On-off relationship: what exactly is meant by it

Everyone has heard of them, many have found themselves in one of these: the on-off relationship. In this article we will explain what it means.

What on-off relationships are all about

On-off relationships are romantic relationships characterized by repeated breaking up and making up. The frequency, length and frequency of the relationship breaks are not decisive for the designation. Rather, it is the pattern of behavior in which one or both partners frequently end the relationship, only to inevitably get back together. 

Studies have shown that up to two-thirds of all participants have already found themselves in such a relationship. These on-off relationships often have toxic elements: emotional or physical abuse and infidelity are more common than in other relationships.

Possible causes of on-off relationships

The causes of on-off relationships are diverse and difficult to generalize. However, psychologists suspect that the fear of being alone is often the reason that partners find each other again after a breakup. The separation is often motivated by good reasons, such as a breach of trust through cheating or the realization that you may not be as compatible as you would like. Once the separation is complete, however, the realization quickly follows that one is now alone and – despite good reasons for separation – misses one’s partner. This can often be tremendously frightening and cause you to seek reconnection. 

In addition, fear of commitment can also contribute to this pattern. For example, you or your partner may be afraid to fully commit to a relationship where you could get hurt. Whenever that partner feels the relationship is “too close,” he or she may become isolated. 

Poor communication is also a big factor in on-off relationships, as the breakup often stems from an argument that could have easily been resolved with better communication skills. 

That’s how damaging on-off relationships are

Not every on-off relationship is necessarily unhealthy. Many a relationship also benefits when the partners distance themselves from each other for a short time. In this way, the partner finds time and space to work on themselves and then to be able to approach each other better. But when it becomes a constant pattern, on-off relationships are enormously damaging. 

The insecurity in on-off relationships can often have serious consequences. The stress level is high and trust in the partnership can decrease. If you feel insecure in your relationship with your partner, this can even lead to depression or anxiety disorders sooner or later. 

Added to this is the fact that many studies have already shown that the grief of a breakup is a pain that can permanently weaken both your psyche and your body. Going through such traumatic experiences on a regular basis can therefore lead to serious psychological problems in the long term. 

Do on-off relationships have a future?

Whether your on-off relationship has a future depends heavily on the reasons for the breakup. In order to assess the meaning of your relationship, you should therefore go within yourself and explore whether you are only making up again and again because you are afraid of being alone and therefore idealize your relationship. If this is the case, an on-off relationship is usually only an extremely lengthy path to the final separation . 

However, if you see the relationship break as a way to work on yourself and then build a more harmonious relationship together, your on-off relationship can have a bright future ahead. 

It is important that you are clear about what you actually want and whether your partner can give you this. If you decide to be together, it is always advisable to visit couples therapy , where you can improve your communication skills and thus lead a healthier relationship. 

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