Today we’re going to be talking about on-again and off-again relationship advice, specifically, what you should be doing if you find yourself in one of those situations or have ever found yourself in an on-again, off-again relationship.
We’re going to hear from a woman named Jennifer who is going through a really difficult time, and is having trouble deciphering what she should be doing in her own relationship, if she should get back with her ex, who is in the off-again phase of their relationship, or if she should just simply move on.
So I don’t like wasting a lot of time, so let’s just hear from Jennifer right now.
A Real On Again Off Again Relationship Question
“Hi Chris. My name is Jennifer, and me and my ex are 29. We were together for 13 years and lived together. We had some rockiness, but we always came back together and made it work. In 2018, we broke up and he took it more seriously than I did. Had dated, may even had sex a little bit.
But it didn’t work and we eventually rekindled.
He came back and told me everything he needs is with me. He wanted to work it out. We were happy and everything seemed great. We talked about our future together and he was incredibly sweet and affectionate, but my insecurities got the best of me. At times I acted irrational over stupid things which is the catalyst it is [inaudible 00:01:17] break up after all only a year from the previous one.
Now he believes there is a better fit for us again, but does not want to date for a while.
We’re tied to this apartment and I talk so much of this interrogating him time after time. He still loves me and cares, but doesn’t see a future with me anymore. Is no no contact still an option after I broke it so many times?
I still want to be his friend and I still want to be around him so it doesn’t feel right to get rid of it. We had a good and lengthy relationship.”
A Recap Of Jennifers Situation
Now it’s a blatantly obvious after hearing Jennifer’s situation that she’s going through a really difficult time.
So hopefully what we can do with this podcast episode is give her some clarity on if her ex still cares and also give anyone who’s going through a similar situation to Jennifer or has gone through a similar situation to Jennifer, some clarity on what they should be doing. What’s the best way to approach the on again, off again relationship.
So first off, let’s do a quick recap of what Jennifer’s situation is.
- So obviously the person who called is named Jennifer,
- she’s 29 years old and she’s been with her ex together for over 13 years.
- So this is the one relationship in her entire life that has lasted longer than anything other than her maybe familial type relationships.
- She’s been with this person for 13 years. Just imagine how many firsts that they’ve experienced together. Right?
- So they’re currently in an on again, off again relationship.
- Now, the latest iteration of the breakup happened in 2018 but it seems like he took it a little bit more seriously.
- But since then they’ve kind of been on again a little bit. They’ve had sex together.
- He seems like he wants to work it out.
- They talked about the future, but she still felt insecure, which is a very obvious when you’ve gone through the trauma of an on again off again relationship for over 13 years.
- Now he wants to break up for good. He says he doesn’t want to date anyone for a while, which I think is a blatant lie most men will tell. And he doesn’t see a future with her.
- So is no contact an option in her particular situation after it’s been broken so many times.
There’s so many things to unravel here.
But First… A Quiz To Help You
Hey, I just wanted to make a quick break in the episode here to let you know that no matter what, no matter what situation you find yourself in, the very first thing that you should always determine is if you have a chance with your ex.
If you’re going through a breakup and are kind of figuring out what you should do next, that is always the first place that you should start. Now, luckily on my website, exboyfriendrecovery.com I’ve put together a special quiz that’s designed to answer this exact question for you.
The whole quiz should only take you about two minutes long.
It’s really easy and it gives you an idea of your approximate chances of getting your ex back, what we think you should be doing and some next steps going forward. So if you’re interested in taking that quiz, all you have to do is just click pause on the podcast.
Or if you’re watching this on YouTube, just look into the description link of the YouTube video and click on the link you see there.
But if you’re listening to this on the podcast, click pause on the podcast, go to your phone or wherever you’re listening to this from, and go to our website, exboyfriendrecovery.com and you’ll be able to see the prompts for the quiz on the home page.
All right, let’s get back to the episode.
Why Are People So Prone To Enter Into On Again Off Again Relationships?
All right, so I think one of the biggest things that we need to determine first is why are people so prone to enter into on again, off again, relationships.
They seem completely unhealthy, but research has suggested that they’re actually really common. Over two thirds or almost two thirds of adults have experienced an on again off again relationship, at least one time in their lives.
But why are we subjecting ourselves to this pain?
Well. I want you to listen to what Jennifer had to say?
She was saying things like,
I still want to be his friend. I still want to be around him. It doesn’t feel right to get rid of it. We’ve had a good and lengthy relationship.
So if you didn’t already know, I’m a big proponent of something called the peak end rule, which basically determines how human beings remember experiences, whether that’s positive or negative.
They found that usually the human brain is not great at processing every single aspect of an entire experience.
So instead what it does, it will remember two distinct points, the peak of the experience and the end of the experience.
