How does one steer away from the pain and drudgery of an on and off again relationship?

How can you bring an end to this “Groundhog Day” type of cycle that too frequently plagues couples?

Ending such a destructive, seemingly endless relationship loop requires more than just a few words of advice.

I often get these questions from women and men who describe their marriage or relationship as a mind numbing series of ups and downs.

It is as if they are on a relationship roller coaster ride.

They want to know how they can stop the madness of fussing, fighting, and breaking up; followed later by regrets, apologies, and reconciliation.  Only to be repeated again down the road.

on and off romance

I guess, the movie “Groundhog Day” is indeed a good analogy because after the 3rd or 4th time of calling it quits with your boyfriend (or girlfriend), a certain feeling of futility can sweep over you.

You begin to wonder, “Why am I even doing this? Is this guy or girl really worth it?”

I once spoke with a woman whose lover had threatened to abandon her yet again after a particularly angry exchange.  The emotions were running high.  They both understood the folly of their ways.  But it was as if they could not help themselves.

In the back of their minds they knew that the breakup wouldn’t last long, nevertheless they went through it anyway.

It is like that “long winding road” we hear about in the song.  My client was drawing close to calling it quits for good.

She was certain her marriage was broken and wondering whether it was worth starting over.  By the way, I wrote about this in the following post.  Give it a look!

When she reached out to me, she wanted to know how she and her husband could quickly end this maddening circle of futility, once and for all.

I told her that it really would be necessary to discuss the entirety of their relationship and both of them would need to embrace a new way of dealing with conflict.

She insisted she would do all those things and was committed to breaking the on and off relationship pattern.  But she stated that she really needed something to work with, right then.  She explained that she was at her wits end and just needed something to believe in.

So I explained, “if you want the fast answer“, though I told her to remember that any advice wrapped into one sentence is wholly incomplete, “then you should consider getting your husband to see you in a different light. Right now he sees you as always available to him, even if the two of you are temporarily split up.”

try not being too available to your man

So I sought to work with her to see the bigger picture of how each of them were rewarding undesirable behavior through their regular antics of splitting up, then getting back together again.

You see, when you really break it down, there is an entire process one should go through before one even attempts to get back with their Ex.

First, one should be asking whether it is really in their best interests to get back with a husband or boyfriend, given the on and off again track record that may be unfolding.

Let’s assume you are in this kind of situation with your lover.

What if the two of you have had numerous breakups during the course of your relationship, to the extent that it has become the norm?

By most definitions, that would be a dysfunctional marriage or relationship.

So what does that point to and how does one go about stopping this kind of relationship busting behavior?

How does one break the cycle of being happily in love to the extent you cannot stand to be apart.  Then later find yourselves in a place where you want nothing to do with the other.

I have to be honest with you.   Ending such a cycle in which problems consistently bubble up causing the relationship to collapse can be tough, particularly if the two of you have been caught up in such a cycle for a significant period of time.

Before we move on, let me call your attention to an article I wrote about some things you can do to make your marriage work a lot better….

Curiously, some couples caught up in this maelstrom of an on and off again romance seem to be driven to repeat the breakup behavior over and over again.

It almost becomes part of the fabric of their relationship.

It certainly is not a healthy way to create a vibrant and fulfilling marriage.  In such a relationship,  no sooner do they tell each other that its “all over”, than they in turn will start plotting ways to be together again.

There is a reason for this, which we will get too soon.

Hence, sometimes with these serial on and off again romances, you get this obsessive desire and focus to get your ex lover back just as fast as could be reasonably expected.

Except, with such a mindset, reason is usually clouded.  And the mind is often influenced by the chemicals of addiction.

How To Get My Ex Husband Back Fast?

This is one of the most asked questions I get here on the site.

Increasingly, it seems we live in a society where everyone wants to do everything fast.

People who have parted ways with their ex husband or boyfriend are often very eager to get back together again.

Of course, by now, if you have been a regular reader of this site, you probably understand that there are chemical forces (i.e. neurotransmitters) operating within your brain that causes you to succumb to this addictive wish.

I talk about this phenomenon in the post below.

If you are the one who was dumped, it is likely that all you can think about is how to patch things up as quickly as possible.

