Saturday, June 7, 2008

Psychology Today: Domestic Drama: On-Again, Off-Again

Psychology Today:

What drives couples to repeatedly break up and then make up?
By: Elizabeth Svoboda

It's often the fleeting high points of a fundamentally rocky relationship that convince embattled partners to keep coming back for more, spurring a tortuous dynamic with no end in sight. "Often there is something that works very well for you about this person," says Gail Saltz, a Manhattan-based psychiatrist and author of Becoming Real. But when your mate's dreamy qualities are accompanied by deal-breaker ones like dishonesty or irresponsibility, it can be difficult to make a clear-headed assessment of whether to stay or leave.

While problem behaviors may prompt a periodic hiatus, on-again, off-again couples continue to reunite out of a persistent hope that the moments of happiness and fulfillment they've known will someday constitute the entire relationship. "People say, 'I can fix this other part of my partner,' " Saltz says, even though efforts at "remodeling" a mate are typically useless. The self-deprecating internal monologues serial on-off artists conduct after a breakup—"What was I thinking? I'll never meet someone as funny, smart, and attractive ever again!"—can also lead to repeated reconciliations.

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