On-And-Off Again Relationship – When Do You Give Up?

I receive email questions from men and women, young and old, and from all walks of life who are in a relationship that on-again and off-again. Both people are in some ways hurting each other but the attraction and chemistry is so strong that they can’t imagine life without the other. It is as if they’re locked in what I call “madness for two.”

Instead of responding to each email question (which frankly I can’t, because of the number of email questions I receive daily) I thought it might help to write a small post instead.

It’s always best to walk away from an unhealthy relationship especially if it involves abuse, control, manipulation, entrapment and codependency issues – which in most on/off relationship is the case. But what if you are not in any physical danger but just riding the emotional rollercoaster with the object of your affection and strong desire, when is it time to walk away?

I personally do not think people should rush to end a deep connection that is so strong unless they’ve explored all options, looked at it from all directions and done whatever is reasonably possible to make it work. Maybe what you have is good enough and you’d be a fool to abandon it in search of a better relationship you may never find.

Besides, there are some relationships that are just meant to be – problems and all. If you asked or looked closely enough, you’ll find “we stuck together through it all” love stories everywhere.

So before you go looking for something better (that you may never find), make sure you’ve tried all you can to make the relationship you already have better:

1. Get clear about what the problem is

What most people do is simply weigh the pros and cons of staying vs. leaving. The trap in this is that there are always pros and cons in every relationship, and if you really want to stay you’ll find more reasons to stay and less reasons to leave. And if you really want to leave, you’ll find more reasons to leave than stay. You are not really weighing anything.

Leaving a relationship before knowing what the real problem is self-defeating. Remember the saying : Everywhere you go, there you are! Whatever caused this relationship to end if not dealt with, will be carried over to the next relationship.

2. Take 100% responsibility for your own feelings and needs

Be totally honest with yourself, after all you are the very person hurting from your choices and decisions. Get to the bottom of what you are reacting to in your partner’s behaviour and what they are reflecting back to you (anger, neediness, emotional distance etc).

3. Change what you need to change

You must continue to grow and change for the better because relationships by nature change. No relationship remains the same. If your thought pattern is anything like “if he/she changes then everything will be okay (we’ll have lots of sex and raise cute gifted offspring and live happily ever after), or if you can’t change because the other person is refusing to change, then may be it’s best to give up on the relationship now.  The only person you can change is you. Others react to the change you make.

4. Get off the negativity and “bitter” people’s wagon

Choose the kind of advice you take in but even more importantly avoid asking or taking advice from people who are simply reacting from a place of pain and hurt themselves. You can always tell where someone is at in their own lives by how they react to experiences that bring out hidden pain. Just check out most relationship blogs and forums – so many hurting, angry and bitter people dishing out relationship advice.

How do I know? Because I am a regular at “Get Your Ex Back” discussion forums, just because I love offering my advice and experiences, but also because I am a little bothered by just how many people out there, are quick to advice others to leave relationships that may be troubled, but may also still be restored.

It takes just a few threads for you to figure out that some people seem to have an agenda which is to provide destructive advice that will rob others of the precious thing that they themselves do not have and perhaps, will never have for any number of reasons.

People who are incapable of love are also incapable of being around love without having some deep feelings of resentment, jealousy or even anger stirred up. These people may even seem like they have your best interest at heart but clandestinely attack the love you have or seek to have. This is because they can’t bear to see anyone with the “thing” that forever eludes them.

If necessary, talk to someone who has worked on his or her own “issues”.  An objective person can help you ask yourself the questions you probably would not ask yourself. An objective person can also help you out of your comfort zone and push you to make the change you need to make.

When you’ve done all you can and feel happy, joyful and peaceful, and the relationship is still stagnant or on/off again, then you can leave and start the next relationship where you ended this one.

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22 Comments

  • I believe in working out problems and not running away from them but I can’t keep trying to work on a relationship when the other person isn’t putting in any effort. I’ve done everything I can think of including counselling but he says the way he feels about me has changed and he does not think any effort on his part will change how he feels.

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  • I don’t think that one should declare it over just because one isn’t happy, peaceful and joyful. No relationship is happy and joyful all of the time.

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  • Thank you for this post. I’m in a similar situation but I’ll not give up. Love conquers everything. I’ll fight for her because she’s the only one that makes my life complete.

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  • Best advice I’ve read. I’m 43 but never had a long term relationship. Lately I’ve been thinking that if I’d hang on in some of these relationships I might have broken my pattern of continuall¬y making the same kind of choices and breaking up over the same kind of issues. I’ve tried to work on my issues but it’s difficult to deal with relationship issues in a vacuum.

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  • your insights have open my eyes once again that fulfilling relationships are strengthen and build through hard work. It takes certain degree of maturity on both parties to make it last.
    when i read what you wrote, it was like i’ve found what i was been looking for all along. it was a blessing that i came across your words of wisdom.

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