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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  1. says: SharonK

    I appreciate the spirit of the article but I do not think that people really change. I’ve known a lot of people like this. It’s all just talk, they have no intention of changing themselves or trying to fix the problem. They just say they’ll change to get their ex back.

    1. I think people do change. I have changed over the years and know so many others that have.

      But you have a valid point. Knowing what went wrong, what one needs to change and saying that one will change or has changed is easy to do. Going the extra mile to really change is another thing.

  2. says: Beatrice

    My ex and I have been involved in an on and off relationship for 4 years. This last breakup, he told me he needed sometime apart but I kept pressing him to decide if he wanted to breakup or not, and he finally decided he wanted to break up. I ignored him at first but he kept finding reasons to communicate with me. After 3 weeks of him contacting me, I told him I could only be friends with him and he accepted without any problem. We talked, texted and chatted virtually every day for a few weeks, then one day he stopped contact and started ignoring me. I feel like such a fool because he was never a “friend”, it was about control on his part. Now when we pass each, other we don’t speak.

    1. Looks like the two of you are locked in some kind of toxic pattern that is not good for either of you. And it’s not just him… by 1) pressing him to decide, 2) ignoring him and 3) telling him you could only be friends, you too were playing the “control-game”. It’s just that the tables turned on you when he stopped contact. I’m sure if he hadn’t, you would have. That’s the nature of toxic patterns.

      Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call for you to stop whatever you two are in to. Things won’t get better just because you break-up and get back together again. Both of you have to change something to stop the toxicity.

  3. says: Hannah

    If you love someone deeply and are having problems, you don’t give up. Love is worth fighting for, even if it means trying and trying over and over again in the face of apparent rejection.

    1. I so agree with you… if the relationship is worth it, you don’t give up easily, you fight for it. In our “feel good” world, it’s easier to give up than work on the problems in the relationship.

      That said, there comes a time when you have to accept that someone does not want to be with you, especially if your trying makes the other person want to get as far way from you as possible.

      It’s even possible there is nothing “wrong” with the other person, and nothing “wrong” with you, the relationship just isn’t working or the two of you are just not right for each other. Not every two people are “meant” to be together.

  4. says: Skyla

    My ex and I have been trying to make things work, this is our 8th breakup in 3 years. I thought I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life until I came to your site and started reading all the articles about how a mature healthy relationship looks like that I came to the realization that I don’t want the same relationship we had. I’m not even sure he is the right guy for me anymore.