Mainstream TV shows and films are always telling us on-again-off-again relationships can work out well. Just think: Ross and Rachel in Friends, Carrie and Big in SATC, the list goes on.
But, on-off relationships - which in pop culture are so often painted as romantic/a clear indication the couple is 'meant' to be together - actually could have a pretty harmful effect on your mental health.
New research from University of Missouri-Columbia has looked into the negative impacts, and the lead researcher has even gone as far as to conclude those in on-off relationships should seriously considering ending it if they can't "stabilise".
According to Science Daily, research has shown around 60% of adults report breaking up and getting back together again, and therefore have been in 'on-off relationships'. And if you compare these to couples who haven't broken up and reconciled, the on-off relationships are "associated with higher rates of abuse, poorer communication and lower levels of commitment."
As the new research suggests, this can have a seriously negative impact on your mental health. Kale Monk, assistant professor of human development and family science told Science Daily, "Breaking up and getting back together is not always a bad omen for a couple. In fact, for some couples, breaking up can help partners realise the importance of their relationship, contributing to a healthier, more committed unions. On the other hand, partners who are routinely breaking up and getting back together could be negatively impacted by the pattern."
In their research, co-authors of the research Brian Ogolsky and Ramona Oswald studied data from 500 couples (which yeah, isn't the biggest sample size on earth, but a pattern was obvious, nonetheless), both in straight and LGBTQ+ relationships.
Those who broke up and reunited were "associated with more psychological distress symptoms such as depression and anxiety." Kale Monk added, "The findings suggest that people who find themselves regularly breaking up and getting back together with their partners need to 'look under the hood' of their relationships to determine what's going on. If partners are honest about the pattern, they can take the necessary steps to maintain their relationships or safely end them. This is vital for preserving their well-being."
Cosmopolitan UK spoke to Relate counsellor, Dee Holmes, who explained:
"Good quality relationships are fundamental to our mental health and wellbeing, while distressed relationships tend to have the opposite effect. Breaking up can be incredibly painful, so doing it again and again is bound to impact negatively on your mental health.
If you’re constantly breaking up and getting back together it’s worth asking yourself why. Are you repeating the same arguments and never resolving them? Perhaps there is a lack of trust, or maybe one of you finds it easier to just walk away rather than confront the real problem. It could be that you’re not resolving conflict effectively, or in some cases you may be hooked on the drama of it all.
"If you’ve just got back with your ex for the second, third or tenth time, seeing somebody objective such as a counsellor before the relationship reaches crisis point again is a really good idea. They can help you to unpack any issues, improve your communication and increase the chances of your relationship lasting. They can also help you to decide if the relationship isn’t right for you - and to find the strength to leave for good."
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