This Is Why On-Again-Off-Again Relationships Are So Bad for You
Things were going really well between you and your S.O. Bae planned the best dates, and you knew how to communicate with each other. Your friends and family were on board with the new special person in your life. Sure, there were a few fights here and there (aren’t there always?), but it seemed like you consistently figured out a way to bounce back.
Well, until you couldn’t.
The breakup happened… and it sucked. You cried. You ate a pint — or maybe five — of ice cream. You holed up in your apartment for 48 hours binge-watching rom-coms and cried some more. But even after all that crying, you’re left thinking about your ex and wondering if there’s any way to get those happy, loving feelings from the early days of the relationship back. When your former flame calls to get closure or apologize, the conversation naturally steers toward the possibility of trying things again. You agree, and suddenly, you’re back in it, trying to pretend that nothing bad happened while keeping your guard up, at least a little bit.
You’re not the first to attempt a second round with an ex. Even if you’re considering a third, fourth, or fifth round, you’re not alone. And while there’s something to be said about having faith in the people you love and the power of a fresh start, you should know that forging ahead with an on-again-off-again relationship for an extended period of time can negatively affect your health.
According to a recent study published in the journal Family Relations, people who engage in “relationship cycling” (a fancy phrase for coming in and out of a romantic partnership with the same person) experience greater distress in the form of depression and anxiety than those who don’t. Based on data from the 545 study participants, people who find themselves regularly engaged in patterns of breakup and renewal exhibit more of these symptoms. And since anxiety and stress are proven to affect overall physical health, you may want to think again next time you’re weighing the possibility of jumping back into things with an ex.
Therapist Kimberly Hershenson believes it is possible to make things better with an ex on a second go-round, assuming both partners are open to actively working through past issues and are confident in the potential for positive change. Continuing in a relationship cycle beyond that second attempt, however, is likely to cause stress and anxiety, based on her experience.
In order to minimize the potential for negative health effects in an on-and-off relationship, Hershenson recommends taking an objective approach. If you’re considering trying things again with a former love, make like Rory Gilmore and start drawing up a list. “Write a pro and con list about your partner and see which side outweighs the other,” Hershenson suggests. “List what you are looking for in a partner and what your deal breakers are. Compare this to your partner and see how close they are to matching what you’re looking for.”
Sadly, we can’t guarantee that getting back together with your ex will have a happy ending… or that it won’t create stress and anxiety in your life. Still, knowing that there are potential health risks associated with relationship cycling — and that an extra dose of caution might be required as you make these tough decisions — should help you protect your heart.
Have you been in a lot of on-and-off relationships? Tweet us your learnings @BritandCo.
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