If you think your on-again-off-again relationship is a good idea, you might want to think again.
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
by: E.B. Johnson
Even when we know a relationship is unsatisfying, we often find ourselves staying in it. On-again-off-again relationships are more common today than ever, but are they really good for our connections or even our mental health? Short answer: no. Break-up, make-up relationship patterns are toxic and for a number of reasons. Only when we take control of the pattern can we overcome it, but that takes understanding and a little know-how.
Relationships end for different reasons, both naturally and forcefully. Whatever the reason, they end because they no longer suit us and the things we want for ourselves and our lives. Though we often talk ourselves into staying in such relatiomships for a number of reasons, they?re bad for our mental health and our self-esteem. If you?re stuck in an on-again-off-again relationship pattern, it?s time to break the cycle before it breaks you. You?re the only one with the power to take the stand.
Why we stay in on-again-off-again relationships.
There are a number of reasons we stay in toxic relationships. From unhealthy attachment and bonding patterns, to traumatic past events and low self-esteem ? we allow our relationships to tumble through hot and cold cycles because we have a skewed sense of both who we are and what we deserve.
Often, a shift in our priorities can cause us to settle for less than what we truly want. The more time we spend with our partners, the more we come to appreciate their strong qualities, which can cause us to alter or adjust the things we desire in a partnership. While respect and thoughtfulness might seem important at the start of a relationship, over time, you might come to accept your partner?s sense of humor as a substitute for these qualities and settle for a relationship that is less than ideal.
Investment of time and energy
Many people stay in relationships that no longer serve them because they feel as though they have already made a significant investment of time in energy into the relationship. They see and ending of the relationship as a wasting of their work, rather than a new beginning to the kind of life they want to live. It?s a biased way to think, and one that can keep us stuck in self-defeating relationship patterns that undermine our longterm happiness and wellbeing.
If you can?t respect yourself, it?s hard to find other people that will respect you either. Feeling good about ourselves is important; loving ourselves even more so. We might suffer from poor self-esteem because of past relationship experiences, or we might suffer from low self-esteem because of traumatic childhood experiences. Whatever your reason is for feeling down on yourself, it?s imperative that you identify it and correct it in order to thrive and break free of your poisonous passions.
An inability to break the cycle
As humans, we?re creatures of habit, but those habits can quickly become corrosive or self-defeating. The real problem, however, is that even when that?s the case ? we often don?t walk away. Why? Because the familiar is more comfortable than the unfamiliar; a known bad is perceived to be safer than an unknown potential good. We often put our relationship routines on autopilot, however, and forget to assess them regularly for their effectiveness in our lives. Just because we do something doesn?t mean it should be done, and it certainly doesn?t mean there isn?t a better way to do things in future.
Fear of being alone
We live in a society that constantly tells us that our worth is a direct correlation of our relationship status. Holding those beliefs too dear, however, can get you stuck in some unhappy situations.Clinging to relationships simply because you?re too scared to be alone is no jusification. As humans, it?s natural to want a partner, but it has nothing to do with our true happiness, as this can only be defined by ourselves alone. Making your happiness dependent on another person will always result in failure. Learning how to make yourself happy, though? That lasts forever.
Damage caused by start-stop relationships.
Partners who find themselves in an endless cycle of breaking up and getting back together often find themselves struggling mentally. Relationship break downs cause a great deal of stress, and over time this can take a toll on our psychological state and lead to an increase in symptoms like depression and anxiety.
According to one study, conducted on more than 500 individuals, those in on-off relationships showed increased mental distress and an array of troubling mental symptoms. Rather than looking ?under the hood? of their relationships, these individuals were less likely to deal with the root causes of their break-up?s, which lead to eventual repeats and greater unhappiness.
While a break-up once or twice can lead us to truths that can be addressed and eventually mended, there are some relationships that are beyond repair. It takes a great deal of personal digging, and a huge dose of radical honesty, to truly realize whether or not someone is right for you. Are you dealing with the root of your issues? If not, you could be stuck in a pattern that?s undermining your happiness.
The make-up and break-up pattern.
