CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE
A recent study reveals that on and off relationships can cause major mental health problems in an individual’s life in the long run
Did you know that on-off relationships can be toxic for your mental health? A new study reveals that such relationships are associated with higher rates of abuse, poorer communication and lower levels of commitment. There are characters like Sam and Diane from Cheers, Ross and Rachel from Friends and Carrie and Mr Big from Sex And The City, which were a part of on-off relationships, keeping us entertained.
However, a researcher from the University of Missouri, USA, says that the pattern of breaking up and getting back together can be harmful for an individual’s mental health. He suggests that people in these kind of relationships should make informed decisions about stabilising or safely terminating their relationships.
A prior research has estimated that more than 60% of adults have been involved in on-off relationships, and more than one-third of cohabiting couples reported breaking up and later reconciling at some point. Compared to relationships without this pattern, on-off relationships are associated with higher rates of abuse and communication gap.
Kale Monk, assistant professor of Human Development and Family Science, University of Missouri, says, “Breaking up and getting back together is not always a bad omen for a couple. In fact, for some couples, breaking up can help partners realise the importance of their relationship, contributing to healthier and more committed unions. On the other hand, partners who are routinely breaking up and getting back together could be negatively impacted by the pattern.”
Monk and co-authors Brian Ogolsky and Ramona Oswald examined the data from more than 500 individuals who are currently in relationships. They found that an increase in breaking up and reuniting was associated with more psychological distress symptoms such as depression and anxiety. They did not find meaningful differences between same-sex and heterosexual relationships in this pattern.
Partners break up and reunite for a number of reasons; a common one is necessity or practicality. For example, a person might stay in a relationship for financial reasons or partners might stay together because they feel they have invested too much time into the relationship to leave. However, Monk advises that former partners should get back together based on dedication and not on obligation.
Monk suggested a few tips for couples that included, that when considering rekindling a relationship that ended or avoiding future breakups, partners should think about the reasons that led to the break up to determine if there are persistent issues impacting the relationship.
Another step they can take is that to have explicit conversations about issues that led to their break up, especially if the issues are likely to reoccur. One can also spend time thinking about the reasons why reconciliation might be an option. Is the reason, rooted in commitment and positive feelings, or more about obligations and convenience? The latter reasons are more likely to lead down a path of continual distress.
Another point to take into consideration is that it is okay to end a toxic relationship. For example, if your relationship is beyond repair, do not feel guilty leaving for your mental well-being.
Couple therapy or relationship counselling can also be of help. Even happy dating and married couples can benefit from ‘relationship check-ups’ in order to strengthen the connection between partners and have additional support in approaching relationship transitions.
Partners who are routinely breaking up and getting back together could be negatively impacted by the pattern. KALE MONK, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, HUMAN DEVELOPMENT AND FAMILY SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI