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How to Break the Boomerang Relationship Cycle

Posted Jul 07, 2020

Even if you are not familiar with the term "boomerang relationship," you will immediately recognize the pattern of behavior. These are the relationships that never seem to end, and they just keep happening again and again.

The Typical Boomerang Relationship

In a boomerang relationship, one partner is committed to the relationship, while the other is committed to his or her own interest. There may be times when the couple seems to have a positive relationship, and there is some positivity and hope that things can be better.

Then, often without any trigger, the partner becomes abusive, leaves, engages in substance abuse, or has an affair.  Both men and women can participate in this type of behavior.  Behaviors include becoming hostile, abusive, or distant.

Some experts in the field see this pattern as stemming from passive aggressive behavior. The hostility the individual feels towards the partner comes out in many different ways, including setting the partner up for failure. Behaviors such as gaslighting, being vague, creating constant discord in the relationship, and refusing to accept responsibility for the issues are all stock in trade for the passive aggressive partner.

Placing the blame on others and making the spouse or partner feel guilty for any issues arising out of his behavior is standard for this individual. This includes blaming them for any relapses and telling them that they are the reason for their drinking or using drugs. In many cases, this boils over to leaving the home or the partner, but typically not for very long.

Getting Back Together

Unlike a relationship breakup, the boomerang relationship does not have an ending. The partner who was left behind often holds on to a glorified version of the relationship or assumes that they will change once they see what they have lost. Even if they leave the relationship, they do not completely let go of the fantasy of what they wanted the relationship to be.

Often the initial contact after the breakup is made by the spouse or partner who left. This could be a request to stay friends or perhaps a call about a significant problem, often fictional, in their life. With addicts, it may be a call during a relapse, where a liberal amount of blame for their relapse is placed o their shoulders.

Those who find themselves returning to a passive aggressive or unhealthy relationship with a past partner typically experience shorter and shorter positive initial interactions. In some of these rekindling experiences, the partner is only there for physical intimacy, which leaves the other partner feeling horrible about their decision  adding more blame and shame to their life.

Tips to Avoid the Boomerang Effect

It is essential to understand that the boomerang is coming at some point in time, if this is a pattern in your past relationships:

Work with a therapist or counselor to end the relationship in your mind and to see it for the destructive and negative experience it is can be helpful.

For those who are in boomerang relationships with addicts, understand how relapses are an issue. It is their responsibility to control their actions and choices to drink or to use drugs. It is not yours.

A good strategy is to make a clean break from the relationship. Do not stay in contact or try to be friends or a support person in their life. This includes cutting ties on social media, as this often provides a way for their issues to start to become your problems again.