Dear Stavroula

Dear Stavroula: I’m in an ‘On and Off’ Relationship

Dear Stavroula,

I am 28 years old and in a relationship for three years with a woman a little older than me. Our relationship is very intense emotionally, but it is an on again/off again situation – we are together for a few months, and while I think we are very good, tensions start, then we break up for long periods that have sometimes lasted two months. She chooses to leave, and then we get back together (usually after a lot of insistence on my part) and then we repeat the same pattern all over again.

Every time we are together, when we have no tensions, our relationship is ideal. We spend hours together, our love life is very passionate, and it gives me the impression that she is also very much in love with me.

But I can’t stand these breaks in our relationship anymore – I’m in the middle of one of them now – and I don’t have the courage to pursue her again. Every time our relationship begins I have hopes, I bond with her, and then, while I’m on cloud nine, for some trivial reason I fall into the void. I don’t know if it’s worth it to keep trying for this relationship or to make a decision that we will never be together the way I want, in a calm relationship, with love and affection, without fighting and breaking up all the time, a relationship in which I will feel safe. Unfortunately, it’s not easy for me at all, because I really want her. I don’t know what to do.



Dear Panos,

Of all the types of dysfunctional relationships, an on/off relationship seems to be the hardest to end. These are relationships of dependence in which familiarity is combined with uncertainty, and this is what often makes them so fascinating. However, the soul’s cost is high.

In this type of relationship, the reasons why the conflicts are created are not resolved, resulting in the problems getting worse.

The paradox is that despite the fact that these types of relationships are characterized by stress and uncertainty, they often create positive feelings too, and that is why it is difficult to break them off.

Something like this may be happening in your case as well. You have a relationship that does not satisfy you emotionally, in which you do not feel safe and calm, but you continue it and the thought of ending it creates unpleasant feelings for you.

In this case, it would help a lot to observe with an objective eye the way in which this relationship works in its daily life, perhaps answering the following questions:

How long does the joy that this relationship offers you last?

How often do you feel complete, satisfied, and without doubts about your choice in this relationship?

How often do you feel stressed, anxious, insecure?

How often – when you are with your partner – do you feel that she is also not satisfied?

It might help if you had a practical picture of the situation by keeping a diary, so that the moments when you feel good and those when you don’t feel good can be measured. If the scales are tipping towards unhappiness, maybe it’s time to love yourself a little more and take care of yourself. Think about what is the void in your life that such a relationship fills, what it is it that you are looking for, and how else could you satisfy it.

Sometimes distance helps a great deal in seeing the situation with a different eye. And since you are currently separated from your partner, take the time to better understand what is happening to you.

In any case, it would help to consult an expert and with them discover what is keeping you (and perhaps your partner) trapped in a toxic relationship.

It can be the fear of the unknown or the intense romantic attraction that is often intensified by the insecurity of the relationship. Or it may even be some feelings of inadequacy or insecurity that prevent you from getting out of the cycle of this relationship and giving yourself the opportunity to meet new people who desire relationships of love, intimacy, and respect – relationships in which both of you will feel good, without the fear of abandonment.


This article is part of a continuing series dealing with reports of Greek POWs in Asia Minor in the Thessaloniki newspaper, Makedonia in July 1936.

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