Second-Chance Romance Might Not Bring
THURSDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Contrary to fairy
tale-like depictions in movies and books, reuniting with a former
romantic partner is unlikely to make you happy, a new study
Couples who break up and get back together -- so-called cyclical
relationships -- are quite common, said study author Amber Vennum,
an assistant professor of family studies and human services at
Kansas State University.
"With college-age kids, about 40 percent are currently in a relationship where they have broken up and then have gotten back together. That's shocking, especially when you factor in the outcomes of being in a cyclical relationship," she said in a university news release.
Vennum analyzed information that cyclical and noncyclical
couples provided about their relationships and characteristics. She
found that rekindling a former romantic relationship was associated
Cyclical couples were generally more impulsive than noncyclical
couples about major relationship decisions, such as moving in
together, buying a pet or having a child. As a result, cyclical
couples tended to be less satisfied with their partner, had worse
communication, had lower self-esteem, made more decisions that
harmed their relationship, and were less certain about their future
"The idea is that because people aren't making explicit commitments to the relationship, they are less likely to engage in pro-relationship behaviors, such as discussing the state of the relationship or making sacrifices for their partner," Vennum explained. "The thought is that, 'I'm not committed to you, why would I work very hard for you?'"
The study also found that members of cyclical couples who got
married began their marriages with lower satisfaction and higher
levels of conflict than noncyclical couples. Cyclical couples were
more likely to experience a decline in satisfaction with marriage
over time and were more likely to have a trial separation within
the first three years of marriage.
"It really shows that those patterns of cyclicality tend to repeat," Vennum said. "If you tend to be cyclical while dating, you tend to be cyclical while married. The more you are cyclical, the more your relationship quality tends to decrease, and that creates a lack of trust and uncertainty about the future of the relationship, perpetuating the pattern."
This and other studies offer a clear message to couples who have
broken up, according to Vennum.
"Don't get back together," she said. "Study after study shows that when our relationships are poor, we don't function well. If it seems necessary to get back together, make sure the decision is carefully considered by both people and that specific efforts are made to establish clarity."
Vennum is preparing her study findings for publication. Research
and conclusions should be considered preliminary until published in
a peer-reviewed journal.
The American Psychological Association offers
breakup coping strategies.
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