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Why Some Couples Are Stuck In A Cycle Of Breaking Up And Getting Back Together

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We’ve all either been there or comforted a friend through it – the break-up-make-up cycle.

Sometimes you and your ex just can’t quite let it go. Until you can.

…and then one of you changes your mind.

It can be very confusing, and often quite distressing. Being uncertain about your relationship can take its toll on so many aspects of your life and can be really draining.

This article will look at how people get caught in this loop, and how to break out of it, whatever that means!

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How Do We Get Stuck In The Cycle?

Let’s take a closer look at the two distinct stages this cycle seesaws between.

Breaking Up:

So, you and your partner broke up. People do that all the time. It’s horrible and it’s messy, even if you both do your best to end things on ‘friendly’ terms.

You promise to give each other the space needed to move on, and agree to meet up as friends in the near future.

While this sounds great, there’s quite a high chance that it won’t work that way.



Feelings get in the way of everything, especially breakups.

Some people will go on to live their own lives… after, that is, a few months of mourning and drunkenly trying to text their ex while their friends wrestle their phone from their hands.

Others will get a ‘breakup haircut,’ join a gym, and meet someone new within a month. Either way, some people break up and stick at it.

But what happens in this cycle is that the breakup isn’t working.

Your ex randomly messages you on the day when you’ve had a horrible time at work and feel lonely. You bump into your ex and decide to be mature and grab a coffee.

You both realize that you’ve been missing each other, and things really do feel different this time. You give it a second chance.

Getting Back Together:

The reasons for deciding to try again after a breakup really depend on the people involved – and not just the two people in the relationship.

The family and friends we have around us when we’re going through a breakup really affect our behavior.

If your closest friends are all telling you to accept that it’s finished for good, they’ll do their absolute best to help you get over it. They’ll let you cry it out and then help you to move on.

If your friends keep telling you that they think you or your partner have made a mistake, you’ll start to wonder if you should give things another go.

When we’re already feeling emotional and vulnerable, we almost trust our loved ones and their opinions more than we trust ourselves.

The way the relationship ended also impacts how we feel after it.

Sometimes, things aren’t made fully clear when a couple decides to end things. This feeling of unresolved business can leave us wondering if we made the right decision. This can lead to us then reaching out to our ex, which can kick start the whole process and keep us trapped each time.

The two individuals involved obviously have a huge impact over what happens after a breakup. If you’re both quite anxious people, there can be so much pain and confusion around the breakup, whether it was mutual or unexpected.

If you’re already unsure of what’s going on and had concerns during the relationship, the breakup can make you really question everything. Sometimes our panicked feelings and paranoia drive us back to an ex because we worry that we haven’t made the right choice.

Loneliness often plays a huge role in couples getting back together too. However confident you were in your decision at the time, the shock and pain of suddenly being single can really make you want to reach out to your ex.

Low self-esteem also comes into play here – being single can make us feel, unsurprisingly, unloved. This leads us to thinking we’re unattractive and boring, along with all the other horrible words we use to describe ourselves sometimes!

Of course, if both people involved are feeling a similar way, they’re drawn back to each other because it’s comforting to be with someone who knows you and has made you feel good about yourself in the past.

Getting back together after a breakup is pretty common, and it can be for any number of reasons.

Sometimes it really is because you’ve both realized that you’ve made a mistake and you want to get back to what works.

Other times, it just sort of… happens.

What Does It Mean For The Relationship?

If you’re the one who ended the relationship, you’ll start to notice all the little things that drove you away in the first place.

If your partner ended things the first time round, you’ll probably be overly-conscious of everything you do.

If you’re unsure as to why things ended, you’ll be hyper aware of your behavior and you’ll be monitoring your partner for signs of annoyance.

If you know why they ended it (e.g. you were too ‘clingy’), you’ll start distancing yourself and you’ll be working too hard to prove that you’ve changed.

Either way, you’ll both be treading on eggshells and it will become painful to be around each other.

One alternative is that you’ll both be so adamant that it wasn’t your fault that you’ll be overly bold and confident. This will quickly become frustrating for you both and things may soon get out of hand.

You may also both choose to ignore the fact that you ever broke up, which is equally unhealthy.

By pretending that there are no bumps in the road, you’ll be living in a fantasy world – you’ll both brush off each other’s bad habits and you’ll avoid arguing because you want things to be perfect.

Unfortunately, this often leads to more tension and an even bigger argument in the end.

You both have the right aims in mind, but it’s just not realistic to expect things to suddenly be perfect.

Of course, the other eventuality is that you’ll both be holding on to too much from the past relationship.

We all have good intentions when it comes to moving on – we agree to start afresh and forget what happened.

Is this likely to work? Probably not.

Will we continue to keep trying over and over again anyway? Yes, yes we will.

How Can You Break The Cycle?

If you’re already this far through this article, you know things have to change.

It’s hard to admit that your behavior is self-destructive, and hard to imagine the person you love playing a toxic role in your life. The thing to remember is that neither of you are at fault.

