The Truth about On-Again Off-Again Relationships

April 14, 2010

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Image by Flickr User: Ajda Gregorcic

I think it’s pretty safe to assume that during our time at BU, we have all come into contact with the emotional tornado associated with an on-again, off-again relationship. If you have not been in one, you probably know someone who has; thus, you probably have a good idea of the emotional toll that this romantic entanglement can take.

It is estimated that around 2/3 of all college students in the US have participated in an on-again off-again disaster.  Even though we know deep down that these relationships aren’t going to work, we consistently go back to them, fearing loneliness but hoping for change. Well, ladies and gents, I have revelation for you: the change ain’t comin.

According to University of Texas communications professor Rene Daily, couples regularly engaged in on-off relationships have more relational stress than stable couples. Shocking, I know. In college, this added stress could take a measurable toll on significant things like grades and friendships. Even the most patient friend can only listen to complaints of heartbreak over an on-again off-again relationship for so long. This friend has probably told you that you are better off without this person in question several times, and they are probably right. In many of these on-again off-again situations, the constant pursuit of this impossible relationship means that it is only a matter of time before you alienate those close to you. Think about it: have you ever been the friend who couldn’t stand listening any more?

My advice for those stuck in an on-off relationship is this: turn it OFF for good. Most of the time this involves making a clean break – no contact with this toxic person in any way. If you have mutual friends, make more one-on-one plans so that you can avoid group excursions. I’m sure these friends are as sick of this relationship as you are and will be willing to help you end it for good.  If you are on social networking sites, delete this person — no Facebook friendship or Twitter following allowed. Finally, delete their number off your cell phone. Remove all temptation to become on-again with your life.

For those of you who are waiting around for your partner to mature and change their ways: give up. No matter how hard you try, you cannot will another person to grow emotionally. You have to ask yourself, “is this relationship worth the emotional and physical toll that it is taking?” Consider why you are subjecting yourself to this roller coaster: are you mimicking a relationship that has influenced you in the past? Are you afraid of being alone? Do you feel as though no one else could feel romantic feelings for you?

If questions of self-esteem are at the core of your dilemma, you have to try to trust yourself. As someone who has been bitten by the on-off bug in the past, I can tell you that you will be much happier when the constant fighting and back and forth is out of your life. Yes, all break-ups suck, and for a time you will probably feel like hell but, once that is past you will probably be happier than you have been in a long while.

Relationship Facts from this post can be found at:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200803/domestic-drama-again-again

http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/122294921/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0