Maybe you experienced it, or maybe you’ve seen a friend go through it, but falling into an on-again/off-again trap is a top-tier suffocating experience without even realizing it. But I genuinely think the craziest aspect of the on-again/off-again trap is how differently we view them depending on whether we are in them or viewing them from the outside. Nothing makes me want to pull my hair out than seeing a friend fall into the trap and seem miserable throughout it all. But what can you do about it? Is there anything you can do about it?

The evil you know

I don’t know about you, but sometimes there is comfort in the evil you know. It’s why some hate change and growth. With growth comes change, and with change comes new things, and it’s hard to prepare for the things you don’t know. While things in your relationship might not be the best, you at least know what’s wrong with it. (Or hopefully, you do.)

It’s the same reason why we love to rewatch the Office or Friends for the thousandth time this year. We don’t have to learn new arguments and navigate new situations in a new relationship if we stick with the stuff we have become comfortable with.

The alternatives and what-ifs can be terrifying. It feels easier to start over with your person than start new with someone new. We also tend to pressure ourselves to be in a relationship—screw standards. As long as you are in one, it doesn’t matter. And being single is a harder pill to swallow as you watch your friends get engaged or married. (I’m in two weddings this year, and I have four more coming up once my boys pop the question. It’s coming soon.)

Communicate expectations

Instead of breaking up with your significant other and then getting back together with them, you need to break up with the idea of on-again/off again. If you want to be with someone, then sit down and talk about what issues you need to overcome, and if they aren’t issues you can overcome, you might need to face the facts and release yourself and your significant other from a toxic cycle.

It’s so easy to stick with someone who can boost you in one aspect of your life but can’t be there to support you in other aspects. For example, you can have a partner you are only with because of sex. That person can make you feel confident in your body, but if you need more than just a physical and need more support from a partner who can’t meet you where you want, then your expectations can’t be met.

Trust yourself

Sometimes you have to trust your gut. Especially when it’s screaming at you to do something, it can be so easy to become accommodated to bad situations. We adapt to a new level of burden and unhappiness. It’s easy to ignore problems and try to focus on just the good, but sometimes you need to be realistic and examine your situation without the rose-colored glasses.

It can feel especially selfish to break up with someone you have invested so much time with, but it is up to you to find happiness. And finding happiness takes a bit of selfishness. Don’t settle with someone who doesn’t make you happy or doesn’t put in the effort to make you happy. They shouldn’t be your only source of happiness, but your partner shouldn’t make you miserable either. At some point in on-again/off-again relationships, fighting becomes empty words that lack love and takes on the form of fighting for fighting’s sake.

On-again/off-again relationships and situationships

Whether you’re in an again/off-again relationship or strung into a limbo of ‘are we dating or are we not’, it’s easy to slip into a toxic cycle of being together and not being together. There is comfort in knowing a person, even if that person isn’t right for us. And if the person is right for you, then take the initiative and communicate your expectations and overcome any issues you might have to better your relationship in the long run. Trust your gut and figure out what makes you happy otherwise, you will settle and be unhappy and start to resent your partner.

Also for those curious, here’s a small breakdown of a study done on the topic of on-again/off-again.

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