Being in an “on-again-off-again” (or “yo-yo”) relationship is, at best, exhausting; and, at worst, it’s mentally and physically damaging to everyone concerned.

I use th word “everyone” because, often, more than two people are affected by the fall out from these sorts of relationships.

Yet we see them everywhere, and in various forms. I’m sure you have seen them. You know, where one partner wonders in and out of the relationship on their own terms, agreeing to go on dates when it suits them, or dropping in for sex or whatever when its suits them, and making all the right noises like “I love you”, “I need you”, “we’ll be together forever one day but not just now” etc… – but not acting like they mean it at all – just stringing their partner along really.

In short, these sorts of relationships lack the commitment – the genuine commitment – required to succeed. They are not real relationships.

So why do so many of these sorts of relationships continue – why do we do this to ourselves and to the people we supposedly love? Bob Marley said – “Truth is everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.

Maybe that’s right. Ultimately, however, the only way to break the yo-yo relationship cycle is to accept what Marilyn Munroe said – “Good things fall apart so better things can fall together.

And I believe that is true – one hundred per cent.

Further, I am strongly of the view that if you’re not committed fully to a relationship, then it is absolutely unfair to continue. It is just plain wrong to let someone else labour under a false assumption as to the scope of the commitment involved.

Hey, I’m not saying all relationships have to be the full monty. And I am certainly not saying a more limited relationship such as “sex only” is wrong in any sense. Hey, I’m not even saying an open, multi-partner, promiscuous relationship is wrong. They’re all fine by me. Hell, I’ve been in any number of them in various forms myself over the years. Indeed, a good friend of mine who is a well-known DJ and I had a lengthy “sex only” relationship, without anyone getting hurt. We just had a pact that we would be available to scratch the other’s itch when they needed it – so to speak. No harm done at all. Of course, as soon as I got into an exclusive relationship with my fave partner, that all stopped. But my DJ and I are still great chums and hang out when we can.

What I am just saying is that any form of relationship – at least pretty much any between
consenting adults – are ok, so long as you both agree the scope and terms of the relationship. It’s only okay if BOTH of you know the scope and terms on which you are together. Otherwise, it’s just dishonest and people will get hurt.

So, if you’re not both on the same page, it is best to get out in my view.

Of course, it isn’t easy to leave a relationship. It can be the hardest decision of all. And it is all the harder if it has been a long-term relationship.

But it is undoubtedly the right thing to do. Otherwise, either or both of you can only take so much before causing irreversible damage to one or both of you.

Trust me, I know people who have spent years – literally years – in these sorts of yo-yo relationships. Almost invariably, they have been left “FINE”- frustrated-insecure-neurotic-exhausted.

And, again, almost invariably, when they summon the courage, energy, enthusiasm or whatever it takes to walk away, they conclude it was the best thing they ever did; and they ask themselves why it took them so long to do so.

So why are these sorts of relationships so common?

I put it down to a number of common factors.

Of course, each relationship has its own unique characteristics and circumstances that overlay them – there is no doubt we humans are complex beasts. The complexity might be kids, or finances, or broader cultural, family and friendship ties etc… that effectively force an unhappy couple to stay together. A good example is the strong “cultural ties that bind” in many southern European cultures – hey, try walking out on a Sicilian marriage and see what happens!!

But nevertheless, I have observed there are a number of common elements or features of yo-yo relationships – you see them again and again. They are – selfishness – insecurity – obligation – and addiction.
The first three are self-explanatory – but to be clear – the selfish partner wants to keep their partner on a string, with sex often a common-denominator; the insecure partner is the one on the other end of the string, or simply unsure of themselves and unwilling to make a break until someone better comes along; and the obligated partner has all the excuses under the sun, be they kids, money, time, family – God, I’ve even heard of them using their pets as an excuse not to commit!!

The most interesting, in my view, is addiction. Seriously, relationships can, in some instances, be addictive; and breaking up can be like going through rehabilitation. You need to wean yourself off the yo-yo master (or mistress).