While you may not realize it, as these thoughts fly through your mind, the chemical neurotransmitters, which influence love and attraction, are looking for a boost.

When you are in the arms of your husband or lover, dopamine and other chemicals roam freely and bathe you with pleasurable sensations.

Now that your ex is out of our life, you are running at a deficit. Your body is craving for something that you are now deprived.

What was once something you were long accustomed to, without even realizing it, is now missing.  Indeed, you will be in some form of withdrawal as the reward center in your brain cries out for its chemical fix.

Hence, being dumped can lead to addictive behaviors and it is not entirely all your fault.  Evolution has a big say in how your respond to such a situation.  Eventually, it all plays out and your mind and body achieves a balance.  But that also takes time.

And understanding all of this can help you with managing your feelings and better deal with your addictive relationship related emotions and behaviors.

How Do Lovers End Up Dumping Their Partner?

reasons for dumping an ex

Speaking of how people get dumped in a relationship, I think it is important to stop and evaluate what might be going on behind the scenes.  Gaining some insight into the mind of your husband or your ex may help you better frame a strategy going forward.

What clues might there be in how he went about breaking up with you?

In a study conducted by Collins and Gillath, which was published in the Journal of Research in Personality, seven breakup techniques were identified.  

Knowing where your lover may be coming from, can help you with where they may be going and what your prospects are for potentially getting the relationship back on track.

Before going forward, there are two thing I wish to emphasize.

Relationships that don’t operate in truth about the important things, struggle with remaining intact.  And relationships that are not bounded together through mutual values ultimately will struggle.  

Hang on to those two thoughts as they will serve you well.  

So what are these 7 approaches people use in breaking up?

reason why people dump their lovers

  1. Your Ex just increasingly ignores you.  You usually get a taste of what might be coming.  Certain things are said or not said.  You begin noticing your husband’s detachment from the things you use to do together. It can take the form of a gradual decline or it can be a total shutdown.  “Ghosting” would be an example of your Ex breaking it off, cold turkey.  In this type of situation, your lover will suddenly treat you like you are a ghost…like you don’t even exist.  You hear nothing from them.   They walk out of your life, never to be heard from again. More often, this only lasts for a short duration.  But truly being “ghosted” entails never hearing from your ex again. 
  2. Your Ex plays the “Self Blame Card”.  The breakup, by their admission, is “all their fault”.  They explain nothing is wrong at all with what you contributed to the relationship. Rarely is this true. 
  3. Your Ex openly confronts you with their genuine feelings and why they wish to breakup.  There is usually some uncertainty in the “air”.  In this case, whether you agree or not, your Ex honestly tells you why they wish to bring an end to the relationship.
  4. Your Ex plays “Bad Cop”.  They deliberately pick fights and become mean spirited to encourage you to break it off. This is kind of a cowardly way of dealing with a dysfunctional relationship.  Yet, some people are uncomfortable with laying bare their feelings, so they will resort to tricks to blow things up.
  5. Your Ex uses the “Underhanded 3rd Party Tactic”. In this scenario your ex orchestrates a breakup through a 3rd party.  They tell this other individual about their wish to break up, in the hope that the word gets back to you.  
  6. Your Ex uses the “Coward’s Digital Play”. With the frequency in which texting and social media is used in people’s lives, it is not too surprising that some people take a very non confrontational approach and break up with their partner via a text, email, or status change on Facebook.
  7. Your Ex uses a “Vague De-escalation Method”.  This tactic is a close cousin to the non-confrontational approach.  Your Ex might tell you something vague like they need a “timeout” or a “break”.  They might blame it on some other non related event.  The point, though, is that they are looking for a way to escape the relationship, again avoiding the more desired truth telling.

Of the 7 ways in which an Ex can choose to bring a relationship to it’s end, number 3 is generally believed to be the best way to receive the news. Though receiving such news is never easy to digest. 

Sure, it  hurts like hell to hear something negative about yourself and why the other party prefers if the relationship ends. 

But at least, if you believe you are getting an honest explanation, you have something to work with.  

And let me offer a little insight!  

