An Expert Reveals The Biggest Problem With On-Again, Off-Again Relationships

Sometimes the "road map" to love is a beautiful, squiggly line, rather than just a direct path. Whether you date someone for a while and then realize you need some time to breathe, or you never seem to get your timing exactly right — relationships can take a couple of detours along the way. If you've been seeing someone here and there for a while now, it's natural to wonder about the biggest problem with on-again, off-again relationships. If you seem to keep finding your way to someone, it can be common to wonder where the heck your love map is taking you.

According to Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couples counselor in Los Angeles, the biggest problem with being on-again, off-again with your boo is the lack of consistency that can come from the open-endedness. "Consistency is a vital part of any healthy relationship — our need for consistency really starts in childhood," Dr. Brown says. "That need for continuity to help us through the challenging times in life does not go away when we transition from childhood into adulthood. If anything, that need for safety and dependability in our most important relationships is just as, if not more important now as when we were younger."

Although to some, consistency may mean a weekly date night or a general sense of happiness within your relationship, Dr. Brown shares the importance of consistency during more emotional or challenging times as well. "It's important to understand that having emotional consistency doesn't mean that we are exempt from the natural ups and downs of life — quite the opposite," Dr. Brown says. "It is in having some consistency in terms of a partner who we can trust will be there for us, that helps us get through those challenging times, including challenging times with them." Knowing that your boo will be there to help you move or will always go with you to visit your aunt in the hospital can be incredibly fortifying to your relationship.

If you're going through a lot at work or some major drama has been bubbling up in your family — having a romantic partner that you know you can count on can be a great support system. As Dr. Brown shares, if your relationship has a touch-and-go nature to it, it can be hard to settle in and really open up to your boo, especially at times when you need them the most. "If your relationship has a history of 'on-again, off-again,' there is a certain lack of consistency," Dr. Brown says. "Consistency, over time, means you feel anchored in your relationship and secure in the knowledge that your relationship is grounded in trust, openness, kindness, and gratitude." Feeling secure that your boo will really be there when you need them can be a super important part of developing your relationship. Being able to lean on them for support, and to know that they want to be a part of your current life and your future, can be paramount in moving forward.

Still, no one knows your relationship better than you do and if taking some time away and then eventually coming back together feels good for you — it's OK for your relationship to follow its own path. Of course, talking about your feelings, your intentions, and you expectations can be a super important part of feeling secure in a relationship that has an openness to it. And if you and boo tend to be on-and-off, being on the same page can be crucial, every step of the way.

When it comes to finding love, as Fleetwood Mac would say, "You can go your own way." Although on-again, off-again relationships can sometimes lack a sort of the consistency, they may be what's right for you and your boo. At the end of the day, talking about your needs in the moment, and being honest about your expectations, can be a great way to manage all types of relationships — especially the ones on their own scenic route.