Is YOUR ‘boomerang’ relationship making you SICK? Why ‘relationship recycling’ is a bad idea

Did you spend the long weekend mourning your ex?

Do you secretly love that it took Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth a decade of break-ups, make-ups and inexhaustible drama to finally make it down the aisle?

Is the mean girl in you secretly hoping Justin ditches Hailey and gets back with Selena?

A lot of people – women particularly – find tempestuous on-again-off-again relationships romantic.

Be extremely careful if this is you: a pattern of relationship recycling – repeatedly breaking up and getting back together again – can make you seriously sick.

Is the mean girl in you secretly hoping Justin ditches Hailey and gets back with Selena? The couple were on and off again for a while but he now married to Hailey Baldwin

Is the mean girl in you secretly hoping Justin ditches Hailey and gets back with Selena? The couple were on and off again for a while but he now married to Hailey Baldwin

Is the mean girl in you secretly hoping Justin ditches Hailey and gets back with Selena? The couple were on and off again for a while but he now married to Hailey Baldwin 

Research from the University of Missouri looked at 545 people in relationships, a third of which experienced on-again-off-again relationships, found rekindling a relationship with your ex could risk your mental health.

The people who were in these relationships experienced higher rates of abuse, lower levels of commitment and poorer communication than the others.

Being in ‘boomerang’ relationships also led to psychological distress like depression and anxiety.

Tracey Cox says that relationship recycling is dangerous

Tracey Cox says that relationship recycling is dangerous

Tracey Cox says that relationship recycling is dangerous 

The more on-off cycles reported, the larger the increase in depression and anxiety.

Why do we keep going back?

It’s usually abundantly clear to others that it’s not ever going to work, but some people seem incapable of walking away for good.

The researchers found practical reasons account for some of it – you own a house together, you’d struggle financially solo, you want your kids to have a father, that sort of stuff.

Not wanting to write off all the time you’ve invested into making the relationship work is another reason why people don’t want to admit defeat.

If the reason for getting back together is about obligation or convenience, it’s far more likely to cause distress, say the researchers.

Ross and Rachel may have made it in the end but the reality is, most boomerang relationships don’t work out.

Second/third/fourth-time-round love affairs are risky business and, more often than not, that ‘one last try’ simply breaks your heart one more time.

Is it really worth the heartache?

Here’s my take on it.

It worked out for Liam and Miley after numerous break ups and arguments - the couple got married recently

It worked out for Liam and Miley after numerous break ups and arguments - the couple got married recently

It worked out for Liam and Miley after numerous break ups and arguments – the couple got married recently 

(POSSIBLY) WORTH ONE MORE TRY

You’re absolutely certain you haven’t idealised the relationship.

If you’re lonely and haven’t met anyone else, are you sure the answer to that question isn’t ‘yes’? Was it truly as wonderful as you remember? We all have a marvellous capacity to forget pain and gloss over the cracks when we miss someone.

Taking a break helped you get perspective.

Sometimes you need time away from each other to properly evaluate the relationship and the problems you’re having. Leaving can sometimes make you appreciate fully what you had and make you both grateful for having each other.

You’re convinced the problem is actually fixable.

Faltering long distance relationships have a good chance of making it if one of you physically moves to be with the other.

Couples with clashing core personality traits – one likes adventure, the other craves security; one has a high sex drive, the other hates sex – are never going to exist happily together.

Justin Beiber has now moved on from Selena, despite getting back together, and he now married to Hailey Baldwin

Justin Beiber has now moved on from Selena, despite getting back together, and he now married to Hailey Baldwin

Justin Beiber has now moved on from Selena, despite getting back together, and he now married to Hailey Baldwin

Are you absolutely certain you’ve made an honest, sensible assessment of the problems?

The circumstances have changed – or the person has. If you separated because of outside stresses – their job demanded too much time, they had family issues to sort out – it’s worth going back if the situation has now resolved itself.

Stress affects people’s ability to think clearly and make good decisions. If they’re sorted out what was causing the problems, it’s got a good chance of succeeding.

There’s trust there. This is key. Regardless of who keeps leaving who, break-ups are horrible. When you say ‘I love you’, the implication is ‘I won’t hurt you’. Yet one or both of you did that by walking out, taking trust with them.

Ross and Rachel in Friends were famously on and off again, but they end up having a baby together

Ross and Rachel in Friends were famously on and off again, but they end up having a baby together

Ross and Rachel in Friends were famously on and off again, but they end up having a baby together

Can you understand why they left? Do you trust them not to hurt you again? Will they stick around the next time you hit a rough spot? Without trust, there is no relationship.

You’re certain you can protect yourself. Do they seem like a changed person or do you know you have changed dramatically enough to affect how the two of you relate.

In other words, you’re not just throwing yourself to the wolves to be hurt all over again.

You need to go back to move forward. If you know you will forever be haunted by ‘what if’s’, sometimes letting an ex come back one more time – even if you don’t think it will work – is a good idea.

That way you can finally convince yourself that you gave it all you had and it still didn’t work. It’s called ‘reality testing’: going back to check you really have done the right thing.

