What to do with an on-and-off relationship

What to do with an on-and-off relationship

So, in an ideal world, you enter into a relationship with somebody and stay together for the time being, through good times and hardship. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. On-and-off relationships are common, perhaps not defined by any other term — people break up, people move, people find other people. Then they get back together. Then, maybe, break up again. There is a multitude of reasons why this happens. Let’s talk about what to do if you find yourself in this kind of situation and whether an on-and-off relationship is doing you more harm than good.

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The highs and the lows

Much like being on a rollercoaster, a relationship that is constantly changing, ending, and beginning again gives you adrenaline and feelings of reward. You crave the good times when you’re not together, and when everything is good you keep wondering when that next fallout is going to come. Be honest with yourself: do you need this kind of emotional instability in your life? Or would you be better off with something more consistent, even if that consistency comes from being alone? Only you can answer this for yourself — no judgment here.

Check out our article on how to get over an ex.

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No clarity on future

Should you move on or wait until you get back together with your partner? Good question. Perhaps this is what’s keeping you stuck: the inability to go out there and meet someone new because the person you’re on and off with is keeping you tied to them emotionally. Of course, you find it hard to get over the situation — who wouldn’t? If the lack of clarity is no big deal to you, that is totally fine. But if you’d like to plan your love life a bit ahead or at least be aware of what’s going on — an on-and-off relationship is certainly ruining your chances of getting it together.

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Your friends & family

There’s no feeling worse than getting back together with someone after you’ve just spent days complaining about to your best friends. First of all, it’s awkward. Second of all, they’re much less likely to support you the next time this happens. Lastly, you’re making it seem like you don’t know what you want. So, an on-and-off relationship might not just be confusing — it’s an isolating experience, too. Does support from your loved ones matter to you when being in a relationship? If your answer is yes, then it’s best to leave it at that.

Is it consensual on-and-off?

Okay, let’s get real here: is your on-and-off situation actually mutually beneficial, or is it just the person breaking up and wanting to get back together with you all the time, and you going along with it? If that’s the case, your relationship is not entirely consensual — your boundaries are constantly being crossed, and you can’t help but feel disrespected and like you’re doing all of the emotional labor for both of you. And why would you want to be with someone who puts you through something you didn’t agree to? Isn’t it better to go out there and find something new? 

If you need help with getting back out there, check out this article.

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We get the appeal

We understand why on-and-off relationships happen — we really do. In a world full of constant change, people’s options are endless (though it’s an illusion) and no one knows what they want, of course it’s normal to get caught up in a situation that goes through different phases, breakups included. Or maybe it’s you who doesn’t know what you want — that is okay, too. But we must remember that we don’t have to be perfect to have good and fulfilling relationships. Each connection is hard work that requires effort, self-awareness, and communication. So keeping one foot out of the door and the other in a relationship probably isn’t something any of us should do. Who does it benefit, really? If you want to explore, stay single or date casually. If you want to be in a committed relationship, then pursue it with an understanding of the responsibilities that come with it. As simple as that.

We’re not opposed to on-and-off relationships. But as far as we can see, it’s not the healthiest option for most. There’s nothing wrong with being single and there’s nothing wrong with being committed to someone. Trying to stay in the middle, though, can be harmful to both parties. We know you want to have your cake and eat it too! And there are other, much better ways to do that.

Valerie Estrina


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