Some partners try to be friends after breaking up. Some may be friends because they hope for a renewal; others may be leery to completely close the door on the relationship in case they can't find better partners. Many of those who try to be friends after breakups find it difficult to define the new relationship, though. A lot of uncertainties go along with this. For example, some partners wonder how much they should see each other, whether they are allowed to date other people, and what activities are off-limits now that they are no longer dating. Although losing the friendship as well as the romantic relationship is difficult, trying to be friends after the breakup may complicate the breakup process.
Those who have experienced more breakups and renewals report less satisfaction, more conflict, more uncertainty about the relationship and less support for the relationship from friends and family. The on-off partners who do report more satisfaction say that the on-off nature of the relationship helped improve the relationship; the breakups and renewals gave them a chance to work on themselves or the relationship. These partners also report fewer renewals. Hence, these couples resolved their problems earlier in the relationship and stopped the cycle of breaking up and renewing. So if you've tried to make it work but the relationship seems to take a step backward each time you renew (or at least not improve), chances are the relationship probably won't get better.
Even if your relationship has gone through several renewals, the lessons from those who have stopped the cycle of breaking up and renewing may still apply. Change something about the relationship. Discuss new rules and norms. Talk about how to resolve issues that led to the breakups or how to improve the relationship. Don't just hope that the relationship will be better the next time around.
If you've decided that you want to move on:
In sum, our research suggests that on-off relationships are not always unhealthy. For many couples, the cycling pattern turns into a downward spiral. But for some, the breakups and renewals offer opportunities to improve the relationship. Still, if this doesn't occur within the first couple of breakups/renewals, getting the relationship on a more positive, and stable, track may prove difficult -- and ultimately, impossible.
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