How To Break The Cycle Of An On-Again, Off-Again Relationship, According To Experts
One of the most exhausting relationships you can ever be in is a never ending on-again and off-again relationship. Otherwise known as a yo-yo relationship, the situation usually consists of one indecisive person that's sometimes in and sometimes out, when it comes to commitment. It's that one relationship that never feels like it's completely done because you somehow always find a way to come back together, even if it's for a short period of time. On-again, off-again relationships happen all the time, and experts say there's a psychology behind why these types of relationships are hard to quit.
"We stay in push-pull, on-off, good-bad relationships primarily due to a behavioral dynamic called intermittent reinforcement," psychotherapist, Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW, tells Bustle.
According to Koenig, this process occurs when we sometimes get a reward and sometimes don’t. "We stay in or return to relationships hoping that we’ll get the reward (i.e. the good behavior) and not the pain (i.e. the bad behavior). In fact, intermittent reinforcement is as strong as ongoing positive reinforcement because it is based on the hope of receiving pleasure."
Basically, if someone is nice to us one day and not so nice the next, we tend to stay right where we are because we hope they'll continue to treat us well. That being said, being in an on-again, off-again relationship might not leave you better off, especially if you're hoping that a long-term, committed relationship will come out of it. So if you're stuck in the endless on-again, off-again cycle of a yo-yo relationship, here are ways experts say you can finally break out.
1. Start Writing In A Journal
The best way to break the chain is to first start writing in a journal. As Anna Morgenstern, Dating and Relationship Coach, tells Bustle, write out exactly why each breakup happened, and write about how that made you feel. After, write out your dream relationship and about your dream partner who makes you feel loved and safe. "Compare these two writing assignments and see if this person you've been on and off with can fulfill your needs," Morgenstern says. "If you realize they cannot, make a conscious decision to end things once and for all." Basically, it's about knowing you deserve better than what your on-again, off-again situation can give you.
2. Hit "Delete" On Everything That Reminds You Of Them
There are many reasons why people stay in on-again, off-again relationships. But according to Morgenstern, these relationships never tend to really work out in the long-term because the reason for each breakup is usually the same. These conflicts don't typically get resolved because what people want doesn't always change, she says. So, if the reason you keep breaking up is because they are constantly choosing their friends over you, that reason will likely always be there. If that's the case and you really don't think you can live with it, hit delete. Get rid of their number, unfriend and unfollow on social media, and delete all their photos from your phone. "You have to make a clean break," Morgenstern says.
3. Get A Little Help From Your Friends
If you've been in an ongoing yo-yo cycle for a while, chances are, your friends know. If you need help keeping away, Morgenstern says, ask a close friend to keep you accountable. Let them know you are "going cold turkey" and to make sure you don't fall off the wagon — again.
"Remember that there is someone out there who will fulfill your requirements for a relationship," she says. "Believe that you deserve the best and it will happen."
4. Be Open To A Game-Changing Epiphany
An epiphany is something that you’ve never realized or disclosed before. According to Murray, we have epiphanies all the time. These are things that tell us when to stay and when to let go, especially when it comes to our relationships. "If you’re going back time and again to a relationship that’s not working, you’re on deck for an epiphany that changes the game for you," she says. "Chances are it’s happening, you just may not be aware of it because we tend to remain closed off when we’re not ready for change." So be open to the signs and realizations that your relationship really isn't giving you what you deserve. After, don't be afraid of change.
5. Take Ownership Of Your Mistakes Without Judgment
Getting mad at the other person is unproductive and might just keep you engaged in the drama of a yo-yo relationship, Murray says. We can also get mad at ourselves for staying too long and falling into the same trap, but that’s also unproductive. Instead, the most productive way to use our emotions is for growth. "That involves taking an honest, but non-judgmental account of our role in the relationship and own our mistakes," she says. "That way, we’ll be less likely to make them again."
6. Identify And Change Any Limiting Beliefs You May Have
"If we don’t believe the love we want is out there, we’ll never find it," Murray says. According to her, we are prone towards those self-fulfilling prophecies. That's why it’s so critical to understand our beliefs and how they’re defining and derailing us in love.
As you probably know, many of the beliefs we use to make decisions as adults were given to us from childhood experiences. But as she says, not only are these outdated belief systems not serving us, but they’re also not necessarily true. "The good news is we can change our beliefs, but only once we understand what they are," Murray says. "Once we do both, can we break free from love that’s not serving us and move forward to find love that will." Practicing meditation is one great way to get rid of those self-limiting beliefs.
7. Know Yourself And Know Your Partner
People sometimes get into these kinds of relationships because they hope things will finally change. They hope their partner will have that epiphany moment and realize it's time to settle down. While the fairytale may happen for some, it doesn't happen for all.
"For those in a yo-yo relationship that want out, the best way to break out is to really know who you are as a person, know what you want, know what you deserve and realize that you have control of the situation and it is up to you to put an end to it by saying enough is enough," Jane Reardon, licensed therapist and founder of RxBreakup app, tells Bustle.
According to Reardon, these relationships don’t typically pay off because it’s a rotation of taking someone back who is just not that into you or not willing to make the necessary changes to be with you.
Again, every situation is different. Some people may end up together after so many times and some people will move on and find someone better. Leaving an on-again, off-again relationship has nothing to do with how much you love the person. It's about leaving a situation that won't make you happy in the end. The good news is, if you're finally ready to cut the cord, there are ways you can do it so you can move on with your life.