It appears that Selena Gomez and Justin Beiber may be back together, and this time it may be even more serious than before. Although their previous relationship volatility makes me suspect, I have to say, who hasn’t rekindled (or gotten back together with an ex)? In case you, like these lovebirds, find yourself in an on-again/off-again relationship there are a few things you should know.
1) You Are Not Alone
Getting back together with an ex-partner (also known as rekindling, relationship churning, relationship cycling, and on-again/off-again relationships) is a common relationship phenomenon. In one study, researchers found that over one-third of cohabiting couples and one-fifth of spouses have ended and subsequently rekindled their current romantic relationship.1 Data suggests that rekindling may be even more common in dating relationships.2 Of course, with so many people rekindling, the next question is whether or not getting back together with an ex-partner is a good idea.
2) It’s Probably A Bad Idea
I’ll start by saying that it’s definitely possible that a relationship could go the distance the second (or third) time around. However, just because something can happen, it doesn’t mean it will happen. In fact, empirical research shows that rekindled unions are generally less successful. For instance, compared to couples who have not rekindled, those who have report experiencing greater uncertainty in their relationship’s future and lower overall satisfaction.1,3 Further, in rekindled relationships, negative feelings are more common and positive feelings less common as compared to those that remained intact.2 These findings could help explain why rekindled relationships also have lower commitment and relationship stability.4
While no one is saying that a rekindled relationship can’t work for you (or for that matter Selena and Justin) perhaps the better question to ask is what makes you think the fate of your union will be different this time. Remember, Einstein said that the definition if insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results. Perhaps the key to successful rekindling is working on yourself during the separation to ensure that the issues that arose before do not derail your relationship again. As you ponder that, we’ll keep our eyes on the rekindled unions of celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth, as well as J. Lo and A-Rod (not to mention those you may know about in your own life). As a relationship optimist, I’ll be rooting for you all and wishing you a happily ever after.
1 Vennum, A., Lindstrom, R., Monk, J. K., & Adams, R. (2014). “It’s complicated”: The continuity and correlates of cycling in cohabitating and marital relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 31, 410-430.
2 Dailey, R. M., Pfiester, A., Jin, B., Beck, G., & Clark, G. (2009). On-again/off-again datingrelationships: How are they different from other dating relationships?. Personal Relationships, 16(1), 23-47. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.2009.01208.x
3 Dailey, R. M., Middleton, A. V., & Green, E. W. (2012). Perceived relational stability in on-again/off-again relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 29, 52-76.
4 Dailey, R. M., Brody, N., LeFebvre, L., & Crook, B. (2013). Charting changes in commitment: Trajectories of on-again/off-again relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30(8), 1020-1044. doi:10.1177/0265407513480284
Dr. Sadie Leder-Elder – Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Leder-Elder’s research focuses on how people balance their desires for closeness and protection against rejection, specifically during partner selection, goal negotiation within established romantic relationships, and the experience of romantic love, hurt feelings, and relationship rekindling.