Breaking up and getting back together is not always a sign that the relationship is doomed or toxic. In some cases, breaking up can help two people realize the importance of their relationship, contributing to a healthier, more secure and more committed relationship. But breaking up and getting back together too frequently leads to less commitment and toxic relationship environment.
Routinely breaking up and getting back together according to a study by Kale Monk, assistant professor of human development and family science and co-authors Brian Ogolsky and Ramona Oswald from the University of Illinois is associated with higher rates of abuse, poorer communication, lower levels of commitment, and psychological distress symptoms such as depression and anxiety.
This was observed in both same-sex and heterosexual relationships in this pattern.
“The findings suggest that people who find themselves regularly breaking up and getting back together with their partners need to ‘look under the hood’ of their relationships to determine what’s going on,” Monk said. “If partners are honest about the pattern, they can take the necessary steps to maintain their relationships or safely end them. This is vital for preserving their well-being.”
When considering getting back together, Monk offers the following tips:
- When considering rekindling a relationship that ended or avoiding future breakups, partners should think about the reasons they broke up to determine if there are consistent or persistent issues impacting the relationship.
- Having explicit conversations about issues that have led to break ups can be helpful, especially if the issues will likely reoccur. If there was ever violence in the relationship, however, or if having a conversation about relationship issues can lead to safety concerns, consider seeking support-services when it is safe to do so.
- Similar to thinking about the reasons the relationship ended, spend time thinking about the reasons why reconciliation might be an option. Is the reason rooted in commitment and positive feelings, or more about obligations and convenience? The latter reasons are more likely to lead down a path of continual distress.
- Remember that it is okay to end a toxic relationship. For example, if your relationship is beyond repair, do not feel guilty leaving for your mental or physical well-being.
- Couples therapy or relationship counseling is not just for partners on the brink of divorce. Even happy dating and married couples can benefit from ‘relationship check-ups’ in order to strengthen the connection between partners and have additional support in approaching relationship transitions.