intentions, the odds that it won't just turn into a full-on break up are certainly stacked against you. Here are five reasons he's probably asking for one:
1. This is his way of breaking up without being too harsh.
This is almost always why a "break" is proposed. He's probably a good guy, but he's also too cowardly to tell you he doesn't want to see you anymore. Typically, the relationship was amazing at one point, and you were deeply in love, maybe even unhealthily codependent. He wants to get out but feels awful being the one to end things, even if it's the right thing to do in the long-term. If you suspect that's what's going on, ask him to be real with you. It'll be way less awful than dragging through months of long talks and confusion when he's already made up his mind.
2. He wants to have sex with someone else.
If you're on a break, and he has sex with someone else, he technically didn't cheat and then you can still get back together. This is a pretty garbage reason to ask for a break. Granted, this is 2016 and some people can successfully navigate an open relationship, and if you want to bang other people too, then maybe you'll be down for this. "I have so many people I wanted to bang," you'll say. "Look at this bang list. I need to get started." And then the two of you high-five and everything works out, and I guess you're both soul mates because you both have a "bang list" apparently and aren't deterred by your partner possessing a similar bang list.
But if open relationships aren't your thing, then this is his way of sneaking in a free pass. If there's some woman he's been hanging out with and he suddenly asks for a break out of the blue, you can tell him, "The only break you're getting is a breakup. With me. I'm breaking up with you." Maybe don't say that, but just break up with him.
3. He really actually needs to reevaluate your relationship.
It's not necessarily a great sign, but he might really want to take a constructive look at your relationship and take some distance for a few weeks. The relationship might've once been great but now feels stagnant. He might feel like he's at a crossroads where he needs to figure out if he wants to spend the rest of his life with you or not. His intentions are good, but if he has to do this in the first place (or more specifically, if he feels he has to do this), then it's time for you both to really look at your relationship and at what needs changing. Are those things worth changing, or are they worth breaking up over? Can you come back from a "break"? Sure. But you both have to really want to work at it if you don't want it to be your death sentence. It's way too easy to think, Single life isn't so bad and I'm comfortable here, now.
4. He needs a few weeks of peace and quiet.
Maybe he's not the best with words and "break" isn't the most accurate term. He could have some major finals or a huge crunch at work, and doesn't want any distractions. He could really just be looking for some space. If he's stressed and he's the kind of person that needs to focus on one thing at a time, you'll both feel better in the long run if you give him that space. He probably knows he's going to snap at you for little things, or act distant, and he doesn't want to feel guilted into spending time with you when he knows he should be devoting it somewhere else. In all fairness, he probably should have said "me time" instead, but hey, this isn't the worst possible outcome on this list.
5. This is some kind of "relationship test."
He wants to see if you'll say yes to the break because that would somehow mean you're not committed to the relationship. Some people are just so insecure that they feel compelled to play mind games. Maybe he's afraid of losing you. Maybe he thinks, She's going to break up with me, so I should break up with her first. Maybe he's a sociopath. Maybe he read it on some website on the Internet (who would do that?). I don't know, some people are crazy and play weird mind games. Don't bother with anyone who does this.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.