Think Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, Marilyn Manson and Evan Rachel Wood, Jennifer Aniston and John Mayer – just few of celebrity pairs that have gotten on and off, breaking up, then getting back again, sometimes extending the cycle to the point where we are left guessing as to their future romantic plans. On and off relationships are not uncommon. A study by Dailey et al sought to provide a baseline description of on-off relationships and their differences with noncyclical relationships, or relationships that end and do not renew. Factors such as relational development and dissolution, reasons and initiators for dissolution of relationship were looked at. The study revealed the commonality of these kinds of relationships among the participants. Participants who have been in on and off relationships were less likely to report positive characteristics of the initial stages of their relationships. Then why go back to such a relationship if that is so? The researchers also noted that while most breakups were unilateral / non mutual, there was an even higher percentage of on-off relationships that were non mutual, compared to noncyclical relationships. It is possible that one partner would still be interested in instigating reconciliation. Noncyclical partners also reported greater use of mutual disintegration to end a relationship, whereas on-off partners often used methods that were more unclear, such as the “Let’s take a break” excuse. Such method may increase uncertainty whether the relationship is merely ‘on break’ or if it has been terminated.
Several recommendations include the need to address internal factors in the relationships, and the need for certainty, for both partners to be explicit in their desires to continue or end a relationship.