You will, almost certainly, have found yourself in a situation where a friend comes to you complaining how they and their partner keep breaking up and getting back together – or not committing in the first place. Of course, you give sound advice along the lines of – leave the selfish bastard! And your friend promises they will do so. And just when you think they have come out the other side, they get back together again – leaving you as the piggy in the middle.

And that, in itself, is unfair as it can leave you exhausted and exposed. Often, it also leaves you, the loyal friend, alienated even although you were simply trying to help – particularly when you have spoken against your friend’s yo-yo partner. Some situations just aren’t meant to be won!

Trust me!! I’ve been there numerous times, and I eventually realised the importance of saying – “look, I love you as a friend but I can’t take this any more” and until you deal with this situation we need to take a step back in our friendship.

I remember one of my dearest friends. She was in a very traumatic relationship with a guy. It was a classic case of on one minute and then off the next, for what seemed an eternity. In fact, the break-ups were so regular that they began to affect my life and emotions. I recall numerous evenings I had arranged with my friend being cancelled at the last-minute because her on-again-off-again partner would call her on a Friday to say he needed to see her that night – and guess who got left high and dry, and alone?!

I came to call this “Friday Night Syndrome”, and associated it with her insecurity and his selfishness. On reflection, I think his insecurity was also a factor as it became apparent that he was concerned about the possibility of my friend meeting other men whilst she was out with me. It was a case of him thinking I won’t commit to you but I’ll be damned if I’ll let anyone else do so either.

This went on for about 18 months before I finally called her and said it was affecting me so badly that I needed time out from our friendship. I knew – and I made clear to her – she was not making the right decisions for herself. Thankfully, she understood and recognised she needed to sort out her relationship.

Of course, I promised I would be there for her once she had regained her independence.

Happily, she did, and we remain great mates.

Relationship churning
Often, when a yo-yo relationship is in an off (or “breaking up”) stage, one or both partners will throw themselves back into dating, including dating sites such as Tinder.

Hey, I can’t complain about re-bound sex. It has been some of the best sex I have ever had. But there are risks.

It is sometimes said couples such as these have very strong emotional bonds and lower levels of commitment.

It is also said they have relationships with higher levels of verbal abuse and physical violence.

This is hardly surprising. After all, didn’t Albert Einstein famously define insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results“.

How to survive a yo-yo relationship

You need to acknowledge the fact that the relationship isn’t working, and the reasons why.

Then talk to your partner about it.

If they refuse to engage on the issues, move on. The relationship is not for you.

If they do agree to engage in a discussion, then great – talk about the issues and try to each some form of resolution you and they can live with.

It’s also probably best to allow yourself and your partner some time out to see if this is what you both want and provide space for wounds to heal; and some time for some introspection. This can help you both get back on the same page at the same time. A trial period apart is a great way to see if the relationship is something you both want. Yes, it’s going to hurt at first as you get used to your own space and time alone. But proving to each other that you really care about one another will put the relationship back on track if it is meant to be.
If you experience the same problems once you get back together, you must accept that this person is not your ideal partner. You need to leave.

And we all know leaving is difficult. As the old song goes, “breaking up is hard to do“.

My advice is to get busy. Personally, I recommend a fitness regime. It’s a natural anti-depressant, because it helps release serotonin that will help give you a more positive outlook.

You can be sure they will try to come back to you. Don’t fall for it. Remember, it is damaging for both of you to stay in a yo-yo relationship. If walking away is the only way to avoid hurting each other, you must do it.

And remember, so many people stay in relationships for the wrong reasons. If it’s sex – just remember that sex is just like murder – “Well, you say the same after both don’t you? Damn, I’ve got to get the hell out of here! What was I thinking??!” (Dave Attell).

And, also, please remember, if you’re just in it for the sex, and your partner doesn’t know that – not just you think they know it – if you haven’t had a full and honest discussion about the fact – then do the right thing, and cut the yo-yo string so you can both move on.

Hell, if it’s only the sex you’re interested in, there is so much terrific opportunity out there – just take a look at some of my on-line dating articles. And as Woody Allen said – “I believe that sex is a beautiful thing between two people. Between five, it’s fantastic!“.