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AdviceHey, Bonita!

On-and-Off Relationship Worries

At what point do you just call it quits in an on-and-off relationship? My partner and I have been together for almost five and a half years altogether. In that time there have been a lot of breaks. I think the longest we’ve consistently stayed together was just over a year, and the longest we’ve been apart is about eight months. I know this isn’t a lot of information to go off of to accurately sum up a relationship, but I think our biggest problem is that we’re both extremely stubborn and set in our ways. This isn’t a “toxic” on-and-off, but we don’t communicate very well, either. Is being able to walk away so much just a sign we shouldn’t be together?

I totally understand why you’re sick of all that wishy-washyness, but I also fully get why you and this partner keep getting back together regardless of all the mess. Without having much more context of your situation, I’d say that five and a half years is a long time to be with someone these days, and that it signifies, at the very least, a level of comfort and familiarity that you and this person have achieved. Getting relationships started can be awkward and uncomfortable learning experiences at times, and maybe neither of you feel like starting fresh with someone new when you know that Old Faithful will take you back after a period of separation. Whether or not that’s a sign that points to a permanent breakup really depends on whether you want this person to remain a romantic presence in your life. Are you in love? Do you want to protect and fight for this person and your relationship with them, poor communication included?  

I think that being able to walk away from a situation that does not serve you is a great thing, and even more so when you do that with the intention to return to that situation and repair it once things have calmed down. Maybe I’m being idealistic about how the making-up goes after y’all take time away, but I hope you’re returning to each other in the spirit of repairing and maintaining the relationship you’ve cultivated over the years. 

Then again, y’all might just have great sexual chemistry and enjoy the same media or something, who knows. Only you know if this relationship is just a security blanket, or if it’s actually something that you need in your life.  

If it’s the latter, I would like to ask if you two have ever considered an ethically non-monogamous relationship style. Maybe you keep splitting up because certain needs are not being met in the relationship, or because you have different styles of dating and relationship maintenance. Maybe what you want in a partner has changed over the years, expectations and desires that your current bae just can’t meet. Ethical non-monogamy is a relationship orientation that lots of people identify with and thrive within, and plenty of long-monogamous couples have opened up their stagnant relationships to great success. It’s not a panacea by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s nothing wrong with learning more about ethical non-monogamy and having some low-stakes chats with your partner about it. Vice News, surprisingly, has tons of amazing articles about non-monogamous and poly lifestyles that you should seek out.

Or maybe you know that this is the end. Perhaps you feel it in your heart that you’ve rode this relationship until the wheels have fallen off, and now the streets are calling your name. The making up and breaking up isn’t an indicator of anything beyond you two needing a change in your monogamous agreement, and you’re the one who knows whether that change is polyamory, couples counseling or calling it quits for good. It’s all about the way that this person makes you feel and whether or not you feel called to save this relationship in the face of its constant stopping and starting. You’re obviously not having much fun right now and need a change, but breaking up isn’t your only option. It is, however, a perfectly appropriate choice if that’s the one you end up making.

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