Here’s Why Your Brain Can’t Quit That Boomerang Relationship

Are you caught in a boomerang relationship? From a therapist’s standpoint, things that “come back” after you let them go don’t always come back because they belong to you. It’s more likely that you’re stuck in an unhealthy cycle. You keep getting back together in the hopes that you’ll finally get in sync this time around. In reality, on-again, off-again relationships can wreck your mental health.

What Is a Boomerang Relationship?

A boomerang relationship typically consists of a committed and uncommitted partner. While one partner is ready to go all in, the other is more committed to their own interests. What makes boomerang relationships tough to walk away from is that they do have good times. You may have moments when you feel like you’re finally on the same page. However, those moments are just brief interludes before the other partner goes back into orbit away from the direction of the relationship.

Emotional cheating, emotional unavailability, fighting, and constant “highs and lows” are all telltale signs of a boomerang relationship. My experience as a therapist has shown me that entering into a relationship with an addict often results in a boomerang relationship. The partner living in addiction will constantly go back and forth between their partner and their substance of choice. If there’s a sex addiction in the mix, the committed partner often gets cheated on by the orbiting partner.

How Do You Know That You’re in a Boomerang Relationship?

One of the biggest signs that you’re in a boomerang relationship is feeling that your partner is ambivalent towards you. It seems like your partner is always keeping you at arm’s length. You may even experience being ghosted by someone you considered a committed long-term partner. When you inevitably reunite, the cycle returns. However, the most frustrating aspect is that it’s often the aloof partner who initiates first contact after the breakup. While they appear to not actually like you, they refuse to quit you. What’s more, they can’t let you quit them!

Why Is Leaving a Boomerang Relationship So Hard?

Boomerang relationships are filled with contradictory thoughts and feelings that make it hard to trust your own gut. You are constantly wondering whether you should stay or go. You may simultaneously feel love, longing, hate, attraction, disgust, and resentment toward your partner. This leaves you feeling exhausted, afraid, and anxious about making changes. In fact, the drama and despair of the boomerang relationship may be subconsciously attractive to you if you have an anxious attachment style.

“We’re seeing several consequences associated with remaining in these relationships, such as less relationship satisfaction, poorer communication, less commitment, more intimate partner violence, and in this particular study, finding that it’s associated with depression and anxiety symptoms over time,” according to University of Missouri’s Kale Monk. According to a 2018 study looking at relationship cycling and distress that was overseen by Monk, on-again, off-again relationship cycling is associated with psychological distress. Couples that cycled more frequently experienced deeper distress that produced debilitating symptoms. My take? Get into therapy to finally break the boomerang in half!