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Dating Tips Advice Column:
Breaking Up and Getting Back Together

Dear Dating Tips,
I have an on again / off again girlfriend and it's starting to wear me down. She keeps breaking up and getting back together. I have always loved her, so this process is very difficult for me. I don't understand why she breaks up then wants to get back together over and over again. It's like an endless cycle and I don't know what to do. ~ Breaking Down

Dear Breaking Down,

It's obvious that there are some issues that go beyond the scope of what we can address here without knowing the facts.

What we do know, however, is that this is a problem in many relationships and there are some general reasons why it occurs.

In 2008, Dr. James Houran published a column in Online Dating Magazine titled "Breaking Up Then Getting Back Together" where he touched on this issue. One of the most valuable things he said was:

"One of the most pervasive issues related to intimacy is Fear of Commitment, which is an ambivalence or lack of desire to commit exclusively to a romantic partner. Commitment itself is a psychological state that involves a combination of long-term orientation, intention to persist, and psychological attachment . One important study reported evidence for the power of these factors to predict relationship satisfaction and relationship stability in dating couples."

You can read the rest of Dr. James Houran's excellent column here.

breaking up

My recommendation is that the next time your girlfriend breaks up with you and wants to get back together, let her know that the only way you'll get back together is if she agrees to go to couples counseling with you. It's amazing what you can learn about yourself and your partner in counseling. It allows you to better understand each other and, in your case, can bring an end to the vicious cycle of her breaking up and getting back together with you, which is wearing you down mentally and probably physically too.

The problem only gets worse every time she breaks up and gets back together with you. Research shows the more you do something, the easier it becomes to do. Dr. Phil has also addressed this on his show saying that the more a couple breaks up, the less chance of success they have when getting back together." It gets easier to press the "exit" button.

The only way out of this endless loop is to seek outside help. In the book He's Scared, She's Scared, authors Steven Carter and Julia Sokol talk about the process of breaking up and getting back together. On page 297, under the heading "Curtain Calls" they say:

"If our fairy tales and romantic stories lovers are often separated and then brought back together. There is pain and longing, but eventually the lovers are reunited. Perhaps there was a terrible misunderstanding. Perhaps it was all a mistake. Perhaps it was timing, and distance made hearts grow fonder. both members of the couple matured, and finally they walk off into the sunset together. The end.

We want to warn you against placing all your hopes on this kind of reunion scenario. Your partner may well return, but unless major changes are made, you will simply replay the same old relationship... If your partner wants to see you again, it is our opinion that you should only do so in a controlled environment - the office of a truly understanding and helpful couple's counselor or the office of a clergyperson who has been trained in couple's counseling. You cannot jump back in willy-nilly until you have some concrete assurance that things will be different."

In your scenario, you have hit a pattern that simply repeats itself. She breaks up with you, your apart, she comes back to you, you get back together, then the pattern repeats. Until you put a stopper up, you will continue to repeat that pattern. In this case the "stopper" is couple's therapy. Only you're going back as friends, not lovers. If you make it through the couple's therapy successfully then you can reexplore the possibility of a true long-lasting and committed relationship.

For readers in the opposite situation - the guy keeps breaking up and getting back together, I would highly recommend that you read the book "Why Men Won't Commit" by George Weinberg, Ph.D. It hits the nail on the head.

~ The Dating Tipster


If you have a question for The Dating Tipster, simply email your question to Most questions are answered within 48 hours and your privacy details (i.e. email address) are always kept confidential and never used for any other purpose.

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