No roller coaster ride could ever prepare you for the roller coaster ride that is an off-and-off relationship. The emotional highs and very low lows could make even the sanest and and most logical person feel like they’re losing their mind. Why would anyone put themselves through the instability that the on-and off relationship readily invites? The answer is not that simple, but it involves being completely blinded by love, to the point where you're unable to see any warning signs or any red flags. It's incredibly hard to simply let go.
I, personally, went into my relationship with love and with the best of intentions. It's not that I didn't or don't have respect for myself; it's not about that, it's that love is complicated and the comfort and exhilaration that loving feeling emits is unmatched by anything else I've ever experienced. Seriously, who would want to give that feeling up, even with the heartache that it brings with it? I mean, isn't that, to some degree, part and parcel to this dirty and messy thing called love?
No one goes into a relationship thinking that it's going to emotionally unhinge them. Nor does anyone go into a relationship thinking it's going to be one that is on-and-off. The high when you're together is exhilarating, but when it all falls apart you're left to pick up the shattered pieces through the tears that won't stop flowing. It's not healthy. It takes a lot of courage and the ignoring of any and all thought and feeling to jump off this ride.
Despite all of this, it's somewhat comforting to know that I am not alone in experiencing this whirlwind. According to a 2009 study published in Personal Relationships, it's estimated that over 60 percent of people have at one time experienced the typical trajectory that is commonly associated with an on-and-off relationship. According to the study, on-and-off relationships are characterized as relationships that take on a cyclical form or pattern, which includes a making up, then breaking up, and then making up again. This leaves you both running around in circles chasing each other. Hurt feelings, stress, passion, and loss are all part of this established routine. The on-and-off relationship can be thought of as a sort of addiction, where you're unable to rid yourself of a relationship that hurts so good.
"A couple can get clearer about why they broke up, work at those reasons, and get stronger and healthier for it," Dr. Martha Tara Lee, D.H.S. Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching, tells Bustle. "They have had the experience of feeling into being a couple, and also as an individual without their partner. As such, they are more likely to be realistic about their relationship, and their expectations from it."
On the other hand, they can just simply be bad for not only your mental health, but you may get yourself caught in a cycle that's tough to get out of. "A couple who have a persistent on-off relationship might be caught in such a cycle because they actually do not know have the skills to make the relationship better after each breakup," Dr. Lee says. "There could be fundamental issues or what can be considered dealbreakers that cannot be resolved — their inability to manage their temper; their unwillingness to change or compromise; religion; finances. There might also be a mismatch in relationship expectations which cannot be resolved from more than "giving it time."
My personal experiences with an on-and-off relationship trend towards the negative, but that doesn't mean that every on-and-off relationship will be that way, in fact, it may even bring a couple closer together. If there is anything I’ve learned from being in an on-and-off long term relationship, it’s this: The love and desire you have for each other is great and for some time it can beat out all that other bad stuff, but unfortunately, love is not enough. Here are eight things I’ve learned from being in an on-and-off long-term relationship.
1. The Red Flags Are There From Day One (Whether Or Not You See Them Or Not)
Like my mother always said, if it’s not wonderful from day one, then it really doesn’t really get better. It took me five years, a lot of tears and blinded love to realize that she was right all along. Sure there are people who have been in long term on-and-off relationships for years and it has seemingly brought them closer together, but for me, it seems that the on-and-off nature of the relationship is simply delaying the inevitable: that you're not right for each other.
For me, the red flags of my past long term on-and-off relationship were there from day one. Unfortunately though, there was always a cloud over the relationship because of our harsh beginning that we were never truly able to overcome despite the love and undying desire we both had, and still have for each other.
2. You Know If It’s Right Sooner Rather Than Later
It is a commonly held belief that when you meet someone, you kind of know, to some extent, if they’re the right one for you. It's not absolute, but more often than not, you just know that this person is right for you; whether it works out in the long-term is another story. That being said, when I first met my significant other, I did not think he was the one. Sure we fell in love and we both wanted it to work, and I do admit that at one point I did see myself being with him for the long run, but I always felt that deep in the pit of my gut that it was never truly right. I stayed with him in the hope that it would change because I cared so deeply about him.
3. Love Is Not Enough
Movies and fairytales make us believe that love will help you to weather the storm, but unfortunately, in real life, you need more than just love. You need respect, common ground, trust, communication, willingness to compromise, and so much more.
4. Nothing Is Worth The Amount Of Stress
Every so often, I knew that it was coming, the breakup, and sure enough, it did. And then the crying came, and the chant of, "I will never hear from him again, it's over," and then sure enough, a week would pass and we would get back together. It was a horrible feeling. While all relationships take work, it shouldn't be the type of work that has affects you emotionally, mentally, and physically.
5. You Learn A Lot About What You Need
As with the end of any relationship, you learn a lot about yourself and your limits, and how much you can emotionally handle before you break. When in an on-and-off long term relationship you learn about what you will sacrifice and compromise over and what you will not. You will learn what you like and what you don’t. Though you can argue that you can learn these things from any relationship, especially when it ends, a long term on-and-off relationship can really allow you to delve deeper into yourself and what you really want from another person. You are constantly faced with adversity and realize just how far you will go for love. You shouldn’t ever have to bend that far, over, and over again.
6. Sex Can't Fix It
Sometimes the sex can be so great for so long that it becomes a sort of excuse to keep the relationship going. The emotional and physical blow of the on-and-off part can be softened by the make-up and breakup sex. Great sex can blind you, but at the end of the day, it is not enough to sustain a relationship.
7. Your Relationship Issues Never Truly Dissipate
It's totally normal to have some issues in any relationship; you and your partner can't always agree on everything and seeing eye-to-eye on some things can be difficult. That being said, there are some serious issues like trust and core beliefs that can you can work on, but I will say from experience, that these issues never truly dissipate. If these things are issues in the beginning, it may not get better.
With my own relationship, my ex and I continuously butted heads over the fact that he just was not comfortable around my family and wanted to spend the least amount of time possible with them. His excuse was that he was always like that. This was an issue that we just could not overcome from the very start to the very end.
Regardless of the type of relationship you're in, whether it's on-and-off, on, or something in between, you deserve to be happy. You deserve a person who decisively wants to be with you, and who knows that you're right for them.