Relationship

On-and-off relationship: What it is & how to fix it!

Have you ever been in an on-again/off-again relationship, or are you currently stuck in one? Well, if your answer is Yes, then this article is for you. We will discuss what an on-and-off relationship is, what causes it, and if it ever works out.

Dating Expert Janet Smith September 28, 2022 • 9 minutes read
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When you’re in an on-off relationship, it can be tough to know what to do. On the one hand, you may really miss your partner when they’re not around. But on the other hand, you may feel like you’re better off without them. So how do you know which is the right decision? Read on to find out more about being in an on-off relationship.

Understanding relationships is the key to having successful ones. Read our in-depth guide to learn all about the different types of relationships, attachment styles, and how you can make them work for you.

What is an on-and-off relationship?

An on and off relationship is you and your partner break up for periods of time, but then you always geht back together. The actual length of time an on-and-off relationship lasts is unpredictable.

The length of time the partners are apart is called the “off” part of the “on-off” relationship. A reappearance by one partner asking to get back together is called an “on” or a “makeup.”

What causes an on-and-off relationship?

A person in an on-and-off relationship seems to have difficulty making decisions about the relationship. This can be seen as emotional immaturity, but it could also be that they decided too quickly before and now need the length of time apart to think about whether or not to stay with the partner.

There are many more possible causes why a couple is stuck in an off-again relationship. Here’s a list of common reasons why a relationship has an on-and-off nature:

1. Fear of commitment

It’s human nature to want to keep your options open. There are many ways commitment can be scary for some people. Some may fear the loss of identity if they fully commit or that something better might come along later.

People in on-off relationships may also fear the permanency of a single relationship. However, it’s possible that in some cases, one partner might be committed in a relationship while the other is not. In this case, a couple is in an on-and-off relationship due to a lack of commitment from one or both partners.

2. Fear of intimacy

People who avoid intimacy might find it easier to keep a relationship “undefined.” A person afraid of intimacy may not be able to deal with the emotions involved in an intimate relationship. Being fearful of such strong feelings, they might break up the couple temporarily so the intensity fades and they can return to their comfort zone.

3. Habit of breaking-up

Some people want closeness, but they also desire the freedom to do what they want when they want. Being with someone gives them less independence than being single does. If their partner tries to restrict them in any way, this can trigger the habitual behavior of breaking up.

4. Unhealthy couple dynamics

This is when one person has more power in their relationship and makes all decisions for both people. This is unhealthy because it can be abusive. Maybe one of the partners was abused in the past and is now using the same relationship dynamics to recreate that situation.

5. Trust issues

Trust issues can be a major problem any relationship. If a couple broke up in the past because their partner cheated, then they might have difficulty trusting them when they want them back. They could be afraid the same thing will happen again.

6. Different goals in life

Some people want different things out of life, and this can lead to disagreements, which lead to a breakup. This couple may get back together temporarily when they feel like they’re on the same path but then break up again when they disagree on the next step.

What are the issues with an on-and-off relationship?

On-and-Off relationships are not inherently a bad thing. However, some major issues come with cyclical relationships.They not only have a negative impact on the relationship quality. They also can take a toll on your mental health.

Here are the key issues with an on and off relationship:

1. You’ll feel insecure

It’s hard to build trust with someone who you know may leave you for good at any moment. The constant feeling of insecurity can take a toll on both partners, as they never truly get the opportunity to understand each other and experience peace.

This is a major issue that impairs couple bonding. Since the couple is in a constant state of insecurity, they never truly get to know each other.

2. On-and-off couples can’t create healthy couple dynamics

Since on-and-off couples are always on the verge of breaking up, they never get to experience closeness or intimacy. It’s also hard for them to learn how to fight fairly. Neither partner is able to truly get their needs met because the couple never gets a chance to fully commit.

Thus, on-and-off relationships can be an unhealthy relationship dynamic. It’s hard for partners to learn how to communicate and understand each other in this environment. That’s why so many couples therapists advocate that people in cyclical relationships need couple counseling.

