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Some people keep reigniting the love despite being heartbroken multiple times. This relationships feature shares some insights on whether on-and-off relationships are healthy, and whether there is a chance of a ‘happily ever after.’

Possible Influences of ‘On-Off-On’ Relationships

Life coach Dominique Brits starts off by jokingly sharing that the biggest red flag is the fact that the relationship is on and off.

Brits shares that the following issues can cause an on-off relationship:

  • Lack of communication
  • Misunderstanding
  • Different desires
  • Past traumas
  • Being on different paths

A couple we interviewed were in a 10-year-on-and-off-relationship until recently… or at least that’s what she says. Let’s call her *Naledi.

Their first break up happened just under a year into the relationship, and Naledi says that the break up was caused by her ex partner’s infidelity. She does however stress that there were already trust issues in the relationship, and when she found out about the incident – it was an alert to start dealing with the actual issues. 

*Mandla adds that among other reasons, the bigger reason for the break up was because Naledi moved to a different city. They had already been in a long distance relationship, and thought it would work better if they took a break.

Mental Effects Of an On-Off Relationships

Life Coach, Dominique Britz, shares that the effects of this type of relationship depends on the type of on-and-off relationship, and also depends on the mental and emotional stability of both the individuals.

‘’If there is mental and emotional instability, then there will be psychological effects. If you haven’t dealt with past traumas, and your partner is triggering that, feeling neglected, not receiving love, etc, these things can bring up your past traumas and the psychological effects will be negative,’’ elaborates Brits.

Naledi acknowledges that some of the 10 years of the relationship was ‘wildly unhealthy’ and what led to them getting back together was because they spent a lot of time together during times they had broken up, even when it was not necessary.

Reigniting The Love…Again

‘’We just fell into it,’’ shares Mandla.

It is often said that in on-and-off relationships, your body and brain can go through acute moments of wanting and longing. The discomfort of change of routine or even the changes that your life and schedule have to undergo from a break up may have you longing for the comfort of going back.   

Naledi says she agreed to rekindling their relationship because she felt she was not being treated well by other people that she dated during the times they had broken up. So despite the challenges she faced with Mandla, she still feels he treated her well.

“I think I kept going to other partners, and at the time I just thought I wasn’t being treated as well as I was in that relationship [with Mandla] or wasn’t being understood or something. There was always something that, um, I was able to say. [Such as] I’ve moved on and I experienced someone else, but I still was drawn to like, try figure it out with you’, If that makes sense. It always felt like it was unfinished business,’’ Naledi explains.

Mandla agrees with this and reiterates, “Like I said, we just fell into it. We just got back into it. I think there was a lot of unresolved issues. Maybe lack of closure in some ways, like I said, we’re still like connected in one way or the other.”

But is love enough? What else is needed?

Brits agrees with the popular saying that love is not enough in a relationship. She also believes that there must be more than just love to make a relationship work. She shares the following qualities will go a long way in building your relationship:

  • Dedication
  • Commitment
  • Honesty
  • Desire
  • A vision of a future together

Naledi and Mandla both agree on one thing, unresolved issues and lack of communication was a major part of the off-and-on-again.

As Mandla would put it:

“’cause it was about like five years or so. Um, and then she moved back (to Johannesburg from Cape Town) and then we kind of started again. Um, one of the things was like seeing the person, not the image you have in your head of the person, you know? So like not, not answering for them, like not thinking I don’t want to raise this issue up with them because they’re going to answer in this way, like you’re already answering for them as opposed to being open to the truth of who they are today and where they want to go.”

I like to call this having conversations alone in your head.

As We End This…(pun-intended)

Mandla and Naledi shared some of the biggest challenges they went through in their 10 years on-and-off relationship before they officially ended it for good.

These are:

  • Lack of communication of where each person is in the relationship
  • Trust issues
  • Loyalty
  • Misalignment of priorities

Brits concludes by saying that there is a 100% chance for a happily ever after if you are willing to put in the work.

And there are relationships that work better when you do go on breaks to figure things out.

Are you in an on-and-off relationship? What are the unresolved issues that have you going back?


*Not their real names