Why on and off relationships are bad for you

A couple reconnects
A couple reconnects

Making a relationship work is hard work. And it takes more than chemistry, attraction and common interests to keep it going. 

The worst kind of relationships to find yourself in though, is the kind that saps all the energy out of you, yet one that you keep coming back to.

The make-up-and-break-up cycle.  

READ MORE: Could you be (s)mothering your partner?

Many of us have been there. Whether you're in a relationship you just keep going back to, or whether you're the concerned onlooker who can see it's negative effects on you. 

And it turns out that your long-suffering friend may be right in, in advising you to call it quits. A new study reveals that the cycle of breaking up and making up is actually really bad for you, according to The Cut.

Being in a relationship that you keep coming back to not only means you often get stuck in a constant state of uncertainty. The mark of a good relationship is not just about good communication, but also about how that drives stability in a relationship.

The constant upkeep of making something that’s broken work the way it used to isn’t healthy and doesn’t necessarily yield the same results. Spending excess energy on going back to a relationship that has already shown you that it’s not going to work is like flogging a dead horse.

And while this may seem a bit obvious, what studies have revealed is that the constant emotional and physical emotional whiplash has a negative impact on any future relationships you may have. 

Although an article on HuffPost makes a fair case for relationship cycling, bringing home points that having gone through so much you don’t have to start from the beginning again, and that you’ve seen your partner at their worst, it doesn’t take into account that when you finally break away from that relationship, the chances for jeopardising your new relationship is so much higher.

READ MORE:4 stories that might make you want to break up with your toxic partner

Not only does being in a new relationship after bouncing back from being in one that was a constant cycle of yo-yoing mean you’re less likely to invest your time and effort into making it work for the long-term haul, but it also has a damaging effect on your mental health, and could lead to higher instances of anxiety and depression, Bustle.com reports. 

You’re constantly caught in an in-between of wanting to make things work and wanting to break away.

We’re not saying that break-up-and-make-up relationships won’t ever work out, but if you do find yourself spending more time getting back together instead of really taking the time to work things out, it might be better for everyone in the long run, to just make a clean break. 

Because the more time you spend in a wash-rinse-repeat cycle, the more it also plays a damaging role in how you approach your future relationships.

But what do experts say? 

We spoke to relationship expert and author of Embracing Conflict Paula Quinsee and asked what makes breaking up and constantly making up so unhealthy.

She says that the constant back and forth causes a lot of uncertainty and leads to people avoiding facing up to the truth.

“Constantly breaking up and making up can impact a person’s level of emotional stability and wellbeing. Relationships also have an emotional attachment. Oftentimes our partner fulfils void for us that stems from childhood and it plays out in our adulthood and adult relationships. 

When we are constantly breaking up and making up this shows that there is doubt and uncertainty, possibly that we aren’t abiding by our own truth or what we want and need in a relationship as we’ve made it all about our partner. 

This is unsustainable and eventually leads to resentment. Some of the reasons why we keep going back to our ex is familiarity, afraid of being alone and being co-dependent on our partners.”

Is it possible to make a relationship that constantly yo-yos between being on and off actually work?

Paula says that it’s best to remember that you broke up for a reason in the first place, and unless you are both willing to compromise on issues that have previously resulted in the break up, the reasons for your break-up will still be there.

Not only that, but they’ll keep “cropping up time and time again.”

“If you’re going back to your ex be sure you know:

why you are going back into the relationship, 
how the relationship is adding value to your life (i.e. uplifting, nurturing, positive etc) 
how you are contributing to the relationship and what you are expecting. 

Yes, at times we make a mistake and going back can be better than before but always remember the reasons why you broke up in the first place and ask yourself: have those issues really been resolved?” 

READ MORE: Obsessing over your partner's past is not their issue and may be a form of your own OCD

If you’re in a break up and make up spiral, how do you get out of the cycle once and for all?

It sounds trite to say this, but in life breakups are often inevitable. They’re hard, they’re painful and can be messy. Paula says the first key to stopping the cycle is to acknowledge this.

“We need to understand that breakups are never going to be easy, we can’t pretend that person and part of our lives never existed.” 

She adds a few additional tips:

Give yourself time and space – ending a relationship is similar to a death
Remember that everyone deals with the death of a relationship differently
Don’t jump into a new relationship
Seek help from a therapist or counsellor if you need it
Cut ties with your ex until you feel you can be acknowledge the role they played in your life in a positive manner
Keep the good memories, but ditch the rest
Learn and grow from your experience so that you can approach your next relationship differently next time.

Lastly, remember that “putting boundaries down is showing respect for yourself. It shows you (and others) that you value yourself and that your needs are just as important. So do what’s right for you to move forward.”

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