So the peak of the experience obviously being the most exciting or engaging part of the experience and the end of the experience being the actual end of the experience. So what I think tends to happen when people enter into these on again off again relationships is it’s a little bit of the peak end rule at work.
They tend to forget kind of the difficult aspects of the relationship and only remember the peak parts of the relationship. Some more interesting, exciting parts.
So they, in essence romanticize the past.
That’s a little bit of what a Jennifer’s doing.
But I think there’s also another aspect that’s really not talked a lot about. So Jennifer is in this really fascinating situation where she’s only 29 years old and she’s been with this person for 13 years. So most of her entire dating life has been spent with this one person.
Just imagine how much that she has invested into the relationship, not just time, but energy and mental energy. Monetary aspects have been invested into this relationship. She feels like if she lets the relationship go it’s going to be kind of like a waste of her time.
All that time is going to be invested for nothing.
The Five Types Of On Again Off Again Relationships
And in an odd way I think that her ex actually probably feels the same, which is why he keeps coming back. Now, one of the interesting things that happened when I was researching on what I was actually going to say for this podcast episode was, I like to do actual research.
So I base everything on science and also what I know to be true based on my own internal research here at the Ex Boyfriend Recovery.
And one of the best places that you can find actual scientific data is the website Psychology Today. So obviously when I started researching on again off again relationships, a whole bunch of articles popped up. I read a few, but what’s always interesting, I find about Psychology today, they’re absolutely one of the best websites for learning about sort of scientific type things.
But oftentimes they’ll quote studies that are done by really incredible professors, psychologists, psychotherapists, that whole spiel.
But they only kind of pick and choose the data points that they’re actually going to talk about. So they read the whole study or maybe not even reading the whole study. They just have access to the study and they pick some of the parts that they think are the most important parts and they include that in their articles.
Well that obviously doesn’t give you all of the details of the study. In one of the on again off again a relationship sort of articles. I came across a study that they were citing called a dimensional approach to characterizing on again and off again, romantic relationships. It was done by, it looks like four professors from Austin, Texas and a few universities in Seoul, South Korea.
And so anyways, I downloaded this PDF document. It’s it’s really, really long document, looks to be like 200 pages long. And I didn’t read the whole thing.
I just read exactly the part that I was sort of picking and choosing. But they, Psychology Today article left out a really, really important thing.
And that’s the fact that there are actually five types of on again and off again, relationships. And as I was reading through this, it’s just amazing and uncanny how often you can actually point to this type and say, “Okay, this person’s actually this type.”
So what are the five types of on again, off again relationships?
Type #1: The Habitual Type
Well, the first type is called the habitual type.
Now this is where the relationship feels relatively easy and they’ve gotten actually into the habit and don’t want to get rid of the habit of sort of the relationship.
So what does that mean?
Well, it’s sort of like the whole thing, they’ve gotten grown so used to what the relationship habits are like that when the habits are taken away, they kind of don’t like that and they want to get back into the relationship. And they usually stay in that on again off again relationship until they find someone better looking or that will better meet what they feel their needs are.
So that’s the first type of on again off again relationships.
Type #2: The Mismatched Type
The second type is called the mismatched type.
This is where partners have incongruent quality such as personalities and desires or even geographical distance or schedules conflicting.
So this is the whole long distance relationship kind of a situation where a person feels like they can’t do long distance anymore and then they either regret it or they’re long distance situation changes and they’re back into relationship or the schedules conflict.
So that’s where like, “Oh, school is too hard. I have to break up right now.” Or, “Oh I want to focus on my career, I have to break up right now.”
And then next thing you know, they’re back with the person again.
So that’s the second type of on again off again relationship.
Type #3: Capitalization of Transitions
The third type is called capitalize on transitions.
So this is people who wanted to use the breakup as a test to manage the problems or create opportunities to improve their relationship.
So I found this fascinating.
This was the only one of the, if not the only type of on again off again relationship that’s actually saw a positive net change if a reconnection was made.
So I’m going to talk a little bit about those capitalize on transitions type of on again off again relationships as we grow later into the podcast episode. But let’s continue on down the five types of on again off again, relationships.
Type #4: Gradual Separation
Type number four was called gradual separation.
So this is where the two people eventually realize that the relationship was not going to work or they were no longer interested in continuing the relationship.
Here’s the thing though, it just took them an extremely long time to realize it.
Not too much to unpack here.
Type #5: Controlling Partner
And finally we have number five, which is a controlling partner type of on again off again relationship.
This is where one partner controls the progression of the relationship or would use manipulation or control tactics to get back together.