You’ve answered positively to all these points and feel it’s really got a chance of succeeding this time? Give it another shot. Otherwise, it might be time to…

WALK AWAY FOR GOOD

Can you understand why they left? Do you trust them not to hurt you again? Will they stick around the next time you hit a rough spot? Without trust, there is no relationship. Selena left Justin after they got back together again

Can you understand why they left? Do you trust them not to hurt you again? Will they stick around the next time you hit a rough spot? Without trust, there is no relationship. Selena left Justin after they got back together again

Can you understand why they left? Do you trust them not to hurt you again? Will they stick around the next time you hit a rough spot? Without trust, there is no relationship. Selena left Justin after they got back together again 

Here’s some compelling reasons NOT to answer that text or phone call.

They don’t want to talk about why you keep splitting up. Arriving on your doorstep and saying sorry is great, but unless they’ll sit down and talk about why it’s happening, forget it.

Be particularly wary of statements like ‘It’s enough that I’m here’. If your ‘let’s get back together again’ talk consists of simply telling each other how miserable you were apart, the relationship is destined to fail for the very same reasons you broke up in the first place.

The past needs to be resolved and there needs to be a genuine attempt to change the behaviour, attitudes or situations that caused the breakdown.

You need clearly thought through logical solutions if you’re going to avoid a repeat performance and end up back at square one.

You know your family and friends will be horrified if you get back with your ex.

If your best friend, parents and everyone at work reacts to your joyful news with, ‘You can’t possibly be serious. That b*****d nearly destroyed you last time,’ rethink – everything!

Arriving on your doorstep and saying sorry is great, but unless they’ll sit down and talk about why it’s happening, forget it - says Tracey

Arriving on your doorstep and saying sorry is great, but unless they’ll sit down and talk about why it’s happening, forget it - says Tracey

Arriving on your doorstep and saying sorry is great, but unless they’ll sit down and talk about why it’s happening, forget it – says Tracey 

They treated you badly. If they were cruel – mentally, physically or emotionally abusive – skip the romantic reunion dinner for a session with a good therapist. 

Find one at relate.org.uk or itsgoodtotalk.org.uk 

You forced them into giving it another go. If you’ve threatened suicide or basically harassed them into giving in, your chances of success are close to zero.

You can’t hold a gun to someone’s head and force them to love you.

If they’ve barely finished saying sorry before they’re trying to have sex with you.You’re a booty call, not on the verge of getting back together again.

If they’re barely finished saying sorry before they’re trying to have sex with you - you’re a booty call, not on the verge of getting back together again

If they’re barely finished saying sorry before they’re trying to have sex with you - you’re a booty call, not on the verge of getting back together again

If they’re barely finished saying sorry before they’re trying to have sex with you – you’re a booty call, not on the verge of getting back together again

They’ve juts been dumped – everyone decides their previous ex wasn’t that bad when they’ve been dumped. They’re coming back for a confidence boost and will be off again the moment they feel secure.

Some exes return simply for regular sex. Others come back for security. Swiping right wasn’t quite as much fun as they thought it would be and they miss being taken care of.

Beware of this scenario: it means they’ve come back to be a relationship, not specifically a relationship with you.

They’ll leave again the second someone they perceive as more interesting shows interest in them.

They say they’re willing to change but you suspect it’s all talk. Promises to change are just words – it’s behaviour that’s important.

Listen but most of all, watch. If their behaviour isn’t backing up their claims that they’re different, get out of there.

Check out traceycox.com for more blogs about sex and love from Tracey and find her product range at lovehoney.co.uk  

HOW TO MAKE A RECYCLED RELATIONSHIP WORK 

  • Give it a test run before you commit properly.
  • If you can test their commitment to change, do it.
  • You broke it off because they were insanely jealous? Deliberately put yourself in a situation that previously would have spelt trouble. They were a massive flirt? Take them to a party and let them loose.
  • Accept that the relationship won’t be as it was. You don’t want it to be – that way didn’t work. The old relationship is over. You need to make a new one.
  • If you can’t forgive, don’t go back. 
  • Treat each other with respect and stop talking about how much they hurt you. Drip feeding their guilt really isn’t going to help either of you move forward.
  • Don’t talk about what happened during ‘the break’.
  • Unless, of course, you did something dodgy – like slept with a friend – and they’re likely to find out.
  • It’s really not helpful, otherwise, to tell each other about any casual relationships or sex you had. Clean up your devices and tell anyone you were seeing casually that you’re back with your ex and can only be friends now.
  • Act as a team.
  • It’s ‘we’ not ‘I’. Work together, don’t compete.
  • Agree on a time limit.
  • If you’re both not happy after a specified period of time, it’s over for good.
  • Hold back until you’re sure it’s going to work.
  • Beware the first flush: the initial euphoria of being reunited is heady stuff – and by all means, enjoy it, because it probably won’t be long before reality rudely intrudes.
  • If you’re going to fall back into old patterns, it will generally happen within a couple of weeks. He remembers how argumentative you were; you discover he still spends every Tuesday night and Sundays with his mother.
  • Keep an objective eye on things and proceed with caution.
  • Your health is more important than this relationship.
  • Be flexible and positive but be careful.
  • Don’t drag it out if it’s clear it’s heading in the same direction it always does.
  • If they haven’t changed or the changes don’t last, break up quickly and for good.