Ever Been In An On-Again Off-Again Relationship?

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

on-again off-again relationship

Ever been in an on-again off-again relationship? I find them to be very perplexing, and wanted to know more, so I recruited the advice of a relationship therapist and found out, and then wrote about it in this week’s Love Essentially, published today in Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press.

We are Never, Ever, Ever Getting Back Together. Like Ever.                                

 by Jackie Pilossoph

Taylor Swift said it best in her 2012 hit song, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”

“This is exhausting,” is a line of the lyrics in the song about an on-again off-again couple riding an emotional roller coaster of temporary highs that continually come barreling down every other week like the Goliath at Great America.
Several years ago, I had a friend who was in an on-again off-again relationship, and every time I’d run into him, my first question would be, “Pam or no Pam?” which meant, “Is Pam currently your girlfriend or are the two of you broken up? Again.” This went on for several years, and eventually my friend and Pam broke up for good. If I’m not mistaken, I think Pam is happily married to someone else now.

What I want to know is, why do some couples fall into this pattern? In other words, what keeps them coming back? Stupidity or true love?

For help on the subject, I turned to Anita Chlipala, a licensed marriage and family therapist and the founder of her Chicago-based practice, Relationship Reality 312.

She said the root of couples breaking up usually stems from one or both of the people being dissatisfied in some way, with countless possible reasons. They also might break up because one or both wants to date other people, perhaps to see if there is someone better out there for them.

But what if time goes by after the breakup, and one day one of them picks up the phone and basically says, “I’m not done?” Then what?

“Reasons people might get back together include lingering feelings, fear that they won’t find someone else, loneliness, and feelings of missing the companionship and familiarity,” said Chlipala, who has been a relationship therapist for nine years. “They could also go on several bad dates and start thinking their ex is the one.”

Chlipala said that before couples get back together, she encourages them to answer the question: What would be different this time around? Otherwise, they won’t be able to break that pattern.

Click here to read the rest of the article, published today in Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press.

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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at: DivorcedGirlSmiling.com

    3 Responses to “Ever Been In An On-Again Off-Again Relationship?”

    1. Megan

      Since being separated, I have engaged in a few on again – off again relationships. I think for me, it is was simply I didn’t know what I wanted at the time. I was in an 11 year relationship, I did the “married” thing, it just wasn’t for me. It took me a long time to figure it out, but I did. The on/off relationships are like hanging upside down tied to a rope by one ankle, and not sure if you are going to survive it. They are only good, when you are feeling lonely, but not interested in committing to someone fully. Now, being “single” for over a year, I feel like I am ready to commit to someone. The perfect time of year too, spring adventures, and summer camping trips

    2. Kenedy Singer, Ph.D.

      Excellent article. And huge topic. So many people get stuck in relationships that they keep trying to get out of.

      I speak from personal experience. Today, I’m a happy clinical psychologist who’s a successful dating coach with a healthy love life, but that hasn’t always been the case.

      Many years ago I was dating a fantastic woman. She was beautiful, sexy, and an accomplished architect. On paper she was a catch. However, the relationship was very toxic for me. We both suffered a great deal. We broke up at least 5 times. Each time, I’d find myself drawn to get back together after a week or two. The reason for this was I was addicted to her. Some call it being a love addict. What I can tell you is I felt it physically in my body. It was an undeniable impulse and craving that I couldn’t resist.

      Time and time again this happened until finally after one breakup I confronted myself and faced the pain. I remember one moment when I was laying on my couch feeling the strong painful longing. It was located in my gut. Rather than act on it though, I just put all of my attention on it with acceptance. It was intense. Maybe one of the most intense feelings I’ve had. I thought I was going to die. As I was with this feeling though what happened is that after a few minutes it dissolved. What came from it was a place of acceptance of myself. And the impulse to get back together was gone. Truly a miracle!

      What happened next is that I did have a recurring waves of the longing and impulse. However, I now had the muscle to just embrace the feeling without acting on it. I didn’t get back together with her. I appreciate the great moments we had together but moved on.

      Today, I am able to be in relationship with my partner from a healthy place where we are both complete on our own and come together to enhance that experience.

      I can say that my love now is from a much healthier place where I’ve drawn in a partner who matches me in this place. Together we share great moments that are brightened by being together.


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