There’s a lot of history and a lot of love between you both – why would you not want to keep that going?

It’s painful to let go of love, but it’s also painful to keep yourself trapped in an unhealthy cycle. There’s a big difference between real love and attachment.

First things first – communicate.


Not via text or over the phone. Sit down with your partner face to face and talk about what you both want.

When you’re caught up in this cycle, it can be hard to remember what you actually want from the relationship.

Sometimes, you just want someone there because you’re so used to it. Sometimes, you genuinely do miss your partner and want to make it work.

Sometimes, you want to fill the void of sex and intimacy that’s inevitably popped up. Sometimes it’s a combination of these things and sometimes you have no idea what it is.

By talking about what you both want, you’ll be much better equipped to make a decision about staying together for good or ending things once and for all.

If this feels like a big or difficult step because your relationship is strained or communication isn’t your strongest point, there’s always the relationship counseling route.

In fact, many couples find that this is the best way to talk over and deal with an issue such as the one you are facing because it helps clarify the situation, find solutions, and do it all without resorting to petty arguments.

If you decide to tackle this just the two of you, here are the two options you have to choose between.

Commit For Good

You’ve decided to really commit to things – this is the last time you get back together because you’re both going to really stick at staying together.

We’ve got a few pieces of advice if this is the route you’re going down.

Make it public.

Tell your friends and family. This is a step that people often skip when they’re trapped in the cycle, because they don’t know 100% what they want.

Maybe you wanted to keep it a secret because you’re ashamed. Maybe you knew deep down that you didn’t want it to last.

The simple step of telling others that you’re seriously committed to the relationship forces you to a) be sure that this is what you want before you commit, and b) keep trying when you face the inevitable bumps in the road.

Just remember that relationships are hard and you will have to put in the work to make it last. Go into it with the right attitude.


You might not be able to forget things that happened in your first relationship with your partner, or the 5 ‘on’ moments in between, but you need to start forgiving.

Forgive your partner for things that happened in the past. If they are unforgivable, you shouldn’t even be considering committing to them.

If you can look past their mistakes and failings and still want to make this work, you need to stick to that.

You can’t bring up something they did in the past and hold it against them. That will only create distrust and anxiety, which will never end well.


Some couples in this cycle shut down because they’re scared of causing further problems.

If something is upsetting you, talk about it. The only way this relationship is going to work is if you act like it’s just that – a relationship.

You still need the same things from it: security, intimacy, support, and love.

Don’t treat it like your last chance because then you’ll start trying too hard to be perfect and it won’t work long-term.

Be open and honest – you’ve both been through the same things with each other, so you don’t need to pretend or hide what you’re doing from each other.

Or End It For Good

If you’re ending things for good, you need to actually do that. There’s no point ending things if you both have it in the back of your minds that you’ll get back together again soon.

If there’s still so much unfinished business and uncertainty, you need a good long talk with each other.

If you’re breaking up and breaking out of the cycle, follow these steps:

Tell people.

Again, being accountable for your actions is so important in terms of progress.

Your friends might have gotten used to your on/off relationship, so they probably just brush your behavior off.

From now on, they need to know that you’re done. Officially. They will support you more than you can imagine, so use their loyalty and friendship to push you through.

Write it down.

Write a list of reasons why you’re finally breaking up with your ex.

It doesn’t have to be mean, but you need a solid list of reasons you’re ending things for good.

Part of you probably won’t really believe yourself at first, as you’re so used to saying you’ll end it and then not actually doing it!

Check your list each time you feel yourself wavering, it will help you so much.


This is going to be horrible, let’s be honest.

It will be the hardest breakup you’ve been through so far, because you’re finally letting go of the person as well as the hope that it might work out.

You need to give yourself plenty of time to mourn and wallow. You will get through this and you will come to realize that it was the right decision, but you need to accept that it may take a little while to get to that stage.

Be gentle with yourself at first – do what makes you feel good, whether it’s meditation, yoga, Netflix binges, or sitting in the bath and crying hysterically. You do you.

Then, get tough on yourself. This was not the person for you and this breakup does not define you. You need to get proactive and take control of your life.

You ended things for a reason, and you need to capitalize on that – you wanted more freedom, you wanted more independence, you didn’t want to be part of something toxic, you wanted to get back to being you.

So start.

Still not sure what to do about your on/off relationship? This is a tricky situation, and one that can easily be made worse with the wrong approach. But Relationship Hero can guide the way and help you achieve the best outcome. Through regular sessions with a dedicated relationship expert (by yourself and/or as a couple), you’ll learn precisely how to create a healthier and more fulfilling relationship—one that can last a lifetime. Learn more about Relationship Hero and get the kind of tactical relationship advice and ongoing support you need.

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About The Author

Lucy is a travel and wellness writer currently based in Gili Air, a tiny Indonesian island. After over a year of traveling, she’s settled in paradise and spends her days wandering around barefoot, practicing yoga and exploring new ways to work on her wellbeing.