Who hasn't gotten back together with their ex, hopeful that THIS time things will be different?
We root for on-and-off couples in TV Land. Sam and Diane. Ross and Rachel. Luke And Lorelai. Why did it take so long for these obviously toxic couples to just Work. It. Out?
Science says it would have been better if they hadn't.
This is because a pattern of "relationship cycling," or repeatedly breaking up and getting back together, can make people sick.
There's the initial hurt, anger and sadness that may come with a breakup. But research from the University of Missouri published in the journal Family Relations found that beyond that, psychological distress in the form of depression and anxiety can occur for individuals within constant boomerang relationships.
Study co-author Kale Monk, an assistant professor of human development and family science at the University of Missouri, said:
"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. 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.”
The research looked at 545 individuals in relationships, a third of which experienced relationship cycling. The on-off relationships were associated with higher rates of abuse, lower levels of commitment and poorer communication. The individuals in the hot-cold relationships experienced greater psychological distress, such as depression and anxiety.
The more on-off cycles a person reported, the larger the increases in depression and anxiety seemed to be, Monk told Time.
Why do people break up and make up?
The reasons are varied, but one of the most common explanations is necessity or practicality, Monk said.
He cited financial reasons such as home ownership or because partners believe they have invested too much time in the relationship to leave.
Partners should get back together based on dedication, not obligation, he said.
Monk, a former couple's therapist, said couples considering getting back together should ask the question: 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 OK 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."
Rekindled romance is not always bad
In an essay for Thrive Global, Monk cited additional research that showed that intimate relationships have the power to support health or break it down.
A couple that comes back together after a break can be good if during the time apart each person took time to gain perspective, he said.
"It is important to note that rekindling a past relationship or being in an 'on-again/off-again relationship' is not always setting a couple up for despair. In my current qualitative work, some individuals indicated that they feel 'taking a break' gave them much needed perspective and time to re-evaluate their relationship. These people discussed realizing they did not want to be without their partner and that they felt that the time apart made them stronger as a couple."
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