4 minute read

The Truth About On-Again Off-Again Couples

by Marwa Rakha

When it comes to relationships there are three possible scenarios, the couple stays together (and hopefully have a happy life), or the couple breaks up and go separate ways, or…the couple breaks up…and then makes-up…and then breaks up…Lather, rinse, repeat.

Repeated ending and renewing of a relationship is often called relationship cycling. This phenomenon has become quite common in modern relationships, so we couldn’t help but wonder about the healthiness of such relationships, and if it’s leading the couple anywhere. Here’s a tough question for the one who always has our backs when it comes to relationship advice, Identity’s Relationships Expert, Marwa Rakha.

I have often wondered about the best word to use when describing a thriving relationship: Happy? Stable? Steady? Peaceful? Mutual? Loving? Passionate? None of the above words were good enough; they certainly are good relationships, but I was looking for something else.

SOLID! Solid is the word I was looking for. A solid relationship means that the couple trust, respect, and believe in one another. It means that they are together, and together they will face boredom, seduction, pain, disagreements, sickness, and all sorts of adversities. Solid relationships are secure; they are like having a home to go to at the end of the day. People who are in a solid relationship are blessed, and people who are in a seesaw-relationship are doomed. On-again off-again relationships are anything but solid. If you are planning to cruise through life in such a relationship, be prepared for facing rough winds and feisty currents alone. Let’s examine seesaw relationships in detail.

Why on? Like any relationship, it is probably attraction – physical or mental. Fun is another possible reason. People who have fun together, laugh together, will probably hookup. Coincidence? Yes, some people find themselves in a relationship. One thing led to the other and they became together. Love? Why not? Love is a very valid reason to start a relationship.

Why off? Again, like any relationship that does not feel right, things go downhill – and end. Anything could be the reason; misfit, loss of interest, cheating, uncertainty, personal differences, regular fights, violence, bad sex, etc. As you can see, seesaw relationships start and end like any other relationship. Nothing in the beginning or at the end can predict the on/off pattern.

Why on-again? Realizing that breaking up was a mistake? Missing being together? Giving the relationship a second chance? Needing one another? Sexual chemistry? Readiness to commit?

Why off-again? Feeling, once again, that this is not the right relationship? Fights? Nothing has changed? Boredom? Flings? Until this point, this is still not a seesaw relationship; this is a couple trying to make things work. Wise people go separate ways from here. They either breakup in a civil way or raise hell. The key word is that they do breakup. The love relationship ends. They could be friends afterwards or never speak to one another again. Still, the relationship is over.

Why on-again-again? Boredom? Did not find anyone better? Going through a bad phase? Vulnerable? Desperate? Hoping things would be different this time? Addicted to sex?

Why off-again-again? Found a better option? More boredom? More flings? More violence? Just got dumped for no reason?

Why on-again-again-again? More desperate? More vulnerable? More delusional? Can you see the pattern now? Seesaw relationships are sick and make you sick. They are anything but solid!

Why do people stay in seesaw relationships? Why are they common? Why do they accept them? The person who is in control of the on/off switch is probably confused, lacks self-awareness, or is single and looking but cannot stand being single, so he/she switches the seesaw on, and continues looking. He/ she could also be an abuser!

The person who gets on the seesaw over and over, is delusional, bored, lacks self-esteem, or is very vulnerable. No one in his/her right mind would accept being toyed with like that.

If there is no one in control of the on/off switch, and the couple just gravitate towards one another over and over, then they are both not looking for a solid relationship. They are both enjoying the drama and thrill of breaking up and making up, and they are both keeping their options open.

Can seesaw relationships develop into anything else? There is no definite answer to that question. Maybe, in one of the “ONs”, the couple would take a leap of faith and move in together or get engaged/married. Their ship might be wrecked immediately once responsibilities weigh on the couple, or they might cruise for a while before they realize that they made a mistake, or they might actually enjoy the cruise and visit many harbors together. Most probably married seesaw couples shipwreck – with or without kids.

If you are in a seesaw relationship, reading this, and wondering how to break the cycle; think of a light bulb. Your soul, mental health, body, and entire being are like a light bulb. Visualize that light bulb glowing with light or dimmed in peace.

Now think of a reckless kid, or an irresponsible person, with his naughty finger on the switch. On/off, on/off, on/off, boom! The light bulb got burnt! The kid would either find another light bulb to watch burnout, or would learn his lesson and feel sorry, or would toy with the wrong switch and get electrified!

Whatever happens to the kid, the light bulb will never glow again! It could be used as a vase, or a plant pot, or thrown away – but it will never glow again because its essence has been burnt out.

How sad is that? The good news is that you are not as helpless as a light bulb! You can “shoo” the “kid” away or walk away from pain. You have many choices! If you realize that you are being manipulated, if you feel drained, or if you acknowledge that you deserve better – say “no”!

There is nothing worse in life that wasting your stock of love, tolerance, and faith in relationships on the wrong person. Whether you get married or not, a seesaw relationship will hinder your chances of ever finding a solid relationship. You might meet the right person after you have already burnt your fuse – you will have no light to give and no fuses to receive love and affection.