A qualitative analysis of on-again/off-again romantic relationships: "It's up and down, all around"

René M. Dailey, Kelly R. Rossetto, Abigail Pfiester, Catherine A. Surra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Although relational research predominantly conceptualizes romantic relationships as either together or apart, some relationships break up and renew (i.e., on-again/off-again relationships). Partners' accounts of on-again/off-again relational experiences were qualitatively analyzed to explore both reasons for breakups and reasons for renewals. Themes were interpreted within an interdependence framework to explain why partners dissolved as well as renewed their relationships. The themes in combination suggest renewals occurred due to dissatisfying experiences with alternative relationship partners and an increase in outcomes (i.e., rewards minus costs) after breakups. Partners' post-dissolution contact and their uncertainty about relational status may have further facilitated renewals. More generally, the themes suggest, for on-again/ off-again partners, breakups did not indicate the end of interdependence but rather a redefinition of the relationship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-466
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'A qualitative analysis of on-again/off-again romantic relationships: "It's up and down, all around"'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this