The make-up and break-up pattern is a common one, and one that stems from unaddressed emotional needs that are suppressed or buried away beneath trauma and a refusal to deal with baggage. Only when we learn how to identify this pattern (and the destructive havoc it wreaks on our lives) can we resolve it and find our way back to happiness.
More often than not, some grand conflict leads to a severing of ties and and ending of the relationship. This first step in the process is filled with emotion and is often based around a dynamic and volatile sitaution. One or both partners might be struggling with dissatisfaction or a sense of stagnation, which can cause them to detach and recalibrate by suddenly ending things before they?ve had a chance to fully and emotionally process what?s actually going on in their head and their heart. Rather than engage in clear and open communication, both parties go their separate ways.
Soon after the breakup, the couple will re-establish ties ? small at first, and then greater. Over time, they realize that their lingering and unresolved feelings are continuing to cause conflict in their lives; something which causes them to turn to one another again. The true root of their issues (their emotions) are still ignored, however, and the core of the conflict remains untouched. Eventually, emotions run high again and they find themselves dealing with a nasty situations, rather than their emotions.
There is evidence that suggests that the repeated pattern of separation and reconciliation is dangerous to both our personal and longterm wellbeing. The more we make up and break up, the more it deteriorates our trust in others and our trust in ourselves. Because emotions are not honestly and openly acknowledged, they fester over time and create issues that are both complex and hard to conquer solo or with the aid of a partner. The stress of an on-again off-again relationship is toxic to who we are, but it?s a pattern we can break when we know how to get in touch with who we are and what we really want.
How to put a stop to the on-again-off-again pattern.
We can put a stop to the negative patterns in our life when we take a stand and get honest about where we?re at. Sometimes, this takes reaching out for the helping hand of a friend, and other times it means taking some time to reflect on who we really are and what we really want. There are a number of ways you can start getting to the root of your issues to find happiness again, but only you have the power to take that first step.
1. Reach out for help
The fact that you?re in a relationship that?s stuck in a pattern of on and off shows that you?ve already committed to making an end, you just haven?t been able to follow through. One of the best ways to get the support you need to put an end to things (once and for all) is to reach out to your support system and ask for their help. Sometimes, their perspective is jsut the push we need to get over the hill.
Enlist your Best Judy to help keep you away. Let them know ? clearly ? that the relationship cycle you?re stuck in is having a serious effect on your wellbeing, and let them know that their support is the last piece you need to get through. Don?t put a burden on their shoulders, but let them be the accountability buddy you need to keep the phone off and the block button on.
Believe in yourself and believe in the support that your friends give you. Trust their perspective and compare it to your own, finding the reality in the middle and the truth you need in order to thrive. If you?re going cold turkey, let them know, and ask them to make sure you don?t fall off the wagon; at least not for the first two weeks. Little by little, stand on your own strength and know that you don?t have to return to heartache just to be seen. You?re enough on your own.
2. Own your mistakes (and let go of judgement)
As humans, we are flawed creatures, with all types of neurotic behaviors and a host of emotional baggage that we drag around from decade to decade. Living and existing is hard, and it can force us to make mistakes and step out of line from time to time. One of the critical parts of coming to realize you don?t need a toxic relationship is learning how to accept your mistakes and let go of the judgement that keeps you chained to an unhappy or poorly matched partner.
Relationships end as a result of the efforts of both parties. Break ups are a two-way street, so accept the part you played and accept the mistakes you made that led to this ending. Let go of all the judgements you?re clinging to, and the excuses you tell yourself and other people. We?re all imperfect, and that?s okay. Learn from the missteps and grow.
When we use our emotions for growth, rather than hiding behind them, we can empower ourselves to change our lives for the better. Accepting ourselves and the things we get wrong creates new opportunities that allow us to see a new place for our authentic self in the world. You can get mad and blame the other person until the cows come home, but that won?t equal a better future for you. Accept your mistakes and move forward. Tomorrow?s another day and another chance to get things right with the right person.
3. Identify the beliefs that are limiting you
We settle for a lot of things that don?t suit us because we cling to beliefs that keep us limited, scared and unhappy. These beliefs can stem from low self-esteem or critical moments of idealization that occurred. However they arise, it?s important to identify them and counteract them in our lives in order to set ourselves free from the negative relationship patterns that destroy our wellbeing.