Right? So when you look at Jennifer’s situation, just hearing that little blurb, to me it seems like a either a habitual type of on again off again relationship, which is sort of what I’m going to sort of say that she’s currently in, which is where the habits are so ingrained over 13 years that her partner just kind of tends to want to get back in the relationship.
But where she’s failing, in my opinion, is that she’s not capitalizing on the transitions.
Right? So I’ll talk about that in a little bit.
Are On Again Off Again Relationships Healthy?
But first things first, let’s actually tackle a bigger question and that is whether on again, off again, relationships are actually healthy.
So what’s interesting is recent research would actually suggest that rebound relationships are healthy.
So if you break up with someone, go on the rebound, it’s actually a great way of getting over the person you were just with. But is that kind of true in an on, again, off again relationship?
Well, if you actually look at the situation where a rebound relationship is involved, you’re actually … There’s a breakup occurring with you and your ex. Right? And then you are moving on to someone new.
And even though it’s morally gray, you’re actually using that someone new to get over the experience. And sometimes using that someone new can blossom into a great relationship.
But the same thing doesn’t necessarily work within on again off again relationships.
So think of it like this, with rebound relationships, you’re breaking up with your ex and moving on to someone new, an on again off again relationship is you are breaking up with your ex and then you’re not moving on to someone new, you’re moving on to your ex again.
So it’s actually found to be kind of un-health. There are some a fly in the ointments here, there where there are some studies that say it can be healthy, but I think that’s only in cases where people capitalized on transitions.
Can On Again Off Again Relationships Ever Work?
So can they work?
So you’ve been in this on again off again relationship.
We’ve determined that, “Yeah, it’s not necessarily the most healthy situation.” Can they work well?
Yes, it can absolutely work.
You see, in my opinion, there are two types of on again off again relationships.
- The first type is those who grow.
- And the second type is those who don’t.
This is what research has suggested based on the research findings that I cited. Where the one couple or the one person that seemed to have a positive net change if an actual reconnection was made, were those who actually capitalized on transitions.
Where they wanted to use the relationship as a test to manage the problems or they used it as an opportunity to improve the relationship. So again, that was the only type of on again off again relationship that saw a positive change.
That’s what I mean by those who grow.
So if you’re going to get into an on again off again relationship, you need to view it in that way.
The problems that caused the relationship to begin with need to be talked about. You need to learn some communication skills and you actually need to do a lot of research about what it takes to make a healthy relationship work.
But here’s the thing, oftentimes people who are in situations with on again off again, relationships fail to realize what type of on again off again relationship they’re really in. So I’ve cited so far, five types of on again off again relationships and basically honed in on one type where, “Hey, it can work out if you’re this type.”
But more times than not, people are in those habitual type of relationships. They are in those mismatched type of relationships. They are in gradual separation. Sometimes they are trying to get back with the controlling partner in which you should never do.
So the question now becomes, is there a right way to transition into the on again phase?
And in my opinion, absolutely.
The Right Way To Transition Into The “On Again” Phase
There’s an absolute way that you should transition into this on again phase if you find yourself in the on again off again relationship. S
o the program that we teach, we’ve had seven years to define this now.
So we’ve refined this process time and time again so that we can figure out what’s best for these on again off again relationships. The program that we teach allows women time to assess the breakup, time to work on their own personal growth and time to determine if they really want to get back together.
Now the bedrock of our program, Jennifer mentioned, and that’s the no contact rule.
Now before you roll your eyes and say, “I’ve heard this a million times before, Chris.” Or, “It doesn’t work.”
I want you to understand how we use the no contact rule.
So if you don’t know, I’ve written about the no contact rule a zillion times on Ex Boyfriend Recovery.
I’ve done a zillion YouTube videos on it.
I’ve done a zillion podcast episodes on it.
So I don’t think I need to explain to you what the no contact rule is.
But for the the spare viewer there, who’s listening in is thinking, what the heck is the no contact rule?
Here is what it is.
The no contact rule is simply a period of time where you ignore your ex with the intent on making them miss you, but also at the same time giving yourself some time to cultivate your own personal life.
And I would add onto that definition, giving you time to determine if you want to get back with your ex or not. Right? So what’s different about the way that we use the no contact rule as compared to our competitors?
For example, what our competitors often only focus on the missing your ex part. So they’re thinking, well, if you ignore your ex, they’re going to miss you and then by default they’re going to want you back.
We actually don’t look at it that way.
So we like to sort of divide it up into three phases.
- There’s a period of time on what you’re supposed to be doing before the no contact rule
- A period of time of what you’re supposed to be doing during the no contact rule
- And a period of time on what you should be doing after the no contact rule.
So let’s take a little moment and describe what you should be doing during each of those three phases.
Phase One: Before The No Contact Rule
So phase one is there before the no contact rule phase.
