Stop the Break-up Yo Yo: Three Ways to Know if You’re in an Unhealthy Relationship Pattern

You love him. You love him not. You can’t live without her … but you can’t live with her either.

For a variety of reasons, many couples become stuck in what’s commonly known as a “yo yo” relationship. They split up and get back together again — until the next argument. Rinse and repeat. This cycle is rarely healthy for either party, and sometimes it can be a sign of a deeper personal neurosis or relationship issues.

“Many of us have experienced the rollercoaster ride of being involved with a seemingly compatible, charming lover who remains elusive,” says Psychology Today blogger, Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D. “Everything is going so well. You may even start to fall in love. But inexplicably, your lover keeps pulling away. And then coming back. And then pulling away.”

There may be a rush of excitement when the ex returns, begging for another chance. Or there may be a desire to rekindle the spark that first brought you together. Whatever the reason, the yo y keeps both parties from moving forward with their lives as you relive the emotional highs and lows. And that drama can become addictive, making you unwittingly receptive to keep the dance going even when you know where it will lead.

“Whenever you’re rejected, you remember the good times, and before you lose hope, here comes another reconciliation,” Davis says. “And even when you think you’ve had enough, it’s hard to get away from the allure of another ‘up’ after enduring another ‘down.’”

Why the off-again, on-again pattern? This cycle is typically triggered by fear. Fear of being alone. Fear of having to move on. Fear of true intimacy. And it takes courage to break the pattern.

Davis suggests these three ways to stop the Yo Yo Effect and move forward with your life.

  1. Stop Feeling, Start Observing. Your partner may apologize for past indiscretions and say she loves you, but what do her actions reveal? Try to set emotions aside and observe. Seek the help of a professional therapist to help you become more objective about what’s really happening in your relationship.
  2. Evaluate Your Quality of Life. Yes, the reconciliation may be sweet, but do you really want to live on the edge of break-up? Be honest with yourself. What type of relationship do you want – and is it what your spouse wants from your marriage, too? Are you both willing to seek professional help to figure out ways to live more harmoniously together?
  3. Just Say No. If you’re unhappy with the pattern of break-ups and make-ups, remember that you have the ability to end the yo-yo cycle. “No more falling under his spell when he says he’s thinking of you,” says Davis. “Stand tall and act on your own behalf. Shift your hopes from ‘I want this relationship to work’ to ‘I want a real relationship that really works.’”

If you’ve realized that it’s time to move forward with divorce but you’re having a hard time letting go, don’t be too hard on yourself.  “As you begin to see this relationship more clearly, you may look back and wonder why the heck you stayed in it for so long,” Davis says. “But you stayed as long as you needed, in order to learn the lessons it offered you.”

For more strategies for getting through a difficult divorce, read “Five Reasons Why Divorce is Difficult & How to Get Through Tough Times.”