In case you’re thinking about getting back together with your ex, or if you habitually find yourself reconciling only to break up again, check yourself before you wreck yourself, because science says on-again/off-again relationships are really bad for mental health.
According to a new study from the University of Missouri, people who break up and make up with the same person over and over again tend to suffer from “psychological distress,” which makes a lot of sense.
In the study, researchers surveyed 545 people in romantic relationships on their levels of depression and anxiety. To assess how on/off relationships affect mental health, participants were also asked if they had broken up and gotten back together with their partner, and if so, how many times.
Apparently, around 33 percent of those surveyed reported being in that vicious cycle. Those same people were the ones with the highest rates of psychological distress.
Furthermore, it was revealed that the more times you break up and get back together with an ex, the worse the depression and anxiety. Think about it—breakups are stressful enough as it is, and adding the turbulence of basically re-living the same breakup over and over again is just plain torture.
“The findings suggest that people who find themselves regularly breaking up and getting back together with their partners need to ‘look under the hood’ of their relationships to determine what’s going on,” says co-author Kale Monk. “If partners are honest about the pattern, they can take the necessary steps to maintain their relationships or safely end them. This is vital for preserving their well-being.
“We know that breakups are upsetting in-and-of themselves, but this distress is considered normal and is often temporary. However, a tumultuous pattern of stressful transitions in and out of the same relationship might have more pervasive implications for our well-being.”
In other words, the only thing on/off relationships are good for is deteriorating your mental wellbeing, and unless you practice open communication to either solve your problems or end things for good, you already know you're going to break up again and mess with your head even more.
If you're thinking about getting back together with your ex right now, Monk has some advice for you: “I recommend partners think about the reasons they broke up when considering rekindling a relationship. Will things really be different this time?
"Then, it can be helpful to have an explicit conversation about issues that led to the breakups, especially if particular issues are likely to reoccur. This can help partners get on the same page about what needs to be improved or repaired.”
Here's another fun fact from a separate study that might shed some light on just how bad it potentially is to be in touch with an ex, be it friendly, sexually, romantic, or otherwise: A study from Oakland University found that people who stay friends with an ex are more likely to be psychopaths. Aah!
The researchers found that people who have the Dark Triad of personality traits, which are narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, are more likely to keep their exes around and get back together for their own benefit. If that sounds like an ex that you can't seem to shake off, you might want to reevaluate that relationship.