So this is where you’re going to be doing a breakup assessment, determining whether or not you’re in an ideal situation to get back with your ex or not.
You’re going to learn about what the no contact rule is.
So many of you listening to this entire podcast episode are probably in the before the no contact rule phase. What you’re failing to do is you’re failing to learn the ins and the outs of everything related to the no contact rule.
So for example, most people can’t do a strict no contact rule straight up because they live with their ex, like Jennifer. Most people can do it because they’re pregnant, they have children with their ex, they work with their ex.
What do you do in those situations?
That is what you’re supposed to be doing before you do a no contact rule.
You need to do all of your leg work, all of your homework so that you know what you’re getting yourself into.
This is also a time for you to interpret your ex’s behavior and try to understand what’s really going through his mind and adopt an action oriented mindset. So there’s a difference between understanding something and implementing something.
So this is everything you’re supposed to be doing before you go into a no contact rule.
But what about what you’re supposed to be doing during the no contact rule?
Phase Two: During The No Contact Rule
So let’s say during the no contact rule, you’ve learned everything about the no contact rule.
You’re implementing it. You have that action oriented mindset. You are still a little unclear on whether or not you want your ex back, but you’ve taken some time to interpret his behavior so that you can better understand what’s going through his mind.
This period is basically spent on you. Right? So you’re going to be learning about concepts like the value ladder, what un-gettable means. You’re going to learn about what we consider to be the Holy Trinity, health, wealth, relationships and how those interact and the synergy between them.
You’re going to learn how you should be handling your social media profiles, what you should be posting, what you should be saying, what’s the the okay things to do, what are not the okay things to do. And also you’re going to learn about what it takes to maintain a healthy relationship. That’s an important part for someone who’s in an on again, off again relationship because learning what it takes to maintain a healthy relationship is something that almost no one does when they enter into that on again phase again.
Phase Three: After The No Contact Rule
So far we’ve talked about what to do before the no contact rule, what you should be doing during the no contact rule, but what about after the no contact rule?
Here’s what we find is fascinating.
People who listen to us, people who go through this breakup phase, they divide the no contact rule into the three phases, before, during and after.
People actually do what they’re supposed to do before and what they’re supposed to be doing during the no contact rule often have a much different outlook after the no contact rule is over.
This is really where they can do their real soul searching. They can really determine, do they want to move on or do they want to attempt to reestablish contact and reconnect and learn to maintain a healthy relationship? This is that moment. This is the frame of mind that you should be in when you do everything.
A lot of times people make impulse decisions when it comes to getting back with an ex. I’m not dumb. I know, I’ve seen, I’ve been there. I know exactly what it’s like when you go through a breakup and some of the decisions that you make. It’s nothing against you.
Remember when emotions run high logic runs low. That’s been sort of a phrase that everyone’s been saying for years. Right? Often the decision to, “Hey, I want to get back with my ex is done in an extreme emotional state of mind. But after you’ve got some time to think about it, after you’ve worked on the important aspects that you’re supposed to be working on after a breakup, that’s when you should determine whether or not you want to move on or attempt to reestablish contact and reconnect with your ex.
Because what we find is it’s literally 50/50. Half the people who go through the no contact rule and do everything as suggested, will still want their ex’s back and half of the people will not. They see their ex for what they really are. They want to move on. They want to have a better version of a relationship than they had with their ex. There’s nothing wrong with either approach, but my whole point is before you make a big decision, like whether or not you want to get back with your ex, you should determine whether or not he’s worth getting back. Now, why am I going through all of this for Jennifer, who’s 29 years old? She’s got plenty of time to find and settle down. She’s been with this person for 13 years. While that’s just it. She’s been with this person for 13 years. They’ve been off again on again, probably for most of that time.
What she needs to do more than anything is determine if he’s worth getting back with. But she can’t do that right now because she’s going through a really highly emotional time. She needs to divide things and simplified things up into these three phases and then after she’s gone through all of the work, make that decision. But the beautiful part is even when you’re going through that before the no contact rule phase. Even when you’re learning about that during the no contact rule phase, you’re still learning about what you should do if you want to get your ex back and if you want to move on. That’s all part of working on yourself.
I did an episode once where I interviewed a woman, I think her name was Veronica Grant. She’s a real nice girl. She had adopted this mindset that I think is worth adopting. It’s called dating yourself. Right? A lot of people don’t date themselves. They don’t spend time to work on themselves or do sort of nice things for themselves after a breakup. They just start obsessing about what their ex is doing, who their ex is, seeing things of that nature. But this is a time to date yourself. And then after you come out the other end of that one to two month time period, you’ll be in a frame of mind to make a decision on whether you want to move on or attempt to reestablish, contact, and reconnect.