3 Ways to Cope With an “On Again Off Again” Relationship

How do you cope with an “on again off again” love relationship that seems more off than on? Even more important: how do you find peace, stability and joy in a relationship that is filled with uncertainty and confusion? The world is unstable and confused enough! The last thing we need are “on again, off again” love relationships.

“I’m 50 years old and retired due to health issues,” says Julie on How to Stop the Painful “Breakup and Makeup” Cycle. “I have been in an ‘on again off again’ relationship with a man who has been very on again off again. He recently was incarcerated and found the Mormon religion. He’s finding his way without me. This hurts because I waited for him for a long time. He turned into a good man since he got out of jail. But he’s complicated. I’m scared of being alone, I still love him but I don’t know if he wants me to be a part of his life. I have abandoned everyone for him. I’m alone and I don’t know what to do about our relationship. He still comes around but it’s definitely on again off again. I’m scared.”

One of the healthiest, most powerful ways to cope with an “on again off again” relationships is to get to the root of your fear. Julie is scared of being alone, especially because she waited for her boyfriend for a long time. She invested her time, love, money and energy in this relationship…and now that he’s free and healthy he doesn’t really want to commit to her.

The truth is that he never really wanted to commit to her. That’s why their relationship was “on again off again” for so long. And she was always too afraid to let him go. Too desperate to be loved, too scared to be alone, to insecure to face life without a relationship…even an “on again off again relationship” that is more off than on.

How to Cope With an “On Again Off Again” Relationship

These three tips for coping with a relationship that is sometimes on but mostly off (or sometimes off but mostly on!) may not be easy for you to read. Pay attention to how you feel while you’re reading my ideas. If you feel angry scared, unhappy or even weepy then you may be facing a truth you don’t want to accept.

1. Dial down the external and internal noise

How to Cope With an “On Again Off Again” Relationship
“On Again Off Again” Relationships

It’s easy to avoid facing the truth about our love relationships — especially when there’s online stuff to watch, read, participate in, comment on and even write. This world is loud and demanding, and seems to be getting louder and more demanding every day. If your life is busy and filled with distractions, you won’t have time or energy to face the truth about your “on again off again” relationship. And if you can’t face or tell the truth, then you can’t deal with it.

Maybe you aren’t busy in the external world. Maybe you’re retired, hospitalized, incarcerated, on vacation, or healing from surgery or health mishap. Maybe you have a job with lots of down time, or you’re caring for someone who sleeps a lot. Your external life may not be busy, but your internal world may be filled with a constant storm of doubt, confusion, questions, rumination and obsessive thinking. Your mind, heart and spirit can be just as loud as the external world — if not louder and more demanding.

2. Be honest with yourself

What are the unspoken words you’ve been hiding? If you haven’t dug them up yet, take time to hear what you need to say, feel, and do. Here are a few examples:

  • I’m scared to be alone.
  • I’m staying in this “on again off again” relationship even though I’m not happy.
  • We’ve been on again and off again for so long, I don’t know how to stop the cycle.
  • I have no energy to start over in a new relationship.
  • I’m not good enough to be loved by someone else.
  • I’m too weak to break up with him.
  • I believe our relationship is worth fighting for, and I hope he’ll change.

Tell the truth about how you feel. Write it down, and keep writing. Notice that the more you write, the more ideas and feelings rise in you…and the more you realize about yourself, your relationship, and your boyfriend. Know that telling the truth about your “on again off again” relationship will be painful, but it will help you heal.

If you’ve been on again and off again for years, read 7 Signs Your Relationship is Worth Fighting For.

3. Accept that you can’t do this alone

Here’s the most important and powerful truth about your “on again off again” love relationship: you can’t handle life on your own. That’s why you’re still hanging on to this relationship even though it’s not good for you. You’re scared to be alone — and that’s normal and even healthy. This world is a scary place! Bad things happen all the time, we’re more vulnerable than we think, and we can’t handle life alone. God created us to live together, to be united and interconnected and interdependent. 

Your fear and anxiety about being alone — and possibly never finding someone to love and do life with — is real. It’s normal. But if you let your fear and insecurity keep you stuck in an “on again off again” relationship, then you’ll never find happiness. You can’t blossom into who God created you to be if you stay stuck where you are.

It’s your turn now. How will you start dealing with this “on again off again” love relationship? What is one step you can take to cope with your fears, anxieties, insecurities and grief?

Take 10 minutes, and be silent. Get quiet and still. Close your eyes and breathe deep. What is the truth you’re too scared to face? Just let it come to you. Let that be enough for now. The rest will come later. 

Your big and little comments are welcome below. Writing about your experience, thoughts and feelings can bring clarity and insight. Writing forces your brain to slow down, your internal chatter to shut off, and your true self to rise. 

If fear and insecurity are holding you back from leaving your “on again off again relationship”, read Are You Scared to Break Up With Your Boyfriend?

With the love of Jesus,



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3 thoughts on “3 Ways to Cope With an “On Again Off Again” Relationship”

  1. I’m so damaged right now. I’ve been on and off with this abuser for two years now. He got evicted from his appartment in the summer and didn’t even ask if he could move in with me he just did anyways. He doesn’t clean up or do anything sweet for me. He asks me to borrow him money all the time and is very nice to me when he asks but then when I have no more money he’s mean again and laughing when he makes me cry and yelling at me if I stand up for myself. He won’t move out or leave and at the same time I am having financial issues so I can’t afford to move out or leave. The appartment lease is in my name so I can’t just abandon my place. If I tried to sublet it he wouldn’t let me. Im scared to call the police because he knows where I live and he would stalk me. I feel stuck and no way out of this with him. He tells me I need help and that I have anxiety problems and to take medication. I never thought I needed that until he started telling me that everyday when I get upset over him being abusive. Someone please tell me what to do and what’s the safest way to get out without getting hurt.

    1. Hey, it sounds really awful what you have to be going through! On again, off again relationships are tough.

      Maybe it’s a good idea to research and call a help line to guide you on your options? Do you have friends or family nearby to stay with for a while? That helped when I needed to take a step back and assess my relationship with my boyfriend.

      Take care, wishing you good luck!

  2. I met my boyfriend 8 years ago and it was not the right time for us so I let it go really believing that if it was right we would cross paths. Lo and behold 4 years later we did… We are in an long distance relationship and have been for the past 7 months now. He has come to visit me twice , he lives on his own But never suggest I go there. I feel Every time I talk about closing the distance he kinda shuts me out and says we don’t need to have a plan because he don’t want to tell me things and somthing happen to where it cant and that it pressures him with what he already deals with and that if I kept doing it it would only push him away. This recent visit when he left its been 3 days sense I’ve heard from him and I’m lost.. Confused.. And I feel shut out. I am not sure where I go from here but it makes me feel like he is scared of commitment and has to much going on.