On-Again, Off-Again Relationships Are Making You Depressed & Anxious, Science Says

It’s a tale as old as time: you love him but you just can’t make it work, so you break up… only to get back together weeks or months later and repeat the same cycle over and over again. On-again, off-again relationships are ridiculously common and it’s easy to see why. When you take the time to get to know someone and form memories and attachments to them, throwing all of that away to start again with someone new isn’t all that appealing. However, according to new research, continuously breaking up and making up with your partner is likely destroying your mental health.

In a new study out of the University of Missouri—Columbia, it was discovered that roughly 60% of people have been in on-off relationships, and the effect they’ve had on participants’ mental and emotional well-being is anything but positive. In fact, relationships like this were associated with “higher rates of abuse, poorer communication, and lower levels of commitment.”

Researchers concluded that while breaking up and getting back together with someone isn’t inherently bad—it can serve to make you realize what you had and what you stand to lose if you don’t get your act together, for instance—developing a pattern of splitting and reuniting was way more likely to cause mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

“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,” said study author and assistant professor of human development and family science Kale Monk. “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.”

In other words, if breaking up once or twice wasn’t enough to help you or your partner reflect on what went wrong and make strides to fix it, perhaps there’s a greater reason things aren’t working out that you should confront and accept. After all, there’s someone out there with whom you could have a happy, healthy, ongoing relationship—why settle for less?


Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill