*Originally published on Huffington Post*
On-again/off-again relationships generally have a pretty bad reputation. And actually, science tends to back up what everyone’s cranky best friend is muttering to them.
Psychologists refer to this pretty common dating practice as “cycling”, and have found that a relationship that cycles during the dating phase is more likely to cycle once you live together or are married. On top of that depressing tidbit, if you’ve ever cycled back to your ex, everyone you’ve ever met has some discouraging advice for you. They’re certain that no one ever really changes and that you need to be extremely careful. Oh, and in case you forgot, they constantly remind you how sad you were after the last time—do you want to do that again?
All of these sentiments are felt and expressed with the best intentions, and often, those closest to you are right to keep you wary. But I’m here to argue in defense of on-again/off-again relationships.
My fiancé (This one has a happy ending!) and I had a kind of messy on-again/off-again relationship for close to three years before we finally stopped all the nonsense and made it work. We actually dated and broke up more times than Carrie and Mr. Big! But two years ago, everything in our lives was able to line up and we were both ready to commit to each other at the same time. Not to brag or anything, but I think we now have one of the most open, honest, committed, fun, and loving relationships around.
Here are eight positive things about on-again/off-again relationships that no one tells you (or believes when you’re trying to convince your mom it’ll be okay)
1. You’re not starting at the beginning.
Getting back together with your ex is so much better than starting a new relationship. You still have all the butterflies and sparkly feelings that you get from all the firsts with someone new, because it’s the first in awhile and it’s even more anticipated because you know how good it is. Plus all the awkwardness is gone and you’re starting with a foundation of experience together.
2. You’ve already seen each other at your worst and survived it.
Breakups suck. Usually, your perception of your ex changes after a breakup, and most often negatively. Because let’s be real, someone’s probably going to be a little crazy or a little rude and everyone is more likely to say something harsh in the heat of the moment. When you and your ex are willing and excited to take each other back after going through a breakup, that’s a pretty good sign that you’ll get through every misunderstanding and drunken fight.
Literally 95% of the selfies we ever take
3. You’re willing to stand up for each other.
When you take someone back who’s hurt you before, you’re going to have a lot of explaining to do. Your friends and family care about you—they only want to protect you. But when they’re questioning you, it can get rough and feel like you’re being attacked. Trying again shows you’re willing to defend your significant other and align yourself most closely with them.
4. You’re realistic.
You’ve seen your relationship be derailed by practicalities before, so you don’t underestimate the power of them. You know how important it is to be on the same page and to make decisions together. A few tough breakups with my now-fiancé taught me to pair conscious actions and choices with my romantic tendencies. Love can’t fix everything—you have to commit to working together.
5. You didn’t destroy your chance at a relationship when the circumstances weren’t right.
Sometimes it’s going to be really hard to make a relationship work. If you’re in totally different places, either physically or in what you want out of life, the relationship is going to be fraught with hardship. Looking back, I’m so grateful my fiancé and I didn’t struggle uselessly to date at times when it would have been a complete mess. Maybe if we tried forcing it too early on, we could have ended never wanting to speak again. Instead, when the stars aligned, we still loved each other.
6. You know how to have tough conversations.
Not all relationships carry heartbreak from the same relationship with it. A lot of people would think that’s a heavy burden for a relationship, but I think it makes you better prepared to have hard conversations. Your heart has been hurt before, thus you’re not willing to ignore your worries or brush difficult decisions under the rug.
7. When you commit, you’re really committed.
You both know you can’t mess around with each other’s lives or feelings because there’s already been so much history. When you get back together, for real this time, you mean it. And though one or both of you may be wary for a little bit, you both understand how important commitment is, so you act to diminish doubts and increase security every day.
8. There’s a reason you’re drawn back to each other.
A lot of the people I dated/was obsessed with were horrible mistakes I knew I would never date again. But after every single breakup with my fiancé, I was most upset because I knew he was the one for me—my very own Big (before the movies, obviously). We kept finding (or fighting) our way back to each other because we knew our relationship was special. And that’s something you should never give up on.