Navigating "Breakup Remorse": Implications for Disrupting the On-Again/Off-Again Cycles in Young Adult Dating Relationships

J Marital Fam Ther. 2020 Jul;46(3):413-430. doi: 10.1111/jmft.12425. Epub 2020 Mar 10.


While the research is clear on the risks for distress associated with on-again, off-again romantic relationships (i.e., cyclical relationships), little is known about the change mechanisms experienced by partners in cyclical relationships or how helping professionals can assist young adults stably continue or end these relationships. Young adults (N = 21) in different stages of cyclical relationships (renewed, ended, or contemplating renewal) attended focus groups and articulated specific mechanisms that influenced their ability to make distress-reducing decisions. Main themes for professionals working with partners in cyclical relationships centered on promoting "decision-making resilience," which included addressing issues around identity development, communication, power/control dynamics, and intentionality. These results inform assessments and interventions to bolster resilience and reduce distress for cyclical couples.