Your Call: How Many Times Can She Take Him Back?

photo by ken ratcliff

We get a lot of advice questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to advise a reader. Make your call by leaving your advice in the comments section below:

Dear Em & Lo,

I’ve had an off-again, on-again relationship with a guy I love for a few years, but he’s just a bit immature, not ready for total commitment just yet (we’re in our late 20s). But I know we’re perfect for each other, we make a great team, and he can’t seem to stay away. (He’s never cheated on me, he just gets restless, and he either breaks up with me or becomes detached enough that I break up with him.)  I don’t want to keep going on this roller coaster ride — I’ve got some pride. But I do love him, and I know he loves me. How many times of breaking up and getting back together is too many, when I truly believe that we could eventually get married if we both just hang in there? When do I give up?

– The Cyclone

What should TC do?


  1. Wow! This is a dude who is gaming you and any other woman who puts up with an on again off again relationship. It really amazes me the level of low self esteem women have for themselves that they put up with trifling behavior from a man just because they’d rather be with a dude who treats them crappy than to kick him to the curb and get better for themselves. Ladies please! No man is worth your self esteem.

    This dude keeps coming back because he knows he can have you and whoever else he wants when he is acting ‘distant’. You are merely a convenience for him on ‘his terms’. He knows he can come get the sex he wants from you and when he gets ready, he’ll bounce and go be with Sally, Sue or Kate, until the next time. Get a grip and stop calling it ‘love’. It’s not love.

    Mature women know that ‘love’ is not drama’ and doesn’t put the woman through emotional angst. Any woman who thinks this is OK is not emotionally healthy. Put the dyck down and walk away.

  2. I’m facing the exact same thing. It’s been 5 years now. And I can’t seem to forget him, and so won’t he. He declared that I’m forever his, but he’ll never say the word “love”. So, I’m guessing all of you gals are right. Maybe he isn’t the perfect one. But for the past year, I’ve been hard on myself and prepared to let him go. I’m doing well now, although occasionanlly he calls me up every other week. I just gotsa push him away nicely. Always.

  3. hello there… im in the same position as you… i’ve been with the same guy for 2 yrs and i love him a lot. he makes me happy and we have a lot of fun together. however it is an on and off again relationship. everyone is telling me to just move on but, its so hard for me to be single after being in one relationship after another…. i would love to be with him for a long time but it its destructive and i hate how it makes me feel everytime we break up and get back together. i dont know if he is doin anything behind my back but i also have trust issues with him. he doesnt share a lot of information with me unless i ask him and it bothers me. im just really confuse if he is the guy i should be with or not and i dont want to make any mistakes….

  4. The Cyclone-

    I know this may sound like I am super pessimistic, BUT.. I’ve dealt with this exact situation twice before, once with a roommate’s relationship, and once with a really good girlfriend’s. I’ll fast forward now and say that they both ended up (after some hurt and second-guessing- I won’t sugar coat it) with a really great guy, who they are with to this day. You have to put it in perspective- if the guy you are seeing is on and off, unreliable, and seems to be a commitment-phobe/not serious RIGHT NOW, what signals you to believe that his attitude will do a 180 and turn into a committed, hassle free marriage? My advice is to ditch the guy and spend some time evaluating what you are actually looking for in a relationship. By then, and maybe not even, someone might have come along that fulfills your every criteria. In all honesty, I truly believe some one will, its the letting go of this one that will be a greater challenge than the finding someone new and better for you. Good luck sweetheart!

  5. It’s time to let go if you’re bringing yourself to asking this question. If you are in your late 20’s and have had an on-again/off-again relationship for YEARS then it’s high time you move on. He’s probably going to be one of those eternal bachelors who can’t ever seem to commit.

    For that matter, what if he does commit, but then decides after you’re married that he’s ‘restless’ again. Could you live in a marriage like that? I doubt it.

    Do yourself a favor, gather your pride and move on to a guy who is more deserving of your time and love, who won’t jerk you around!

  6. How soon do you want to get married? Do you want to marry him specifically, or get married in general, by a certain age? If he’s not ready to get married until you’re 45, are you okay with that?

    This guy sounds like a long wait, if ever, sort of fellow. If you can stand living indefinitely (and I mean like, a decade or two) in the moment with him, then that’s doable with him, but if you need a plan and a goal, it doesn’t sound like he’s getting there any time soon. Or far. You’re on the clock here, but he isn’t, and short of pulling an ultimatum, he’s probably not going to be motivated to commit like that if he’s hot and cold on staying in a relationship.

  7. Have you asked him exactly why he gets restless? Does he get bored with the routine of your relationship? Does he crave sexual variety? Does he fear that he might be missing out? Is he afraid of bring tied down? Perhaps he isn’t interested in “settling down”?
    I say make that your starting point and take it from there. Perhaps the both of you can work something out that meets both your needs in the long term, just agree to take it for what it is and enjoy it while it lasts, or decide that it might be time to move on.

  8. It looks like it is time to stop.

    When you are preparing for a breakup while rerererestarting the relationship, you won’t be able to give it an honest shot yourself.

    Take distance, and maybe, in some future, you will both realise you need to trust your own feelings as much as each others.

    However, don’t worry if you decide to rerestart. For whatever people write here, there’s no shame in not giving up hope.

  9. Homegirl, get off this ride and start getting off with someone else. At this point you’ve established a pattern that is not going to be broken easily. And even if you do finally coerce him into some commitment, or if he willingly agrees without an coercion needed, he’ll still grow distant and you’ll start to resent one another. This guy is obviously not equipped to understand the dynamic of long term commitment and it’s going to really hurt you in the long run.
    I had a multi-year on-again-off-again thing that ended in the Fall. Sure, I was heartborken at first, but then I realized that I was well rid of the dude who didn’t want me the same way I wanted him. Circumstances and dating styles matter, so go find someone who’ll be a better match for you in both of those areas. GODSPEED, WOMAN.

  10. The only problem in this question is the line, “I know we’re perfect for each other… he can’t seem to stay away…”

    Um, except when he becomes restless or detached and you two break up. Clearly you’re not “perfect” for each other.

    That said, you don’t sound so bad for each other. As long as neither of you is banking on the other being “the one”, what the hell. Do this as many times as you want until you get sick of it. Doesn’t sound like anybody’s getting hurt or mistreated so far.

    I say have fun with it, and end it when it’s not fun anymore.

  11. I think the fact that you’re asking this question is maybe an answer for you. While there may be real love there, it’s ultimately a question of whether or not that love can get you through the bad times in the long run. If you’ve broken up multiple times, and you’re wondering about it yourself, it may be a sign that this is something you both need to move on from. If one of you can’t maintain a relationship whenever he gets “restless,” how are things going to go when the situation is worse than just him being restless? I think you should try for it; but when you’re tired, you’re tired, and you each deserve a functional, lasting relationship, as painful as it may be to leave this one.

  12. Love as much as you can, for as long as you can, but eventually you have to stop letting it tear you apart. And trust me, no matter how well you get along, how in synch you are when you’re together, nobody who doesn’t care how much he makes you cry isn’t perfect for you.

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