Look for beliefs like ?the person I?m looking for isn?t out there, so I have to settle for this,? and try to replace them with thoughts like, ?I?m ready to find the right person and I know they?re out there for me.? Really dig down to your core and ask yourself what you need to be happy in a relationship. Imagine your ideal partner and compare it against the pattern you?ve found yourself stuck in. Why are you denying yourself what you need to be happy? You?re the only one with an answer to that question.
Our beliefs affect everything from the decisions we make to the way we see ourselves. When we limit ourselves to limited beliefs, we shut out any possibility of manifesting the things we truly want in our lives. True happiness comes from opening up our point of view and finding a new path to the ultimate truth we want to find. Define what you really want, and you can rewire your brain and the thoughts that hold you back. If you?re still struggling to overcome those negative thoughts, try practicing some mindful journaling or establish a mindful meditation practice that allows you to still your mind and redirect your thoughts.
4. Start a mindful journaling practice
Getting to the root of our problems is all about balancing our emotions and getting honest about them. There are few things better for this process than a mindful journaling practice. Mindful journaling allows us to get in touch with our deeper self, and identify the things (and feelings) that are holding us back.
Journals can act as the checkpoint between your emotions and your current mental space, allowing you to align your feelings and your reactions in a way that is more authentic to who you truly are. Use your journal as an outlet for the stress and emotional struggles you deal with throughout the day. With a journal, you don?t have to hold back, so fully express who you are and what you?re thinking.
Once you?ve composed your thoughts, check back regularly to reasses how you?re feeling and to judge how far you?ve come. When we look back at our thoughts, we can empower personal growth and expansion of our own personal knowledge and self-revelation. The only person who has the secrets to unlocking our happiness our misery is us. Taking a few minutes each day to establish a mindful journaling practice is a great way to begin that journey.
5. Begin emotionally processing
Emotional processing is hard. Our emotions are a innate part of who we are, but they?re often distracting or damaging in the way they cause us to perceive our environment, ourselves and our relationships. When something stressful happens, our emotions can often force us to shut down or otherwise react in ways which don?t serve our true purpose. As uncomfortable as it may be, emotional processing is the only way to tackle this stress in our life, and it?s an essential part of self-care too.
We can build pastimes and activities into our self-care routines that allow us to emotionally process the stress and disappointment in our lives. By looking for activities that help us process our life experiences, we can actually take some of the weight off our own shoulders, and spread it out through enjoyable, confidence-building experiences. Whether we like it or not, real self-care involves thinking our way through our stressors, so we can come out on the other side with a sense of both happiness and relief.
If you?re facing a major deadline, don?t avoid it by going for activities that allow you to shut-off and ignore the deadline. Instead, try to think of something that will allow you to ?pull the bandaid off? and deal with that stressor head-on ? so you can remove it entirely from your life. Then, you can get to the veg-out activities you really want to pursue like concerts, spa days and afternoons bath-bombing. Whatever you do, ask yourself at the end, ?Do I have a better sense of relief, release or otherwise perspective after engaging in this activity?? If the answer is no, you might want to rethink your partner and your patterns.
Putting it all together
On-again-off-again relationships are a toxic trap, and one that can leave us stuck, scared and settling for less than we deserve. Low self-esteem, priority shifts and a fear of being alone drives us frequently into situations and relationships that don?t serve us. These patterns can be broken, however, when we get honest about what we want, what we need and where we?re at here in the current moment.
If you just can?t get away from a lover you?ve outgrown, reach out for help and get a trusted friend or family member to keep you on track and accountable. You?ve ended things for a reason. Keep them that way, and don?t backtrack on creating a better future for yourself. Own your mistakes ? and let them own theirs ? and drop the judgement, you don?t need it. Spend some time getting to know what you want and then go for it, no apologies. Use a mindful journaling practice to start identifying the limited beliefs that are keeping you chained to this relationship cycle that?s destroying your trust and happiness. Get some time and some space to process your emotions and get to the real root of why you keep going back. You?re enough on your own, but only you can make yourself believe that. Learn how to live on your own, so you can thrive in a tomorrow of your own making.