Just because your Ex tells you why they are breaking up with you, does not necessarily mean they are fully in touch with their true feelings.  

They may not really know what they want.  In addition, (and this is important) your husband or boyfriend is usually framing everything from their perspective, not yours.  There is very likely a number of things that he has done that has contributed to the struggle.

Indeed, you may have been the better partner in the relationship, investing more time and effort to make things better.

on and off relationships are trouble

On & Off Relationships – Not So Uncommon

I am a big fan of utilizing the No Contact Principle when a relationship has turned sour, particularly if a pattern of breakups are unfolding.   There are many benefits.  I talk about some of the relationship benefits in this post:

When you implement the No Contact Rule, you are making an investment in your Ex and Yourself!  

Just know that you are on the “good” side of relationship statistics when it comes to eventually reuniting with your Ex.  And I believe, if you read and consider the ideas presented throughout my website, you will be able to optimize your chances.

Breakups come in all forms as measured by their severity and duration.  

Some breakups are really bad and ugly (i.e severity).  Some breakups last a very long time (duration).  Those two factors influence just how frequently, as a couple, you may struggle with remaining attached.

Why is this important for you to know?

Well, first of all, if you and your lover have gone through multiple breakups in the past….I don’t want you to think you are hugely different from everyone else out there.  

I don’t want you to panic and become distraught. While on and off again relationships are not anything to cheer about, they are not outside the norm.

You are not alone.

People, particularly if they are young and inexperienced, can struggle with making a relationship last.  

In some ways, it is our nature to explore what works.  Sometimes we are unsure of our own feelings.   

Though you need to know that if you have had multiple breakups with the same person, that behavior in itself is not desirable.  

You could be developing a new routine of “breaking up” when things go sour.  And that is not healthy in the long run.  To be honest, it is a sign of a dysfunctional relationship.  And you will need to strive to get to the bottom of why this is happening.

Research reveals that about 66% of people have experienced an on & off relationship. So repeat breakup offenders and victims (i.e. those dumped) are not that unusual.  

But as I warned, this result is not a healthy normal.

About 40% of these couples broke it off more than two times in the past.  And about 25% called it quits at least 4 or more times in the past.

So why does this happen?

Are we gluttons for punishment?

Are we just so screwed up that we can’t get our act together?

Well, I am sure we all can learn a lot from our mistakes, though oftentimes we don’t.  Yet people still find themselves reconnecting.

Many couples strive to do the “right thing” by reuniting, only later to run into new problems.   

Undeniably there are driving forces that pull couples together.  Yet there are other forces that pull them apart.

It takes work to be a successful couple!  Part of that work is learning about yourself and learning about who you are compatible with.

One powerful force at play in these on and off relationships has to do with the strength of the bond.  Once two people fall in love and share many common experiences, they form a bond or connection.  

That bond is hard to break.  

It lingers.

Lingering Attachment is What Can Pull Couples Back Together

a lingering connection bring lovers back

When a couple gets married, the pastor or officiant of the ceremony might have said something like, “for better or worse…..until death do us part.  

This mindset pervades how the couples think about their relationship.  Once you invest your heart, trust, and time into a relationship, you have a lot of yourself entrusted and invested in this other person.  

This can be both good and bad.  

It can be Bad when a break up occurs because you feel you have lost part of yourself.  It can be Good in the event of a breakup, because the forces of attachment play a role in pulling you back together again, when both parties have healed.

Here is the deal though.  

You need to learn and grow (same goes for your Ex)  individually as a person before you try to reconnect with your Ex.  Otherwise you may end up rushing back into a relationship filled with the same routines and problems.  

You need time to rationally evaluate whether you and your partner share the same values and goals.  If you don’t, then more trouble probably looms ahead.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having shared values.  If your values and principles are aligned, a lot of the problems you may be encountering can be addressed.

This is why utilizing the No Contact Rule can be so powerful.  It is not meant to make your husband or boyfriend miss you.  Though miss you, he will.

Its primary benefits revolve around you having time to think rationally about the direction of your life.  It is meant for you to work on healing and improving yourself.  And it is also intended at delivering a message to your lover that you will not necessarily come running right back into the relationship.

