On–Off Relationship Instability and Distress Over Time in Same- and Different-Sex Relationships

J. Kale Monk, Brian G. Ogolsky, Christopher Maniotes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: We sought to test the association between on-again/off-again relationship cycling and mental health over time. Background: Temporary distress following relationship dissolution is normative, yet a prolonged history of terminating a relationship and then reconciling (i.e., on–off relationship cycling) may facilitate more pervasive symptomology. Method: We used data from 545 individuals in same- and different-sex relationships to assess the association between on–off cycling and symptoms of depression and anxiety across 15 months. Results: Relationship cycling was associated with psychological distress and change in distress over time. Conclusion: This study supports existing theories of family change and highlights the importance of focusing on relationship transitions and well-being over time. Implications: Practitioners can help partners navigate unpredictability during transitions by helping them make deliberate decisions either to stay and stabilize their relationships or permanently leave depending on the circumstances underlying relationship cycling and the level of distress associated with any lingering interpersonal turmoil.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)630-643
Number of pages14
JournalFamily Relations
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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