3. Lack of couple bonding

Since on-and-off couples always break up and get back together, they never experience couple bonding. They miss out on the opportunity to truly understand each other. Furthermore, they can’t create rituals or habits that would help them bond even further.

To have a fulfilling couple relationship, you have to have couple bonding. It’s essential for couple happiness. Couple bonding creates a connection between partners, so they feel safe sharing their deepest thoughts, feelings, and fears with each other.

How healthy is an on-and-off relationship?

On-and-off relationships are anything but healthy. They not only have negative consequences on a couple’s happiness. They also impact the couple mentally.

Since on-and-off relationships are never consistent, neither partner gets to experience stability or safety with their partner. Since each time you break up, it feels like it could be for good, this takes a huge mental toll on both partners.

Can on-and-off relationships work?

Usually, on-and-off relationships don’t work out in the long run. There are two possible outcomes of an on-off relationship: Either you work it out and are able to have a committed relationship, or you will break up for good eventually.

Whatever the outcome might be, it’s important to break the on-and-off cycle. Hence it’s not good for your mental health.

Maybe there are people out there who are perfectly fine with having this type of relationship. However, the majority of people report that they are not satisfied with it.


How to get out of an on-and-off relationship

It is important to break the cycle of breaking up and getting together again with your partner. That’s easier said than done. You might feel like it’s a never-ending cycle that you can’t escape. You’re wrong. It is possible to get out of this type of toxic relationship.

Ending the on-and-off relationship must not mean breaking up with your partner. It also can mean that you work it out together and have a functioning relationship.

Here is some relationship advice on how to break the toxic on-and-off cycle and have a healthy relationship.

1. You have to want it

First, you have to make up your mind. Are you okay with having this type of relationship forever? If not, make a decision. Know that ending the on-and-off cycle takes hard work and commitment. You need both partners to be willing to put in effort in order for it to work out.

If one of the partners isn’t committed to making this relationship work, it won’t. You need both people to feel safe and secure with each other in order for you to be healthy as a couple.

2. Don’t make impulsive decisions

When you break up, stay away from your partner for at least two days. This might be hard to do, but it’s very important. Before getting back together with your partner after a couple of days, it is recommended to give both of yourselves some space.

Impulsive decisions are never good in any relationship. They only make the couple’s relationship more complicated.

3. What leads you to always get back to your partner?

Think about what makes you break up with your partner. What makes you want to go back? When both of you take a couple’s inventory, it will be easier to understand why your relationship is an on-and-off couple.

This might be the first time the couple talks about this issue and breaks the cycle once and for all.

Having an on-and-off couple is nothing to be ashamed of as it’s a common relationship type. However, you don’t want it to become toxic and put a strain on your mental health and well-being. Just because it happens often doesn’t mean that we should just accept on-and-off relationships without first trying to understand why it happens.

4. Get couple counseling

If you can’t seem to work it out on your own, it might be a good idea to seek professional help. It is also a good sign if you are willing to take the step to go to therapy. It shows that you are both serious about ending the cycle for good.

Couple counseling can help you understand each other better and work out your couple issues. Not only is couple therapy useful for couples who intend to stay together, but also for those who aren’t sure whether their relationship is worth working on or not anymore.

It will give you insight into how to make things better for both of you. Whether it will work out or not, couple therapy is a good step to ending the toxic cycle once and for all.


Secrets to a healthy relationship: Books every couple should read

It's no secret that a healthy relationship is key in a long-lasting and fulfilling relationship. This list of books about healthy relationships will help you learn how to communicate better, resolve conflict, and deepen your connection. From classic self-help books to more modern reads, these titles will give you the tools you need to build a strong and healthy relationship.

  1. Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships
  2. Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of Every Healthy Relationship
  3. Love More, Fight Less: Communication Skills Every Couple Needs: A Relationship Workbook for Couples
  4. Infidelity Recovery Workbook for Couples: Tools and Exercises to Rebuild Your Relationship
  5. Healthy Me, Healthy Us: Your Relationships Are Only as Strong as You Are
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Dating Expert

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a freelance writer who writes about psychology, relationships, and dating. She has always been interested in understanding the human brain and how it affects our …

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