But you need to be aware of one of the forces that will be trying to pull you right back into the relationship fray.

This phenomenon of coming back together again as a couple is described by behavioral scientists as “lingering attachment”.  This driving force can intervene at some stage after the breakup, to drive the couple back together.  

Lingering Attachment”  Can Be Good or Bad!

lingering attachment with lover good or bad 

As I have explained, this can be good or bad, even Ugly.  

It is good, if both partners have invested time to become a better version of themselves and learned from their mistakes and commit to not repeating them.  

It can be bad if the couple learns little from their break up and come back together primarily due to the forces of lingering attachment and sexual attraction.

If the parties to the relationship have worked on their communication skills and sought to identify and solve the problems that caused the break up in the first place, then the cycle of an on & off relationship can end.

The forces of “lingering attachment” coupled with the realization that the “grass is NOT always greener” can together create a multiplier effect which results in a couple getting back together.  

But I caution you…..if you do not work with your partner to drill down to the key reasons that is causing these frequent breakups, the on/off cycle will be unleashed again and again.

A lot depends on what you and your Ex are willing to do to confront the real relationship problems which caused the breakup.

All of this leads us to why implementing the “No Contact Principle” properly can help you with putting an end to the on and off breakup cycle.

By the way, did you know that there are essentially 5 critical components to a successful relationship.  I discuss these at length in this post:

Taking time for yourself  is indeed an Important and First Step in your strategy to recover from heartbreak and identify the problems surrounding the relationship.

And your ex will also benefit from the elapse of time so that he can get in closer contact with what is important and meaningful to him. 

Right now, immediately following the breakup, neither of you are in a good position to do each other much good.  

You and your Ex both need to take a look at your relationship with a fresh pair of eyes.  That is nearly impossible to do unless you have had some time away from each other.

And that is why entering into No Contact can be a critical step in ending the cycle of unhealthy relationship breakup behaviors.

In closing, it is important you have time to evaluate if your core values are aligned, which is critical if you wish to break the cycle of on/off and develop a lasting, long term relationship. 


How likely is your marriage to succeed?

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One response to “On & Off Again Relationships – How To End the Cycle

  1. Married for 13 years with 4 sons. He left me several times over the years but always came back within a few weeks. 2 years ago he said he wanted a divorce but didn’t leave and eventually we returned to normal. This time there was no arguing he went quiet and I knew it was looming as behaviour was repeating. He said he couldn’t waste his life with me and he’s been unhappy for a year, even though, up to that point, he bought me lovely gifts and kept telling me how much he loved me and I was the best thing that ever happened to him. He made me leave the house as he hadn’t worked all those years while I stayed home for him to have nothing to show for it. He kept the kids because of school and I had nowhere to go. It’s 2 months today since I left. I no longer have anxiety issues, I’m confident and have a positive mindset. He said there’s too much resentment towards me as we argued a lot, I was happy in the last year that the arguments had become very rare. He’s sorry we couldn’t work it out and that he’ll always love me. He’s become close to someone at work that he likes but insists he didn’t leave me for her as her husband cheated on her, recently separated, so she would never do that to someone and he would never do that to me. He wants to look after me and be friends. I told him I can’t be friends, yet. He then asked if i hated him but i didn’t reply. He has filled all his time with socialising or work, has spent hardly any time with the kids and gets them to watch her kids. He is constantly contacting me and asking how I am and bringing up the split and that he’ll never change his mind. It sounds like he’s trying to convince himself that he’s made the right choice. I love him and am sure that, because I am better in so many ways and understand the reasons for the split, that if he gave us another chance the cycle will be broken and we can get back to the awesome connection that we always had. Our values and life plans are the same, we have the same sense of humour etc. Such a good foundation but we got lost, we failed to communicate properly and never got to the route of the problems. I know it will be better but I need him to want it. Everyone is miserable, I’m missing my out on my children’s lives and I know he’s sad. Is there a chance, even if he has to get this new woman out of his system, that he’ll change his mind? I don’t want him back because I’m lonely, sad, missing my kids or feel cheated out of the life we should have. I want him back because I know I’m not the same person and have rediscovered how much I truly love him and know he loved me the same way, we just got lost.